From pulling pigtails to 72 years of wedded bliss
BY GINGER BRASHINGER Correspondent June 25, 2014 8:10AM
The Holups âÂ Bert, 92, and Evelyn, 91 âÂ became sweethearts in high school and married during World War II. They celebrated 72 years of marriage on June 20. | Ginger Brashinger/For Sun-Times Media
Updated: June 26, 2014 2:12AM
Albert “Bert” and Evelyn Holup seem to measure their marriage in memories rather than time.
The Tinley Park couple — Bert, 92, and Evelyn, 91 — first got to really know each other in their English class during junior year at Antigo High School in their hometown of Antigo, Wisconsin.
“I liked to pull her pigtails,” Bert said. “She sat ahead of me, and her pigtails were on my desk, so what else could I do?”
Evelyn does not remember the event with as much amusement as Bert. Her stronger memory of Bert’s antics was that he used the ties at the back of her dress to tie her to her desk chair and didn’t get “bawled out” by the teacher for misbehaving.
“Can you imagine that?” Evelyn said.
Their teacher may have been on to something.
Several years later, on June 20, 1942, Bert and Evelyn were married.
Bert was drafted into the Army less than a year later.
“My dad said, ‘They’ll never take you in the Army,’ ” Bert said. His father thought he was too young at 191/2 and too underweight at 110 pounds.
Bert not only served in World War II, he did quite well.
“It was under a year and a half and I was master sergeant,” Bert said.
He spent his time in Alaska at a German POW camp until the war ended in 1945, and then he and Evelyn began thinking about where and how to start a married life that would span the next 72 years and counting. But it wasn’t going to happen in their hometown.
“We knew we weren’t going to stay in Antigo,” Evelyn said. “There weren’t any decent jobs.”
A relative in Chicago suggested Bert look for work in the city at the utilities companies because “people always need utilities,” and Bert landed a job with ComEd. He worked there for a few years before he was drafted again, this time to serve in the Korean War as a drill sergeant. Bert spent nine years in the Army.
When he returned from the service, the couple had to look outside of the city for a home. Evelyn said because apartments weren’t often rented to people with children and housing was too expensive on the North Side, the couple looked to the south suburbs.
The home they bought in Tinley Park — from which Bert could take public transportation directly to his job in the city in 1952 — still is their family home 62 years later.
The Holups happily raised their four children there, sending them to St. George School and adding a garage whose driveway sometimes held four cars at a time as the children grew to teenagers, they said.
Craig Holup, 60, of Tinley Park, said his parents set a good example for him and his three siblings in matters of marriage and parenting.
Craig remembered his dad coming home from work at 6 o’clock every evening.
“(Dad) would come in the door and (he) always kissed Mom in front of the kids and sat down to dinner,” Craig said. “We never had to worry about anything. If my mom and dad had a disagreement, they took it to the back bedroom away from the children.”
Evelyn and Bert don’t remember too many disagreements. Their life, they said, was free of the drama of financial problems, illness and unruly kids.
They only bought what they could pay for and that meant cash for a new car every three or four years. When the children were old enough, they worked to earn spending money, cutting grass and shoveling snow.
“They taught us how to save money and work hard,” Craig said.
Evelyn stayed home with the children and did some seamstress and laundry work, and Bert worked full time at ComEd and part time as an insurance agent with Bellante Insurance Agency in Tinley Park.
That meant there would be extra money for some of the things they would otherwise not have, especially vacation time.
“Take a vacation together once in a while,” Evelyn said. “We always took vacations together.”
Evelyn fondly remembers the camping vacations where the children would sit at the picnic table each night for a dinner she prepared at the campsite and each child would tell what they “liked best about the day.”
“I always used to see that we took a real good vacation once a year,” Bert said about the family vacations. He was the vacation planner, giving his wife and each of the four children and anyone else who came along a copy of the vacation itinerary, which sometimes included a visit to a World War II buddy.
Evelyn and Bert began taking a couples vacation, too, when their oldest child was 19. Trips to Europe, Africa and Alaska, as well as all the family vacations, are neatly documented in photo albums Bert put together, memories forever frozen in time.
The Holups think the family meals and vacations of which their long-happy marriage has been made may be missing for many families.
“They don’t have it that way today,” Bert said.
They are family people, still enjoying the time they spend with their four married children and eight grandchildren at family get-togethers and holidays.
Evelyn’s common sense advice said it best.
“You have to work together,” Evelyn said. “You can’t pull separate ways.”