Seventy years ago, the Bartletts couldn’t have predicted how their lives would unfold, lest how their stories would intertwine. But they fell in love and took a chance.
“When I look back on it now, I’m sure that neither one of us knew what we were getting into,” Janice Bartlett said. “But we were in love and wanted to get married and so we did. It’s worked for 67 years so far.”
Janice and David Bartlett met at Essex High School in 1949. While they can’t recall exactly how they encountered each other, they quickly found a deep, shared connection.
The two wed at 16 years old in Jericho with their parents and the bride’s siblings in attendance. They had neither a wedding song nor grand party. Instead, the event was “simple and quiet”: two people looking to journey through life together.
“I look back on it now, and I love him more today than I did then, if that’s possible,” Janice said. The couple has shared six houses, had four children and taken many a camping trip and snowmobile ride in between.
According to Janice, her joy comes from David’s traits: good manners, kindness and a strong work ethic.
They also share a lot of laughter. Asked about his favorite trait in Janice, David quipped he loves when his wife “gives him hell.” Janice was quick to reply: “Well I guess I better keep giving it to you,” eliciting chuckles from both parties.
But of course the Bartletts have waded through plenty of challenges. They’ve faced financial struggles, illnesses and death.
The couple raised four children to adulthood and had just become grandparents when tragedy struck: Their youngest daughter was killed in a car accident in Tennessee. Her husband and 5-year-old daughter soon moved in with the Bartletts. Not long after, their son-in-law was in a car accident and died after a 14-month coma. They then adopted their granddaughter.
“She’s every bit our daughter,” Janice said. “So we actually had five kids in the end.”
Raising their granddaughter kept them young, she said, adding it gave David an opportunity to spend more time with a child since he’d worked long days while his own kids were young. Plus, the Bartletts’ children would often help out. “It was really a family affair,” Janice said.
“Tragedy can tear you apart or it can bring you together,” she continued.
Though some of the Bartletts’ children have moved away, they get together whenever possible. The kids have hosted several parties for their parents including a 50th wedding anniversary celebration that was much larger than the couple’s original ceremony.
Through all seasons of life, David and Janice subscribe to taking things one step at a time.
“Every day is a new day of your life, and you just go with it,” Janice said. But she does rely on one certainty that her days will begin with David’s signature greeting: “Good morning, Ma.”
So accustomed has Janice grown to the routine, she sorely misses it when her betrothed is away. “I come down the stairs, and nobody says good morning to me and I just [think], ‘Well I wouldn’t want this to be permanent.’”
David, too, relies on his spouse. Janice cooks his meals and “waits on him hand and foot.” Without her, he’d be eating Corn Flakes, he joked, adding he couldn’t imagine “breaking another [wife] in.”
But jokes aside, the two consider themselves a true team supporting one another however they can.
“Marriage is 100 percent teamwork,” Janice said. “It’s not a 50/50; it’s a 100/100.”
As for the hardest part? David said he hasn’t seen it yet. As Janice says, the couple attributes their success to God.
“He’s guided us,” she said. “Everything wasn’t always great, but we’ve had a good marriage.”
Today, post-child rearing, the duo spends more quiet time together. They go for rides and out to eat, sharing just as many laughs, thoughts and sentiments as ever. And while their 68th anniversary will occur this April, Janice already has her sights set on the 70th, which she said might warrant another family get-together.
“You look forward to spending each day and sharing everything,” Janice said. “You just grow together, and you just love having the other one there with you all the time.”