This article is the 13th in a series profiling couples who have been married for at least 35 years. As sociologist Mark Regnerus writes, “Young adults want to know that it’s possible for two fellow believers to stay happy together for a lifetime, and they need to hear how the generations preceding them did it.” It is also important to see that marriages are not always happy all the time, but commitment is crucial.
VILAS, N.C.—From their home among the peaks and valleys of the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, Tony and Judy Lutkus can reflect on the ups and downs they’ve faced during 47 years of marriage and how they overcame those challenges—together.
They first met on a blind date to a football game. Days later, Tony debated, as he held a dime in his hand, wondering if he should call Judy. He now says it’s the best dime he ever spent.
In 1970, after their two boys were born, Tony’s Coast Guard unit deployed to Vietnam. Shortly thereafter Judy learned of a half-American baby girl in a Vietnamese orphanage and the two looked to adopt her. Tony repeatedly filed the proper paperwork, but Vietnamese government officials demanded bribes. After months of frustration, Judy cried out to God for help, and within days officials approved the adoption. Tony then found soldiers willing to carry the baby on their return trip to the States, and soon Judy was holding her new daughter. She realized, “When something is meant to happen, God intercedes.”
After the war, Tony left the Coast Guard and began work as an engineer with Exxon. In 1985, while they were living in London, doctors told Judy she had the same cancer that killed her mother. That led to surgery and 11 months of chemotherapy, and the cancer appeared to go into remission.
In 1994, Exxon moved the Lutkuses to Kuala Lumpur. While there, an ultrasound of Judy’s liver revealed a metastasized tumor. She remembered being “just numb after I heard that news.” But then a radiologist from India asked her, “Are you a Christian?” She answered, “Yes.” His reply—“Don’t worry, God is with you”—surprised and encouraged her.
Tony rushed Judy to London for more surgery, where doctors removed one-third of her liver. After three more months of chemo the doctors there declared her cancer-free. She recalled how she began to no longer trust medical science to keep her that way: “This is it. The only Person I have faith in now is the Lord.”
Fighting through these challenges together, Tony said he and Judy have found themselves stronger in their faith: “All of this brought us closer to God—and to each other.”