This article is the 37th 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.
When Jackquelyn and Gene Edward Veith married in 1971, a trip to a Target store for them was like a trip to a museum: They looked but couldn’t buy. They lived on $30 a week, the equivalent to $8,000 per year now, just enough to buy groceries and college textbooks. To bring in a little extra money, Gene worked odd jobs with Jackquelyn’s dad and the couple cut out coupons.
They had just finished their sophomore year at the University of Oklahoma—Gene was 19 and Jackquelyn was 20. Right before school started, they moved into a $60-per-month, one-room efficiency apartment that squeezed a bed in one corner and a kitchenette in the other.
To save money, the couple took the same classes so they only had to buy one set of books. Instead of a date night movie and dinner, they enjoyed long walks. But in spite of the economic sacrifices both made to marry young, Jackquelyn still needed to let go of one more thing.
The first in her family to attend college, she dreamed of going to graduate school, but so did her husband. He had already taken the GRE in literature and received a good score. Only one of them could afford to continue their education and she decided that would be Gene.
Jackquelyn managed their now upgraded two bedroom apartment—complete with a hallway kitchen and table-high fridge—for six years while Gene studied for his doctorate at the University of Kansas. She typed every word of his dissertation, benefitting from the research.
When the couple moved to Wisconsin for Gene to teach at Concordia University, Jackquelyn started teaching at Messmer High School, one of the first private voucher-system schools. She taught Spanish and French to kids from broken homes living in poverty and crime. One class brought together the son of the man who had murdered another student’s mother. It was her “mission field” and she encouraged kids to learn so they could escape the cycle. She enjoyed her work, eventually got her master’s and became the assistant principal.
But when Gene received a position at Patrick Henry College, she faced sacrifice again: “Did I want to leave Messmer? No,” Jackquelyn said. “It's easy to be submissive when you get your own way all the time. It’s harder when it really costs you something.” She gave up her job and they moved to Virginia.
Attentive to the sacrifices Jackquelyn made for him, Gene encouraged her to pursue her education and wished he could sacrifice more for her. With no kids in the house, she now had time to finish her education.
After three children, seven grandchildren, and two on the way, the couple will celebrate 42 years of marriage this month. Jackquelyn expects to complete her Ph.D. dissertation by the end of the summer.