ALPHARETTA, Ga. – It’s been said a successful marriage takes a lot of work. To have a marriage last 75 years, it must take an enormous amount of energy.
For Alpharetta residents Russel, 99, and Cecelia, 95, Brunnenmeyer, they have spent the past 75 years together, living through some of the best and worst of the last 100 years – the Great Depression, World War II and the ebullient post-war years.
They had two sons and now have a family of six grandchildren, 15 great-grandchildren and one great- great-grandchild.
“We never figured we’d get this old. I don’t think old,” Ceil said. “We’re very blessed. It’s been a good life.”
Russ and Ceil met on a blind date in 1933. He was 20 and in college. She was 15 and in high school.
“My dad went crazy about me going out with a college boy,” Ceil said. “In those days [their age] was a lot of difference.”
Russ was a student at Bradley University, in Peoria, Ill. He had been set up on several dates with local girls, all of which went poorly. His luck was bad enough that he promised himself, after this last one, he was done with town girls.
“The date was as blind as blind could be and we’ve been together ever since,” Russ said.
Mutual friends set them up, and Russ picked her up in his father’s Model T car to take her to a movie. While today this might not seem out of place, for the 1930s, not too many cars were on the roads – fire engines were still horse-drawn. A “car date” was a new phenomenon.
Ceil thought Russ would not call her again, being put off by their age difference, but he did and, after four years of dating, they married in 1937.
“One day I got weak and said, ‘Would you marry me?’” he said.
Eventually, Ceil said yes.
She kept putting him off until they had money saved in the bank – $100. When Russ earned $80 a month, that was quite a sum.
Russ served in the Navy during WWII, in the Pacific, on a troop carrier.
“It wasn’t fun,” he said. “I missed my family.”
Their first son, Robert, was 4 years old when Russ shipped out. Russ would be gone for two years.
The couple wrote letters back and forth as he kept her up to date on his travels and she kept him abreast of the home front.
Finally, peace was signed with Japan and Russ’ ship was among the fleet that hosted the peace treaty.
“There was nothing aboard the ship but happiness,” he said of the day, Sept. 2, 1945.
For the next few months, Russ’ ship carried soldiers across the ocean for occupation duty. He was able to leave the Navy in March 1946 and return to his wife and son.
Russ returned to his job with the American Oil Company. In 1960, he was transferred to Atlanta where he worked until his retirement in 1975.
Russ has the distinction of being retired for longer than he worked, spending much of his golden years in the South.
“We’re Southerners now,” said Ceil.
The couple celebrated their 75th wedding anniversary last year.
“She’s not so bad,” he laughed.
“Gee thanks,” she countered dryly. “Marriage is a give and take. It takes a lot of love, especially during the war. That was a trial.”
Despite being in their late 90s, Russ and Ceil are still going strong. Ceil has excellent health, while Russ has had two heart attacks and a stroke. After breaking his hip five years ago, he cannot get around like he used to. The couple would spend days sitting in their driveway, watching neighbors go about their lives, happy in the life they have lived together.
“The biggest thing in my life is her,” said Russ.