By NJ Clausen
Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah, Happy Kwanzaa… however you celebrate, peace and joy to all this holiday season! This month I have the pleasure of introducing you to a couple who celebrate each day with love and laughter…Kathy and Punky (rarely called Frank) Amrich.
Kathy and Punky are the embodiment of childhood sweethearts. Born and raised in the same small town in Connecticut, it was at an old barn called ‘Wrights Country Club’- a place where high school students would meet and dance – the summer between their freshman and sophomore years that they connected. Punky remembers the dress Kathy was wearing that night over half a century ago… a surprise to Kathy as he spoke of her yellow and white dress! For her part, Kathy smiled as she recalled the scent of English Leather, and how she thought about him all night long. Both confessed that during a slow dance, their hearts were both beating hard and fast. From this night on, they were a couple and were voted ‘Most Promising Couple’ of their graduating class.
Although they lived in the same town, Kathy and Punky went to different schools prior to high school. Kathy knew of Punky, as he played football, basketball, and baseball. Kathy loved ice-skating in the winter, and she also enjoyed singing, talking and activities with her friends. They compared the town in which they grew up to Kernersville, as a good town with good people. Kathy remembers Punky walking past her house heading home, but it was at the dance that they really met. Kathy added that after that night, they never had a fight and never broke up. On August 7, Punky asked Kathy to go steady with him.
After high school, Punky went to The Citadel in Charleston, South Carolina while Kathy stayed in Connecticut and graduated from the Torrington Beauty Academy. Kathy shared that she wrote to Punky every day during the four years he was in college. Sometimes she would make a cassette tape (occasionally with family and friends), all of which Punky kept—and to this day still has in a footlocker. The year before he graduated, and 7 years after the dance, Punky picked Kathy up at the beauty shop where she was working. He brought her to the parking lot behind their high school next to the pond where she loved to ice skate. It was dark, and Kathy was wondering what they were doing there. Leaving the lights on, Punky asked Kathy to get out of the car, and met her at the front of the car where kneeling down, he held up the ring and asked Kathy to marry him. They then raced home to share the happy news with their parents.
After graduating with a BS in Business Administration, Punky then went into the Air Force. On August 7 of that year, Kathy and Punky were married. Shortly after their marriage, Punky went for training in Mississippi then received orders to report to the Charleston Air Force Base. They lived in off base housing with both Air Force and Navy people… all young couples who got along well and had a great time! Kathy smiled as she recounted that many of the women were pregnant at the same time, and Punky added that their first child was born there and named after one of the rivers that flowed through Charleston.
Following his service, Punky procured a job with Milliken and the family moved to Georgia. This was the first of several moves the family made, before settling in Kernersville in 1986 with their 3 children. Punky traveled every day to Asheboro for work and Kathy started working at Kernersville Elementary School. When the company Punky worked for folded, which was after the children were grown, he would be out of town during the week, returning on the weekend. Kathy would do all the things around the house that needed to be done—including mowing! —so that when Punky returned they could just enjoy being with each other.
Married for over 51 years, Kathy and Punky credit the longevity and success to a shared faith in God, laughter on a regular basis, patience, and the ability to get over upsets quickly. They both love Christmas and the many traditions that have been created. Punky is in charge of bringing home the tree, and many memories are recounted as the ornaments they place on it bring to mind loved ones and the story of their life over the years. Baking cookies, putting up the village, the pumpkin which family and friends have written what they are thankful for in a place of honor…. these are a few of the many things which make the season special.
To their family, friends, and neighbors, they encourage all to show kindness, enjoy life, and be joyous—to let the little stuff go. For there to be peace on Earth and goodwill to all. Happy and Healthy New Year!