By NJ Clausen
Hello and Happy February to all! We all see the Valentine items that come out right after (and sometimes even before!) Christmas, but let us be honest here—love is something to be enjoyed and celebrated every day! Family, friends, fur babies…love is a gift. This month I have the pleasure of introducing you to a wonderful couple who have celebrated over 40 years of marriage, Catherine and John Korzen.
Born many miles apart, Catherine was the middle of five children in Ohio, and John was the younger of two boys in New Jersey. As a child, Catherine loved reading, but especially enjoyed moving in a pack with her family. Every Sunday, her parents would have an expedition after church where they would go to museums, the zoo, a park; all while creating a bond and stressing the importance of family. John describes his childhood as that of a “corporate brat,” as his dad’s company would transfer the family about every two years. John enjoyed reading and sports, particularly baseball and basketball.
In high school, Catherine was into everything! She ran track, was with the newspaper group, in the drama department, active with the girl scouts, in her church youth group, and was in the band. She remembers walking home, up the mountain in the small town in North Carolina, where they now lived, and looking down at all the various items for the things she was involved in and thinking that maybe it was a bit much, but how great to try so many things!
Based on his brothers experience of three different schools during his high school years, John wanted to graduate as quickly as possible. By not taking study halls, going to summer school one summer, and taking a night school class, John graduated after three years from the same school in Illinois. During this time John also worked with the newspaper and had several part time jobs.
After high school, both Catherine and John went to Wake Forest University. In John’s junior year and Catherine’s sophomore year, both studied abroad for a semester, John in Italy in the fall, Catherine in England for the spring. During the spring, two very different people both separately told John that he had to meet Catherine, that they were just alike. One (who later served as best man!) had a job lined up for the summer as head tennis counselor at a camp in the mountains, and suggested John apply for a job there. John met the recruiter and was offered a job. It was very close to where Catherine lived (he had looked her up in the yearbook), and on days off the counselors would go into the town, where her family lived, to do laundry. John knew the address but was not sure how to find it. At the same time he was doing his laundry, there was a retired fire dispatcher doing his laundry, who knew exactly where her address was and provided directions. As there were only 17 homes on the mountain where Catherine lived, John would never have found it on his own.
After his laundry was finished, John went to her house and introduced himself. Catherine was still in Europe, but as her brother had also been a camp counselor, her parents knew that counselors were always hungry and invited him to dinner. John bonded with the family that night; a bond that still remains strong. This was early June, and Catherine did not return until July. Her mother would her write letters and include some interesting tidbit on the outside of the envelope. When Catherine received a letter with the sentence “PS: John Korzen stopped by and stayed for dinner,” she thought, “Who the heck is John Korzen?” When she returned, she heard about this nice guy who had stayed for dinner and written a nice thank you note. From the mailings from Wake she was able to confirm who he was and invited him over for another home cooked meal. On July 29, they finally met in person and have been together ever since. One of their favorite dates was going to the Dixie Classic Fair, and each year since they make a point of going to the Fair together.
Incredibly happy together, there were still some challenges. Catherine had applied for and received a Rotary Scholarship to return to England. While she was in England, John was teaching and staying with his mother following the passing of his father. They wrote letters all the time but could only talk once a week. Shortly after Catherine returned, they were married.
When asked what they feel makes a strong marriage, Catherine said that you have to marry the right person, and quoting her mom, “remember that you are on the same team, and that when you overcome challenges it just makes you stronger for the next one.” John said that trust and honesty are very important. Both agreed that having fun and finding things you enjoy doing together, like walking and talking, keep the relationship and marriage strong.