Sixty-four is Bill and Jo Paukovich’s number.
It’s the number of years they’ve spent in marriage together and the number of times they’ve celebrated Valentine’s Day.
On this Valentine’s, the couple from Christ the King Parish in Denver exchanged red- and pink-hearted cards. Bill, 91, got chocolate turtles. Jo, 85, a tennis enthusiast, got a canister of tennis balls.
“I do love you very much. Too much maybe,” Bill wrote in his card to Jo.
She said, “We made it a lot of years and I can’t imagine what life would be like without you. Nobody could ask for a better husband.”
The pair recounted their whirlwind courtship and joys and trials of life together that’s led to 64-years of marriage.
It began in Denver when their families lived in the same neighborhood. After returning home from World War II as a fighter pilot, Bill visited her family’s home with his family.
A sucker for classical music, Bill was instantly attracted when he heard her play Chopin on the piano.
“She was also very pretty,” he said.
Their first date was dancing at the now-demolished Park Lane Hotel near Washington Park. About three months later in July, they went to the mountains to sight-see near Buffalo Bill’s grave in Golden. He asked her to marry him.
“I said, ‘You’re crazy,’” Jo said. Marriage was the last thing on her mind.
She told her parents and they shrugged it off.
But in October that year, they married. They were the first couple to marry at Christ the King Church, which in 1949 was only a school building. William was 27 and Elizabeth “Jo” was 21.
“We had a beautiful wedding,” she said.
They started their family and soon moved to Las Vegas where they lived on The Strip while Bill was preparing for deployment in the Korean War. She had their daughter, Susan. Bill returned after two and a half years overseas and they moved to Denver. They also had two boys, Greg and Jon. All of their children were baptized at Christ the King.
Their Catholic faith has been the foundation of their marriage.
Bill, who was born in Idaho and lived in Wyoming, came from a family of 12. Jo went to Catholic school and has had a lifelong devotion to Mary. She’s always made the time to attend daily Mass.
“Church is everything to me,” she said. “I’ve had such great faith in the Blessed Mother.”
Her faith is what Bill admires.
“I admire her tenacity when it comes to religion. I admire someone who just hangs in there,” he said.
“She’s also a good cook,” he added with a laugh. “She’s a fighter, too, I’ll tell you.”
Bill credits her with keeping them together through trials like when he was away at war, never knowing if he’d come back, and on work trips.
“I can say it in two words—my wife. She’s held us together.”
Separating never crossed their minds.
Jo shared with a laugh how Bill tells her every morning as she rises out of bed, “Well, I’d never leave you.”
It would be too easy to give up. Besides, making up is the best part, they said.
“Once you have trials and tribulations, it always feels good when you get back,” Bill shared.
For any couple, the Paukovichs say faith must be foundational for a marriage to be successful. And, of course, love.
“I’ve always said, ‘If I didn’t love you, I wouldn’t have done it, right?” Jo asked.
“Right,” Bill said.