It started with a blind date in the final months of World War II.
Bruce Hammerle’s boot camp buddy, Wally, had a sister visiting Chicago, and Wally asked if Bruce could take care of her while he went out with his girlfriend. Little did Bruce know that 74 years later, he would still be doing so.
Alice and Bruce, now 91 and 92, respectively, celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary June 18 with a marriage blessing by Denver Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila.
Sitting in Broomfield at their kitchen table — the focal point for family gatherings — Alice and Bruce reflected on their decades together, starting with their proposal story, which took place a few years after Bruce finished serving in the U.S. Navy following the war.
“He asked my father, and of course, my mother liked him because he was a buddy of Wally’s,” Alice said. “We went to Belle Isle, which is an island in Detroit. He kind of asked me before, but this was official. You know, those things are so long ago you can hardly remember.”
What they can easily remember are the things that have remained most important throughout the years: their shared Catholic faith, devotion to family, and the certainty that to have fun together is the key to a happy life.
“We’ve been blessed by having our faith,” Bruce said. “There’s no arguing about what we’re going to be doing as far as our faith goes, we’re in perfect harmony there. That has a lot to do with our continued marriage.”
Even during their courtship in the late 1940s, faith was central.
“We’d stop at church, we’d go to confession, and then we’d go dancing,” Alice said. “Our faith is the mainstay of our marriage. It was based on religion when we met, and we have continued. I guess it’s one habit we haven’t broken yet.”
They were married in Detroit in 1949 and stayed there for nearly 20 years before moving to Fort Lauderdale, Fla. But with four children grown, marrying, and having their own children, it eventually became clear that Bruce and Alice had to follow their family to Colorado.
“One day we were sitting out on the drive, and I said, ‘What are we doing here? We should be enjoying our grandchildren and children.’ So that’s what we did,” Bruce said.
Our faith is the mainstay of our marriage. I guess it’s one habit we haven’t broken yet.”
That was in 1986, and now Bruce and Alice frequently spend time with their 10 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren — from age 43 to six months — who live nearby.
Bruce and Alice are careful to not offer advice based on their years of marriage to those who aren’t seeking it.
“We try to give them a good example, which we’ve done all of our lives and they go from there. Everyone’s got their own opinions that the Good Lord gave them, and everybody has a choice,” Bruce said.
During the wedding of one of their grandsons, they first met Archbishop Aquila, who was present as a longtime friend of the bride’s family. When Glenn Miller’s song “String of Pearls” played during the reception, Bruce and Alice hit the dance floor.
“Dad and I got up to swing and when we finished, Archbishop (Aquila) said, ‘That was absolutely wonderful!’ And ever since that time, every time he sees Stacey or Cameron, he’ll ask, ‘How are Bruce and Alice, are they still dancing?’” Alice recalled.
They may have slowed down a bit since that moment, but they relish the joyful memories they’ve formed together. They toured around the country in a motorhome and got to ride in a hot air balloon at one point. “We got the chance to meet a lot of nice, wonderful people,” Bruce said. “What I liked about motorhomes is that everybody’s out to have a good time.”
They also fondly recall hosting the neighborhood hangout spot in their Michigan backyard during their marriage’s early years. “Our yard was like a park, everybody wanted to come in. We had a barbecue pit in the yard, we had swings, we had sandboxes. Our house was the core of the family,” Alice said.
But life hasn’t always been easy. The Hammerle’s struggled through difficult times, supporting loved ones with medical problems and addictions, but they always did so together. Those experiences and the blessing of sustained good health are factors that Bruce and Alice point to as critical to their 70 years of marriage.
“It’s been fun. We’ve been very, very blessed with our health,” Alice said. “We’re not doing anything other than praying real hard every day and every night.”
“Keep the faith, that’s number one,” Bruce agreed.
Alice added: “That’s about it, I think.”