Couple’s 50-year marriage is golden adventure

By Michael Fitzpatrick

Then and Now – Bernadine and John Butkowski celebrate 50 years of marriage.

Nip a problem in the bud.

That’s the key to a long and happy marriage, according to North Ridgeville councilwoman, lifetime resident and now a partner in a 50-year pact of matrimony, Bernadine Butkowski.

She and her husband John celebrated their Golden Anniversary last weekend with a small party attended by family and friends.

The two were married May 20, 1967. Lyndon B. Johnson was in the White House and Groovin’ by Booker T. and the MGs was the jam at the time as the two exchanged vows inside North Ridgeville’s St. Peter Church on Center Ridge Road.

So how did Bernadine make it through 50 years while having to deal with all those annoying habits one’s spouse can have?

“You just figure out what’s going on and learn how to deal with it. Go one day at a time and just deal with it,” said Bernadine, whose term on council is expiring in December. When pressed to drill down on the answer, she paused, then said “When a little problem starts, start talking about it so it doesn’t become a big problem. Deal with it,” she said. “And always think what’s best for your children,” she added.

John joked that part of the reason that the couple remained married was that he continues to go to work every day.

“On a more serious note, though, the importance is to basically understand each and sometimes you have to agree to disagree,” John said.

The fact both have kept busy throughout the marriage has helped, too, John said.

“We keep very active. Sometimes we are involved in the same activity but very often we are involved in different activities, so I think activity is a key,” John said.

Money is the root of all evil and it is also the killer of many a marriage. Bernadine takes a practical approach to that subject.

“You know what’s coming in and you know what had to go out. You live on what you have,” she said.

Speaking of money, getting married was a lot cheaper proposition in 1967. Bernadine spent $115 on her wedding dress, which she still has and can still fit in,  and the entire wedding cost $944, which included $330 for the food.

When John was got married, he recalled, he was making just $1.95 an hour. When his boss gave him a nickel raise shortly after he married Bernadine it added enough to the family budget to allow Bernadine to stay at home, John recalled.

The couple met just after high school at a Catholic singles group.

Their first date involved a dinner, although Bernadine doesn’t recall where. She quickly points out that John, an engineer by trade, would remember such a detail.

“He knows every place he eats,” Bernadine said with a laugh. “He remembers everything that is not important.”

When asked about any annoying habits John may have, Bernadine turns into the cagey politician.

“He really doesn’t have any,” she says.

John said he”ll often do things that irritate his spouse. When Bernie calls him out on, though, he’s said he’ll respond: “I just wanted you to be thinking of me. If I hadn’t have done that you wouldn’t have even thought of me,” John Butkowski said.

Bernadine is intertwined in the history of North Ridgeville. A lifelong resident, her father, Bernard Noll, served on City Council and also helped write the city charter. He was also on the group that helped get the French Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant.

Her uncle, Richard Noll, was mayor of North Ridgeville from 1966-1970, then again from 1980-1984.

John is also well-known. Currently an engineer at R.W. Beckett Corp., he’s the president of the Corn Festival Organization and was one of the founders of the event which has been a yearly tradition since the mid-1970s.

The Butkowskis have two adult children, Pam and Bob.


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