True grit: Sweethearts set sights on diamond anniversary

October 2017 Posted in Community

IMG_5197 (2)By Nancy Jennings

John and Eileen Lalicker have grit. Both 94, they moved to Silverton in 1949. Originally from Kansas, the high school sweethearts met in their junior year. Their lockers were next to each other.

“One day, he was standing by his locker and I came up behind him and playfully poked him in his sides,” Eileen recalled. She definitely got his attention: John had broken some ribs from a rough football practice the night before due to not wearing his padding. Though a painful way to break the ice, they have been together ever since.

Married for 74 years, they have their sights set on celebrating number 75
– their “diamond anniversary” –
next Aug. 3.

“I’m looking forward to that diamond you’re going to buy me,” John said as he grinned at Eileen.

Having survived the Dust Bowl era, Eileen jokes they got blown to Silverton by the tornadoes in 1949.

“We were in the storm cellar for 13 nights out of 17,” she said. They sold their property there and came to visit her sister in Silverton on vacation.

“We decided we were going to leave Kansas. When we got back, John gave a two-week notice at his job. His father built a trailer and we brought all
we could.”

With two young children in tow and no jobs, the Lalicker’s did whatever was needed to make ends meet.

“I worked at the cannery (pre-Bruce Pac) for two or three months and he babysat until he found a job,” Eileen said.

Eventually, the couple prospered, managing their own grocery store/meat market on downtown’s iconic Water Street. During those years, they moved their store twice into different buildings on the same street. Eileen laughed, recalling how many of their friends in town helped them move their store “with pushcarts.”

In time, John heard that ‘Fred Meyer’ was building two stores in the Salem area. Having grocery experience, he applied and ended up working there for more than 20 years. In that era, making time for “face-to-face” relationships was commonplace.

“Fred would come into the stores and visit with his employees,” John said.

Eileen started working for Avon in 1972. Her customers were residents at the Mount Angel Towers. Originally she thought she would just “do it for a year.” Forty-five years later, she still occasionally drops off Avon orders.

“Visiting with friends is my social time,” she said.

In addition to their two children, they have five grandchildren, 16 great-grandchildren and two great-great-grandchildren. Their son lives in Spokane, Wash., and their daughter lives in the Hazelgreen area, halfway to Salem.

John shared they have endured their share of surgeries, and Eileen recalled a time her hardiness surprised even herself. While in her mid-60s, she drove to the beach to meet John – not knowing she had a broken shoulder. She had tripped and fallen in their garden earlier that day. When John saw her sitting inside of her car, she looked “as white as a sheet.”

“I thought it was just a bad bruise,” she said.

The couple’s secrets to longevity include maintaining social activities such as yearly July reunions with Eileen’s “Page” side of the family. They have been members at Silverton United Methodist Church for more than 60 years. In addition, they have both been involved in the Masonic Lodge for 70 years, he as a Mason and she as an Eastern Star member.

In 1950, Eileen began singing as a soloist at local weddings and funerals. She still loves
to sing.

“You have to have a reason to get yourself out of bed and moving,” she said, adding they both love being outside and enjoy their garden.

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