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A Guelph love story 75 years in the making

Each day Charles Merry boards a bus and visits his wife of 75 years Margaret at her home in St. Joseph's Health Centre: 'I don't want her to forget me,' he says, holding her hand

They’ve been by each other’s side for 75 years – raising a family in Guelph, exploring much of North America and kicking up dust at dance halls. 

Though Charles and Margaret Merry no longer live together – the unfortunate result of dementia – their bond remains strong, they’re reunited daily and next week they’ll be counted among the few couples to reach their diamond wedding anniversary.

“It’s been a very good life,” Charles said of their time together. “We just got along good together and did a lot of things together when we could.”

“We just seem to fit together,” added Margaret, who lives at St. Joseph’s Medical Centre where Charles regularly visits.

The pair met at a local dance hall in 1946, while Charles was on leave from the army near the end of his tour. A woman with “beautiful auburn hair” caught his attention, just as the slender soldier caught hers and the first dance ensued. 

When Charles finished his time with the army a short while later, he returned to Guelph and decided to go looking for Margaret at that same dance hall, launching a relationship that would continue for decades.

“Lasting 75 years (of marriage), you don’t see that anymore,” commented their son, Jeffery Merry. “It’s something pretty big.”

The couple married in 1949 and raised four children. The family has since grown to include eight grandchildren, 11 great-grandchildren and three great, great grandchildren in pockets throughout the country.

Charles worked at Hammond Manufacturing for 47 years, holding a variety of positions before retiring in 1989, and often played trumpet in a dance band on Saturday evenings, which meant Margaret handled most of the day-to-day parenting.

“We always felt so loved as kids,” said daughter Linda Krull. “We couldn’t have asked for better parents, we just couldn’t have. And they took us on vacation all the time. We got to see a lot of country.”

Together, with children in tow during their early years, the couple travelled much of the Canada and the United States. Some of those travels took place in a hand-made trailer, which Charles built in their backyard in 1958 using plans published in Popular Mechanics magazine.

“Mom hand-sewed all the canvas – how she did it, I have no idea,” Linda said of the family’s first trailer, which they took on a trip to Florida. “We hit a rainstorm that night and had to get out pots and pans because it was leaking. It was all kinds of adventure.”

“I’ll never come close to the things they’ve done and the places they’ve been,” said daughter Sharon Parmentier.

Between them, the couple – Charles is 96 years old and Margaret is 93 – didn’t stop travelling until health problems got in the way a few years ago. Among their adventures was a road trip to Alaska, in their mid-70s, where they stayed in a tent.

“It was the only way we could afford to go,” Charles recalled with a laugh.

The pair also took up square dancing in their retirement years.

Asked about the secret to their marriage success, Margaret was quick to chime in.

“Every time we had a fight, we wouldn’t go to sleep until it was all over,” she said.

“We didn’t fight, we just sometimes had a disagreement,” Charles added.

Every day now, Charles boards a mobility bus and makes his way to spend the afternoon with Margaret.

“I don’t want her to forget me. I know when you get to this stage (of dementia), some people, they forget each other and I don’t want that to happen,” Charles said during an interview in a dining hall at St. Joseph's – his right hand firmly grasping Margaret’s left. “I’m always happy to come up and see her.

“She may not always know what’s going on, but she always knows me.”


Richard Vivian

About the Author: Richard Vivian

Richard Vivian is an award-winning journalist and longtime Guelph resident. He joined the GuelphToday team as assistant editor in 2020, largely covering municipal matters and general assignment duties
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