Couple married 70 years shares advice for others

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BELLWOOD, Neb. (WOWT) -- A Nebraska couple who recently celebrated 70 years of marriage is sharing some advice on what's made their relationship last.

“We lived on love,” said Jack, 90, and Claryce Selzer, 87, of Bellwood, Nebraska. “We never spent what we didn’t have.”

They read through the dozens of Happy Anniversary cards they received.

“I hope the both of you have a very special day,” said Claryce.

Young love doesn’t have to get old.

“Every so often, two people come together to share a wonderful love,” she read.

They still think about that July wedding 70 years ago.

“It was 103 degrees, no wind and no air conditioning,” recalled Claryce.

“We knew each other all our lives,” said Jack, who only spent a year-and-a-half away from Bellwood when he went to the service. “She was a young thing.”

“I was the cheerleader and he was the basketball player in high school. When we took our wedding vows, we took them seriously,” said Claryce, as the two sat next to each other on the living room couch. “Until death do us part. That’s just the way it was.”

“We’ve had our ups and downs,” said Jack, “But we always ironed them out before we go to bed at night.”

They raised three kids – a girl and two boys. They have two grandchildren.

“How have I made it work for 70 years?” asked Jack, as he started a wry smile. “I’ve listened. I’ve listened a lot… practically all the time.”

The rockiest part of their life came in 1971.

As a linebacker, their middle son, John, made a tackle in a junior varsity game for David City Aquinas, and was injured.

He was 15.

“It took them an hour taking off the helmet,” recalled Claryce, who was called by school officials at home about the injury. She wasn't at the game.

John Selzer spent four months at Lincoln General hospital.

“We didn’t get the support we thought he should when he first got hurt,” she said. “The doctors and nurses told us we should put him in a nursing home.”

Parents usually pick a point when the kids need to be out of the house. That never happened here.

“People say I should write a book, but I don’t think anyone would believe it,” said John, 61, from his parents’ living room.

He would be confined to a wheelchair and never walk again. But rehabilitation at the Kelly Institute in Minneapolis allowed him to learn to live.

“I brought him into this world and I’m going to take care of him until the day I die,” said Jack. “I think maybe that’s why the good Lord has given me a long life.”

For decades, John’s parents have been his caretakers.

Now the responsibilities in the home have flipped.

“They need my help and I need their help,” said John.

“He’s the boss here,” explained John’s father. “I don’t know how to run a computer. He taught himself. He can’t use his hands, but a pencil in his mouth runs the computer.”

“Every day there’s something to do,” said John, who worked for years as a legislative aide in the Nebraska Legislature. “And we have to do it and move on to the next thing. I’m probably the luckiest quadriplegic in the world.”

John looks back fondly on that day in 1971 when an unexpected visitor stopped by the hospital. It was Nebraska’s legendary football coach Bob Devaney.

“He said he’s seen a lot of players over the years that got injured. Some got better and some didn’t. He said the important thing is to never give up. Mom didn’t know who he was, but it was Bob Devaney. I never forgot Bob’s advice to never give up,” John said.

Those words helped shape the paralyzed teenager for decades.

“The last thing you want to lose in life is your sense of humor,” said John. “If you’ve lost that, you’ve lost everything.”

There’s no laugh shortage among the three in the Selzer home.

“She didn’t know how to boil water,” joked Jack about his wife.

As they thought about their 70th anniversary, they recalled the advice the priest game them as part of the pre-marriage counseling.

“We went for our instructions,” said Claryce. “And all he said was, ‘Just don’t hit Jack over the head with a rolling pin.’ That’s all he said – that was the instructions.”

But Jack had one more revelation.

“Do you know why we have such a good life? Because we have a good sex life. Give me a hand dear – it’s just reduced to a handshake now,” Jack laughed.

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