By Emily Bontrager
Our first Valentine Sweetheart couple we are featuring is Tom and Pat Fender. A lot of laughter and love kept this marriage together for so many years, so let’s look back at how the couple first met.
Tom Fender was born January 26, 1948 in Ottumwa, IA. He is the only child of Everett and Dorthea Fender.
“My folks had been married 73 years, before my mom died,” Tom said.
Tom grew up in Scotland County and graduated from Memphis High School in 1966.
Pat Hill was born on December 17, 1948 in Centerville, IA. She grew up with one brother and one sister. Her parents were Frank and Kathleen Hill from Bloomfield, IA.
Pat attended Davis County High School and she graduated in 1967.
The two first met while they were both taking some classes at Indian Hills Community College in Centerville, IA.
“I saw her, and she was it for me,” Tom said.
“There was a boy from Lancaster that was going up there and he rode up with Tom to Centerville,” Pat said.
The boy was in one of Pat’s classes and she asked him if he could give her a ride home one weekend.
“Tom had a Ford Mustang car and we had all of our stuff in the backseat. Well, there wasn’t any place for me to sit, so he sat where the console was between the bucket seats,” Pat laughed.
“That is how we met, and I had never met Tom until the day they took me home.”
After that, Tom asked Pat out and the two went on some dates together.
Tom and Pat started courting in the fall of 1967 and the two were engaged around the first part of February in 1968.
“I asked her, but I can’t remember the circumstances,” Tom said.
“I remember we went over to Ottumwa and we looked in the windows of the jewelry store and I said, “I like this one. I like that one,” Pat recalled.
Pat picked out a ring while they were in Ottumwa. The two knew pretty much right away that they wanted to marry each other. One day, they just decided to get married, so they went to the courthouse and got a marriage certificate.
The two set up a day to get married by a pastor at the Methodist Church in Kirksville, MO. Pat and Tom were married on March 8, 1968.
Tom and Pat do not recall which pastor married them, but Tom remembers some of the advice the pastor gave to the couple.
“He said, ‘You never want to let your anger go over to the next day,’” Tom said.
“He might not have said it exactly that way, but I remember that because that is important.”
“Marriage evolves over the years. When you are first married, you are used to getting your own way, both parties, so it is a struggle. It isn’t always easy, and it is kind of hard at times, but you have to learn to give at times and be strong at times,” Tom said.
“I look at it over the years and I think we are actually closer now over time and in different ways than we were back then.”
There were only a few other people at Tom and Pat’s wedding. One of Tom’s friend’s, John Smith, stood up with him and Pat’s friend Linda Swanson stood up with her. Pat’s sister Pam was also at the ceremony.
For their honeymoon, Pat and Tom decided to go down to Rolla, MO.
“A funny thing happened, I forgot my suitcase, so I didn’t have any clothes,” Tom laughed.
“So, we stopped at Poplar Bluff and got some clothes.”
“We had all these shirts, but everything else he had put in this suitcase and we sat it there by the back door and out we went. I never thought a thing about it,” Pat said.
After buying the clothes, the two didn’t have a lot of money left for their honeymoon.
“We crossed the ferry into Tennessee, and we stayed a couple nights in Tennessee and Kentucky and that was the extent of our honeymoon,” Tom laughed.
Tom first worked as a production worker at the Iowa Ordnance Plant near Burlington, IA for eleven years. He also worked as a farmer and later he was a bus driver. He drove a bus for 22 years for the Scotland County School District until he retired.
One memory that Pat has from high school is a conversation she had with one of her friends.
“We were talking about what we were going to do after school and I said, ‘Well, I’m not going to marry a farmer. I’ll tell you that right now,’” Pat laughed.
“After we got married, I thought, ‘Boy you ate those words, because here I am married to a farmer.’”
After having kids, Pat went to work at a drugstore. She then went to work for State Farm, and she went to the Scotland County Extension office at the courthouse.
Pat ended up working at the Scotland County Hospital in the business department. She worked there for 25 years until she retired.
The couple first lived in an apartment in Memphis, MO while Tom was working at the Iowa Ordnance Plant.
“We moved I think in the fall out to the farm and got a mobile home. We lived in it for several years and then we built a house in 73’,” Tom said.
Pat and Tom still live in that house today on the farm.
“If you can still live with a person after building a new house, you have it made,” Pat said.
Tom, 76, and Pat, 75, live outside of Memphis, MO. They have four children, Tim, Chris, Melanie, and Jennifer. They also have ten grandchildren and four great grandchildren.
“We really have had a good life. It hasn’t always been easy, and it never is always easy with a marriage,” Tom said.
The two have been married almost 56 years and they have enjoyed their life together.
“I think I love her more every day. You get a bond between you and it is really strong, and I think that develops over time,” Tom said.
“I think we both have enough humor and laugh at situations,” Pat added.
“I think everybody needs to have a little humor.”
Pat and Tom have had a great life together and they wouldn’t change anything if they could go back. The two have some great advice on why their marriage has lasted so long.
“You have to learn how to give and take and be sympathetic to your mate’s feelings,” Tom said.
“And the Lord needs to be in your household,” Pat added.
“I think the Lord has really blessed us in so many ways in our life,” Tom said.
“He has and we have healthy children, and they have healthy children. That, to me, has been one of the best blessings that the Lord has blessed us with and raising our kids on a farm,” Pat added.