Love at first sight

Mary and John Somerville of North Fork celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary on Feb. 6. During their 50-year journey together as a married couple, they moved 13 times until, in 1974, they ended up on the 40-acre ranch where they still reside.

The journey began in Ohio where they both attended Hiram College, a small liberal arts school. They met at the post office when she was attending freshman orientation. John, a junior and a football player, turned to his friend and said he knew at first sight that Mary was the woman he was going to marry.

“I branded you right there,” he smiled at Mary.

Mary said it took her a while to know John was going to be her future husband. But the day must have been significant as she distinctly remembers some details.

“I know exactly what I had on-a black and white checkered blouse with little ruffles, flats and nylons,” she remembered.

During their courtship, the couple would sit on a bench and ask each other about Bible scriptures. Friends would giggle when Mary, whose maiden name was Wierwille, and John were dating.

“Wierwolf, you’ve got a date with Somerthrill tonight,” Mary remembered.

They were married by Mary’s father, a pastor in New Knoxville, Ohio, when Mary was a junior and after John had graduated. Among those standing up for them were Mary’s two sisters and a brother and John’s brother.

The night before the wedding, John stayed with his best man on Mary’s uncle’s farm. One of the farm dogs bit him and “it still hurts,” John said.

While in the midst of wedding preparations, Mary remembered “going down to a creek on my parents’ property and dangling my feet over the bridge and wondering if I was doing the right thing,” she said. She remembers concluding her thoughts with, “John is such a great guy and I couldn’t go wrong (marrying him).”

For their honeymoon, the couple stayed at a Holiday Inn in Wisconsin which cost just $13.50 for one night. Mary remembers her “going away outfit,” a dark purple mohair suit with a black beaver hat.

“I still have it (the suit) and I can still get into it,” she said. She remembers removing the hat and rice falling out of it. “I was so embarrassed.”

John, a former college football coach and a retired colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps, was away from home for long periods of time because of deployments and assignments. They were married just two weeks when John first left for three months for basic training. One year during their marriage, they had only two meals together. John would come home and ask “who are all these little people running around our house?” Mary said.

Those “little people,” were the couple’s six children who began arriving in 1966. Their eldest is Amy Ott (married to Dirk). Then there are Matthew Somerville (married to Janice), Luke Somerville (married to Sharon), Lydia Robertson (married to Wayne), Sierra Gonsalez (married to Joe) and John Hayes Somerville (married to Mercedes).

John was with Mary for just one delivery, the sixth. Both John and Mary are very proud of the fact that three of their children served on active duty with John in the Marine Corps and two enlisted in the Air Force. And now those “little people” have children of their own, making Mary and John grandparents to 15.

Both John and Mary attribute the longevity of their marriage to their common faith.

“We’re both Bible believers, spiritually, and conservative, politically,” Mary said.

As in any marriage, there were things to be worked through.

“I thought she would like hunting, camping, fishing and all that stuff,” John said. So when he returned from a tour in Vietnam, the family numbering four at that time, went camping. Mary made it clear that sitting under a fly tent in rain and mud with two little ones, both in diapers, was not something she enjoyed.

“Now we are working together,” she said, “instead of me taking care of house and children.”

Together, they, “stand up for our country and for Israel.” They are “appalled by so much political correctness that it has people tongue-tied.”

They both work to promote the ideas of Zion’s Watchmen Ministries, which is “a teaching ministry to inform the church and American audiences about the Jewish roots of Christianity, Biblical Zionism, the Holocaust and anti-Semitism,” John said.

As a part of that ministry, John and Mary lead tours to Israel to help others understand the struggle going on there. Mary’s first trip to Israel was as a 12-year-old. Her family traveled for eight months to destinations including India, Israel, the Mideast and Europe. John’s first trip was in 1972 when his military duties sent him there. John has since made over 70 trips to Israel, many times accompanied by Mary.

John surprised Mary with a renewal of vows before family, church members, and other friends, to be held Monday, Feb. 16, at the Yosemite Lakes Community Church. A dessert reception will follow.