CHARLESTON, Ill. — Jo Cooley has definitely gotten her money's worth out of the anniversary card that she purchased for 90 cents for her friends Raymond and Madonna Morris 26 years ago.
Mrs. Cooley and her husband, Ron, sent this greeting card for their friends' wedding anniversary on Dec. 14, 1985, and then the Morrises regifted the card for the Cooleys' anniversary on May 1, 1986.
The two couples have been passing the same card back and forth to each other ever since. They filled the card's surface with happy anniversary messages sometime in the 1990s and subsequently started inserting pages for additional messages.
"We have added pages upon pages in 26 years," Mrs. Cooley said. She purchased this Harlequin-brand card from the gift shop, Mar-Chris, that she was working at in 1985 on the west side of the courthouse square in Charleston.
Messages have filled the card to the point that it is resembles a small scrapbook and no longer fits in a regular envelope. Ron Cooley said they now usually exchange the card at their church, Immanuel Lutheran in Charleston, in lieu of sending it through the mail.
The two wives are the ones who have written most of the heartfelt messages within the card, but Mrs. Cooley added that her husband has gotten them all chuckling by adding some comical messages from time to time.
"We have just had a lot of laughs over the years," Ron Cooley said.
The friendship between the couples began in 1951 when they met at Immanuel Lutheran, when it was still at the northeast corner of Lincoln Avenue and Ninth Street. They all remained active in the church as the new building was constructed in the early 1960s along south Ninth Street. The former church site is now home to a Family Video store.
Over the years, the couples have enjoyed playing lively matches of Scrabble and traveling together. They have visited destinations both relatively near, Paducah, Ky., and far, Maine.
"We saw a lot of neat things and had good times," Raymond Morris recalled. These happy times included the Morrises becoming the godparents of the Cooleys' youngest son.
Now, the couples are preparing to celebrate the Morrises' 70th wedding anniversary today and the Cooleys' 65th wedding anniversary on May 1, 2013.
The Morrises married on Dec. 14, 1941, just seven days after the Japanese military attacked the U.S. Navy base at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. Mrs. Morris said she and her husband wanted to get married before he was inducted into the service.
Raymond Morris served three-and-a-half years as a U.S. Army military police officer. He guarded captured Italian and German prisoners as they worked farm fields in South Dakota, and he was preparing to guard Japanese soldiers when the war ended in 1945.
The Cooleys married on May 1, 1947, after Ron Cooley served two years in the Navy with the USS Vinton, an attack cargo ship. Ron Cooley, who enlisted in the Navy at age 17, said his service on the Vinton took him all over the South Pacific as it ferried troops and equipment for invasions.
"We were getting ready to go to Japan," Ron Cooley said. "We were loading up soldiers and stuff in Honolulu when the war ended."
Information from: Mattoon Journal-Gazette, http://www.jg-tc.com