In 1951, Jack Rapp issued a violent challenge that he knew he would lose.
“Do you want to race? »He asked Doris Soutée.
They were on horseback in a street in Marionville when the streets were dirt.
His mount was a workaholic who was not known for his quick footing; Doris was astride a palomino that could fly.
She was 15 and he was 17.
“I left him there, behind, and he’s been chasing me ever since,” said Doris.
“I knew she beat me before we even started,” he explains.
The idea, he said, was to find a way to talk to a pretty girl.
In Big Picture of Life, he sacrificed a pawn to capture a queen.
The following year, they escaped and got married in Harrison, Arkansas.
Last month, Jack and Doris Rapp celebrated their 69th wedding anniversary at the Coleman Vault, an event center housed in a former bank in Marionville. It is owned by their granddaughter, Valerie Maples.
Jack surprised Doris on Tuesday, May 18, although the surprise did not quite follow the scenario concocted by Jack and Maples.
May 18 is not their wedding date. It would be March 7th.
Truth be told, Doris expected them to do something big for the # 70 birthday next year, not # 69 this year.
But life doesn’t always go as planned.
“Next year” is not promised to anyone. I’m going to get there.
They built the four houses
Jack joined the Navy a year after the wedding. He entered as an apprentice pipe fitter aboard the USS Hancock, an aircraft carrier, and rose through the ranks to Pipe Fitter First Class.
“I was in charge of the pipe and metal fabrication shop. I had 28 men under my command. “
He left the Navy after four years with a toolkit and a career path.
Sometimes he had to travel to support his family. He worked for over a year in Georgia and worked in Alabama, Florida, New York and Montana.
Doris would spend about a month visiting him.
In 1966, they had another wedding ceremony. This time more than one justice of the peace was present.
They were surrounded by their family and friends in Marionville. Their 14-year-old son Michael was Jack’s witness.
They have two other sons, Randall and Keith.
If you live in Marionville, you probably know Doris, a former mayor who still sits on the council of aldermen.
“I am the only mayor to have pardoned a rooster,” she told me.
She was first elected in 1996; its public service was not continuous.
In the 1970s, Doris was an editor and pretty much everything else at the local newspaper, the Marionville Free Press.
During their 69 years of marriage, the couple had four different homes in Marionville; they built each of them.
Jack says he’s literally a jack of all trades.
They also bought the historic but dilapidated Bank of Marionville in a tax sale for $ 257. They renovated the 1886 building in 2010 and 2011, turning it into a tea room, with three apartments upstairs.
“We did most of the work ourselves,” Doris tells me. “What we do better than anything else is work together. During our marriage, I helped him pour concrete and he helped me sew.
They abandoned the tearoom after a year.
“It was too much work for two elderly people for too low a salary,” says Doris.
Today, it’s their granddaughter’s business, coleman’s safe, a place for weddings and other events.
It was Maples, well-versed in weddings, who suggested that the surprise birthday celebration not wait a year.
“A cheerful curse”
Jack, 87, is in hospice care. He had prostate cancer several years ago.
“It has metastasized and is now in several other places,” he says.
Hospice workers visit her at home twice a week to keep the pain at bay.
“They do a great job taking care of me,” he says.
He chose not to have surgery and not to continue with chemotherapy.
“It’s not my choice to make,” said Doris. “It’s Jack’s. But I’ll back him.”
Jack does not fear death and does not dwell on it.
He fishes whenever he gets the chance, but recently canceled for the first time because he wasn’t feeling well.
“I’m okay with that,” he said. “I know everyone is going to go through this one day. I’m not afraid of it. We all have to do different things in our lifetimes.
“I feel lucky to have been able to live at the same time.”
Maples approached him about secret plans to do something big at the wedding venue this year to celebrate the No.69 anniversary.
Initially, the idea was to do it on the wedding day itself: March 7. But Jack and Doris got vaccinated against COVID-19 the day before. They canceled that date for fear that Jack and Doris would suffer from side effects.
I ask Jack why he agreed to participate in the first place.
“I’m a good-natured guy,” he says. “I agree with everything.”
“Valérie is organizing a wedding for us”
Jack made a reconnaissance and determined that Doris had a hairdresser appointment at noon.
On May 18, the plan was for him to convince Doris to be at the wedding venue at 4 p.m. He would be in one room donning a vintage sailor’s uniform – which Jack preferred to a tuxedo – and Doris would be directed to another room where she would put on one of several wedding gowns in her size.
The only others present would be Maples; a person to put on makeup; a wedding photographer; and, at least initially, their three sons.
Maples was able to get four or five Navy uniforms and, luckily, an adjustment.
“Needless to say, it was extremely tight,” said Jack.
Earlier today, Maples had to travel 112 miles (round trip) to Webb City to get a Pipefitter First Class badge for Jack’s uniform.
But at some point in the day, Jack set a new course.
He didn’t pick up the flowers he was supposed to have and he was so excited about the uniform and the crest that he put the uniform on at home.
“He basically abandoned ship,” Maples says.
Doris was in the kitchen at home. Jack was already wearing the uniform pants when he put his hands on his shoulders and said, “We’re going to town.”
“What do we do ?” Doris asked.
“We have to prepare,” said Jack. “Valerie is planning a wedding for us.”
Doris recovered from his surprise and helped him dress and sew the patch on the uniform.
What makes a marriage work?
There was cake, a wedding photographer, flowers and a 1940 Chrysler on loan.
Doris had previously got in the car as mayor at the city’s annual Applefest celebration.
For the first time, they danced.
“It was more like a shuffle,” Jack said.
Wedding photographer Abbey Fuentes had asked what song she could play for them on her phone.
“What was that song you were singing?” Doris asked him.
Oddly enough, their first dance was “Your Cheating Heart”, recorded and written by Hank Williams in 1952, the year of their marriage.
I ask Doris if she enjoyed the surprise party.
“When I got over the initial shock, it was very nice,” she says.
They were just teenagers when they got married. Now he is 87 and she is 85.
I ask the inevitable question. How did they make it work?
“I never considered divorce,” says Doris. “Murder, yes.”
“Jack has always supported me in everything I have done. I could never have been in politics without his support. We have always been a team. We made decisions together.
“Our love was not the suffocating type.”
These are the views of News-Leader columnist Steve Pokin, who has worked at the newspaper for nine years and who over the course of his career has covered everything from courts and cops to reporting and fitness. He can be reached at 836-1253, [email protected], on Twitter @stevepokinNL, or by mail at 651 Boonville Ave., Springfield, MO 65806.