For 73 years, Charles and Helen Simon of Mansura have been each other’s “better half.”
Charles Simon took Helen Dupuis to be his wife on Aug. 2, 1942 at St. Paul the Apostle Catholic Church in Mansura. Two months later, Charles was drafted into the Army. The newlyweds were reunited four years later.
The Simons were recently honored by the private faith-based Louisiana Family Forum as one of the state’s longest-married couples. The top honor went to Lawrence and Varrie Player of Benton, who have been married for 81 years. The 10 couples were recognized at special ceremonies at the Governor’s Mansion on Feb. 12 -- an early Valentine’s Day party for the state’s oldest and most persistent valentines.
“We enjoyed ourselves,” Charles said. “It was nice. We received a plaque to mark the occasion.”
Charles and Helen recall fondly and with chuckles how they met.
Met at the ‘Pop In’
“It was at a place called the ‘Pop In,’” Charles said. “I think it’s the Cottonport Bank building now.”
The Pop In was a place for young people to go on a Sunday evening to socialize and dance -- under the watchful eyes of the young girls’ mothers.
Charles made the trip from his home in Moreauville every Sunday. He remembers when he first saw the young girl from Mansura that would become his wife.
“I went every Sunday because I’d sooner dance than eat,” Charles said. “I saw her there, sitting by her mother, but I didn’t say anything. That went on for three or four Sundays and I finally got up the nerve to ask her to dance. That’s how it started.”
Before long, they were only dancing with each other -- a dance that has lasted over 73 years.
Charles can never forget the year of his wedding. It was the year he felt like a man blessed by Heaven and then like one thrown into the fires of Hell.
“We got married in August 1942 -- and things were a lot harder back then,” Charles said. “Two months later, I was called into the Army and they shipped me off as far from Mansura as they could think of -- Oregon.
After going through training and maneuvers, he was shipped off to face the Japanese in the Pacific. He fought in the Philippines and then was thrown into the inferno of Okinawa.
To war and back
“I was in the 96th Infantry Division,” Charles said. “It was renamed the ‘Deadeye Division’ because it killed more Japanese on Okinawa than any other division.”
When he came home in 1946, he was met by his bride and the stark realization that he had no job. It was difficult to find work, but he eventually went to work for Midstate Wholesale and later went to work for Shell Oil before going to work for himself.
In 1957, they bought a home in Mansura. Now, 59 years later, they still live in that home.
The Simons raised eight children there. They have outlived two of their children who died from illnesses as adults.
The honored couple also have 22 grandchildren, 43 great-grandchildren and two great-great-grandchildren that fill the house with joy and laughter as often as possible.
“We’ve been a happy family all of our lives,” Charles said. “My kids were always helpful and never caused us any trouble. We raised them right, I guess you’d say. We raised them like we were raised.”
Charles said he has enjoyed traveling across the country with Helen, attending 96th Infantry reunions and touring the sites of this nation and its neighbors, Canada and Mexico.
The main secret to being married for almost three-quarters of a century is either to marry very young or live a long time.
Once the knot is tied, keeping it tied takes a lot of work, Charles said.
“The main thing is to remember that it is an equal partnership,” he said. “Neither one should do anything unless the other one knows about it.
“Don’t keep secrets,” he continued. “I let her know wherever I would be -- at the grocery story, at work, wherever. In case she needed me, she could find me.”
Most important of all, Charles said, “you have to be honest with each other. Always be honest.”