Goshen News, Goshen, IN

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April 9, 2012

Couple, both 90, married 69 years


GOSHEN — Nettie and Vernon Bontrager were both raised Amish, Nettie just east of Goshen and Vernon near Shipshewana. They met through church youth group activities and were married 69 years ago.

Nettie just celebrated her 90th birthday last Tuesday. Vernon was 90 in November.

The couple joined the Mennonite Church and still attend Rose Lawn Mennonite Church.

The Bontragers raised a family of four sons and four daughters and lived most of their lives in Middlebury. Vernon went to work for Star Tank and Boat Co. (predecessor to Starcraft Boat Co.) in 1950. He later worked at a feed mill in Clinton Center and later for Pyrofax Gas, which merged with Petrolane, he explained. He also had a 12,000 laying hen operation for several years. Vernon retired in 1987.

The family includes Ilene (Alvin) Miller, Florida; Leonard (Judy) Bontrager, Rochester; Clifford (Julie) Bontrager, Pangburn, Ark.; Ruby (Richard) Beachy, Champaign, Ill.; Glendon (Patricia) Bontrager, Howe, (Glendon died last October); Phyllis Bontrager, New Paris; Myron (Dana) Bontrager, Goshen; and Arloa (Rohrer) Bomberger, Goshen.

They also have 18 grandchildren and 25 great-grandchildren.

The couple served two stints and a total of four years volunteering at a church camp in the mountains of southeastern Kentucky, through the Conservative Mennonite Missions Board.

“They were interesting times in the 1980s,” Vernon said.

“In our retirement, we have enjoyed traveling,”  he said. The couple visited their son, Myron, in Ecuador, went to Europe in 1969 and enjoyed bus trips across the United States and Canada.

“We feel our long-distance travel days are over,” he added.

Vernon has helped grade the Bible lesson tests for Gospel Echos for 22 years. He said he also enjoys reading, working on puzzles and the activities planned at their community. Nettie enjoys crocheting.

Some of the family helped Nettie celebrate her birthday last week, but the whole family will gather on Saturday, April 14.

The Bontrager family has a big reunion every two years and this summer is the time for the next one, Vernon said. While they will mark their 69th anniversary this June, he joked that they may celebrate again “if we make it to 70.”

Vernon said he has read The Goshen News since the days it was called the “Democrat,” and has subscribed through all the name changes over the years.

“The first thing we read is the obituaries, to see if we are in there,” he joked. He said The News is the only daily paper they have subscribed to.

Vernon said a granddaughter taught him how to use the computer in the library, which he uses to send e-mails and keep up with the family. “I still don’t understand Facebook,” he added.

Move to Goshen

The Bontragers moved to Waterford Crossing 15 months ago, where they have felt welcome.

“We were greeted by name the day we arrived,” Nettie said. “We love it here. This is now our home. We love the view.”

They said their children approved their decision to move to the Goshen community. Three children are nearby, Vernon said. They have made a lot of new friends, they said.

The only things he misses is having a big garden and his old workshop, Vernon said. But one of the sons has most of his tools, he adds.

“This is a good place to live,” he said. They enjoy their corner apartment with a great view of the pond and walking trail at Waterford Crossing and can watch the wildlife outside. One day they counted 170 geese out on the water, he said. 

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