BY LEE ANN SANDWEISS
Ruth and Ralph Young’s love story started with a glance 78 years ago, and today they still only have eyes for each other.
Ralph, 98, remembers seeing Ruth, 99, for the first time as if it were yesterday, instead of the summer of 1933. “I was walking around the Bedford town square with a friend, and he introduced me to this girl who happened to be Ruth,” he recalls. “As I was walking away, I stopped and looked back at her and she was looking back at me. I went to visit her the next day.”
Love at first sight? You betcha. On the couple’s first date, Ralph, a Bloomington boy, helped Ruth milk a cow on her parents’ Lawrence County farm; they were married less than a year later on September 11, 1934.
The newlyweds lived in Indianapolis, where Ralph was teaching elementary school. When he was drafted during World War II, Ruth came to Bloomington and got a job at RCA. Ralph wrote to her faithfully, but there was one wartime experience he did not describe: being among the first U.S. troops to liberate Dachau concentration camp in April 1945. Instead, he mailed her a magazine story, and said, “I was there.” It was almost 50 years before Ralph was able to speak about his experience at Dachau; he did so to a local group of students studying World War II. Today, his memories are still indelible and his description direct and unvarnished.
“As we approached, the Germans who were still there took off running,” Ralph remembers. “We had heard about the camp, but nothing could have prepared us for what we saw. We spent three weeks there for the sole purpose of saving inmates—they were starving.”
After the war, RCA transferred the Youngs to Tennessee, and they spent their free time fishing and traveling the country with a group of friends who were ardent square dancers.
“Man, we were great square dancers,” says Ralph, his eyes twinkling.
In 1981, the Youngs, who are childless, returned to Bloomington and lived 30 years in their dream house in Windemere Woods before moving to Redbud Hills Retirement Community in 2002. They still regularly attend United Presbyterian Church on Sundays.
When asked, Ruth doesn’t hesitate to share their secret to 77 years of happy marriage. “No quarrelling, no fussing,” she says. “But when it’s all said and done, God gave us a good marriage.”