The personalized license plate on the gleaming red PT Cruiser parked at 1732 Chantilly Drive in Maumee tells you a couple things about the people who own this car, and not just their names: JUD N JIM.
One: These are fun people. Two: They're a team, and proud of it.
What you wouldn't know from a glance is that this isn't the first time Jud 'n Jim - Judy and Jim Sterman - have been in the public eye together. Just over 45 years ago, on April 2, 1961, they were featured in a special bridal section in what was then called The Blade Pictorial. The piece focused on the various decisions facing a young couple as they start married life, and was the first of an annual series in the 1960s, each built around a June bride and bridegroom.
"We're just normal, normal people," says the former Judy Gronau as Jim nods in agreement. "And we got our five minutes of fame. That's what really made it nice."
They spent months being photographed at local businesses, some of those places just ghosts today. There was Judy getting her hair done at the Beauty Bar in the Spitzer Arcade downtown, and standing in her silk organza and lace gown at Bridal Aisle. There were the two of them picking out her ring at Osterman-Levey Jewelers, choosing her trousseau at Mark Klaus at Westgate, planning their reception menu at Tiedtke's, gazing at Early American-style bedroom furniture at Pioneer Colonial House, window shopping at Al Thomas Shoes, checking on a home loan at Toledo Home Federal Savings & Loan Association, and waving from a Chevrolet Impala convertible from the Carl F. Weissenberger dealership.
Another photo showed them at Woodville Appliance, where, according to the accompanying copy, they chose a 23-inch Zenith TV in a wood cabinet that also held a "high-fidelity stereo four-speed phonograph and latest AM-FM radio."
They were celebrities - even at the Americana Hotel in Miami Beach, Fla., where they spent their honeymoon, all expenses paid by The Blade.
In the years that have followed, they've raised two daughters and welcomed two sons-in-law and four grandchildren. On their 10th wedding anniversary, they returned to the Americana Hotel to celebrate.
They've worked on their marriage, too, in the years since their wedding at Eastminster Presbyterian Church, growing into each other and hanging on over the bumps.
"Everyone has a problem now and then," Jim says. "You make it the best way you can."
The Stermans, who still live in the home that they started building when they were engaged, will celebrate their 45th wedding anniversary on Saturday.
"We're going out to dinner, and I got a special gift I'm going to give her," Jim says slyly.
"What is it?" Judy asks.
They have the comfortable give-and-take of a long-established couple. Judy is an effervescent 66-year-old; Jim, a bit reserved in comparison, gives his age as "way up there," then admits to being 72.
He retired from Ace Hardware in 1992, then worked at Stone Oak Country Club until 1998. She's a sales consultant for Premier Beauty Supply of Chicago.
They met 50 years ago, at a party in 1956 for Jim's cousin, who was going into the service. Judy was a friend of the cousin's sister.
"I caught his eye and he caught my eye," Judy recalls. They started dating; "the relationship grew," she says.
Judy's parents said she had to wait until she was 21 to get married, so after graduating from Waite High School in 1958 she enrolled at the Toledo Academy of Beauty Culture - at the urging of her mother, Janet Gronau, who went through the hair stylist training program along with her. Jim, who had graduated from Waite in 1953, was working the swing shift on the old New York Central Railroad.
One hectic day on the job in a downtown beauty salon, Judy got a phone call that went something like this:
"This is the Toledo Blade and we'd like to do a story on your wedding."
Judy: "Look, I don't have time for this joking around."
She hung up, thinking someone was playing a trick on her. The phone rang again; "This is no joke," the caller insisted.
"I said all right, but I didn't really believe it," Judy says. She and Jim were to go to The Blade offices to talk about the project.
"I guess I believed it after we walked in" to a conference room at the newspaper, she says, remembering "that great, big room and that great, big oval table. We shrunk this little," Judy says, holding up her thumb and forefinger just barely apart.
They say they still don't know how they came to be selected for the bridal feature. But longtime employees in The Blade's advertising department recall that the annual Pictorial bride and groom were chosen through a drawing of names entered at the newspaper-sponsored bridal fair. (The Blade still sponsors bridal fairs twice a year, but no longer runs such a contest.)
"Somebody must have submitted their names," speculates Chick Reid, an advertising representative who has been with The Blade since 1968.
However it happened, "It was the neatest experience in the whole world," Judy says.
They apparently don't spend a lot of time looking back to those days, though - too busy riding their matching battery-operated scooters, spending time with their daughters who live nearby, traveling to see friends scattered across the country, fishing at their cottage in Hillsdale, Mich. When they bought the cottage they gave up their motor home - the one with the license plate that read R MANSION.
The Stermans also exercise faithfully, a way of life since both have had heart attacks. Jim was stricken six years ago; Judy, 12 years ago at her 35th class reunion.
"So now you know why our life is so special - because you cherish every minute," Judy says.
Contact Ann Weber at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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