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Published: Tuesday, 2/23/2010

DeVilbiss pals group going strong at 50-plus

BY DAVID PATCH
BLADE STAFF WRITER
The couples who have been gathering for more than 50 years are, from left, Joyce and Don Seymour, Joyce and Dick Rosenlund, Judy and Doug Holdridge, Pat and Dick Moses, Dorothy and Jim Mease, and Sharon and Larry Roan. The couples who have been gathering for more than 50 years are, from left, Joyce and Don Seymour, Joyce and Dick Rosenlund, Judy and Doug Holdridge, Pat and Dick Moses, Dorothy and Jim Mease, and Sharon and Larry Roan.
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It started out as a group of six girlfriends from DeVilbiss High School playing a traveling dice game at each other's homes.

More than 50 years later, the six DeVilbiss women and their husbands are still going strong, meeting once a month or so to swap stories, share a drink, and play.

"It's closer than a club. It's like family," said Dick Moses of Sylvania Township, who is part of the group with his wife, Pat.

"We're brothers and sisters. It's one big family, more than anything."

No divorces, no deaths, and only one move-away. That couple, Doug and Judy Holdridge, moved back to the Toledo area twice, after stays in Virginia and later Wisconsin.

Otherwise, the group has spread out into the suburbs from its initial West Toledo base, with three couples - the Holdridges, Dick and Joyce Rosenlund, and Jim and Dorothy Mease - settling in Perrysburg while the Moseses and Larry and Sharon Roan moved to Sylvania Township.

Initially, it was just "the girls" getting together for their own night out, but before long the men started congregating too, and eventually the two groups merged.

Mrs. Roan, who as the group's unofficial secretary keeps track of whose turn it is to host, said the bunco games started after the women graduated from DeVilbiss.

All but Mrs. Holdridge, class of '57, graduated in 1958.

Some of the men also went to that school, but not all.

"They all knew each other, but went to different schools," Mrs. Rosenlund said.

An exception was Jim Mease, a North Carolina native who met Dorothy when she and a friend went on vacation to Fort Eustis, Va., where the friend's Army fiance was stationed - as was Mr. Mease.

Game night, which varies from month to month but is almost always on Saturday, usually starts with "1 1/2 hours of talking, then 1 1/2 hours playing, and then dessert," Mr. Moses said.

Over time, the game changed: They now play Tripoli, a card game that includes elements of poker, and Michigan rummy instead of bunco, which uses dice.

"We started out playing for pennies, but we graduated to nickels," Mr. Rosenlund said.

"Everyone brings their cans of nickels," Mrs. Holdridge agreed, to which Mr. Moses added: "For weddings, we bring out our dollars, because nickels aren't enough."

And there have been lots of weddings.

First, the couples themselves, then each other's children's, routinely attended by many group members.

"A lot of us were in each other's weddings," Mrs. Holdridge said, noting that two of the couples married on the same day.

Now married for between 45 and 50 years, the couples often celebrate anniversaries together.

They've gone on trips - not always the whole group, but often six or eight for cruises or train tours - and been in bowling leagues together and even networked for jobs.

"We spent a week on a houseboat together, four couples," Mrs. Holdridge said.

"We all take care of each other. If someone is sick, we take food to them, or flowers, or whatever," Mrs. Roan said.

"We've had some great times together, that's for sure," Mr. Moses said.

The couples' children often played or went to school together, and many of their grandchildren know each other through online social networking.

The women are the glue that keeps everyone together, all the men agree.

"Otherwise, we'd probably be out carousing," Mr. Holdridge quipped.

But everyone's either 70 or pushing it now, and with five cancer survivors among the group, they acknowledge that they've been fortunate not to have lost anyone.

Pat Moses, whose advancing amyotrophic lateral sclerosis - Lou Gehrig's disease, a degenerative neurological ailment that robs the body of voluntary muscle control - raises her hand with an anxious smile when the group touches on the subject of mortality. She can no longer speak.

That the group has stayed together for as long as it has is in part a generational phenomenon.

Mr. Moses said that in the 1950s, it was more likely that young people would go to school near home, and find jobs and mates near home, than it is today.

"Everybody's got different schedules now," Mr. Moses said.

"It seems like they either go away to school, or end up with jobs that are out of town."



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