Dick Lutz was 16 years old and working as a lifeguard at a community pool when he saw a beautiful young girl swimming right under his perch.
“I saw a mermaid. I mean a beautiful little mermaid,” Dick said, walking out of the kitchen in the couple's Oklahoma City home.
“Here's where the crap comes in,” quipped Edna Lutz, Dick's wife of 71 years, as he playfully rumpled her soft white hair.
Edna was 14 when Dick first laid eyes on her. She didn't even know he existed then.
Two years later, Dick was dating a girl named Louise, and it turned out that Louise and Edna were best friends. When Louise and her family moved away, she told Edna to hang on to Dick — he was a good dancer and a keeper.
“No money,” Edna teased. But nobody had any money back then, Dick said. It was the Great Depression.
“Take care of him and I'll be back, and we'll get married,” Louise told
“Edna looked after me so well that we got married,” Dick said, reaching across the distance between their two chairs to gently squeeze Edna's hand.
Dick is now 90, and Edna is 88. They have lived in the home they built for more than 50 years. When first built in 1950, their home was in the middle of a wheat field.
“We were the first people to live between 16th and 23rd and Portland and Meridian,” Dick said.
The Lutzes seem to have found the secrets to longevity in life and love.
“We've had a perfect life,” Dick said. “She's my angel. I have to make sure I tell her that she's my angel every day.”
“He does,” Edna said. He also teases her mercilessly, but she loves it and dishes it right back to him.
Dick and Edna have spent their long lives together dancing, laughing, traveling and watching their three children have children and their grandchildren have children.
For most of their lives, Edna took care of Dick and their children while he worked hard (“I'm a workaholic,” he said).
But these days, Dick takes care of Edna. Two years ago, she developed a form of dementia caused by anesthesia during a surgery. Doctors told her the dementia will one day evolve into full-blown
But that doesn't seem to get Edna down. No, she can't do some of the things she used to. But doctors told Dick to keep her busy, and that's what he does.
The couple have volunteered as ushers at the Civic Center Music Hall for 23 years, never missing a show.
Dick gets up early every morning so that when Edna wakes, she'll have a hot breakfast waiting for her.
“I was a good cook before, but I can't cook, and he had to take over,” Edna said.
They had hamburgers the night before.
“I got everything ready for her, and she fried them,” Dick said.
Their life together started when Dick and Edna secretly got married when she was 16 and he was 18.
“When you're 18 you don't think. When you're 16, you don't think less,” Dick said.
They kept their marriage a secret from their parents partly because they were afraid their parents wouldn't approve but mostly because Edna knew that her mother needed her help — she was a single mother dealing with diabetes, a full-time job and had twin toddlers.
Inevitably, their parents found out about their marriage, and the two decided to make a go of it in Dallas. There, Edna worked as a carhop at a drive-in movie theater. She wore a cowgirl outfit to work and made $2 a week plus tips. “She was the cutest thing you ever saw in your life,” Dick said.
He made $9 a week laundering large carpets such as those in movie theaters.
“We thought we were in heaven,” Dick said. “We were paying the rent, we were eating and everything else.”
After a year in Dallas, the couple moved back to Oklahoma City where Dick took a job with The
When Dick was drafted to the Air Force in World War II, Edna stayed at her mother's house, helping out with her twin siblings and taking care of her own child, Richard, who was only 8 months old when Dick left. But Dick was constantly on her mind.
“We lived next to Lightning Creek with my mother,” Edna recalls of the two years Dick was away at war. “We would go for a picnic in Lightning Creek. ... I could overlook my mother's house where I could see who might drive up and tell me he was dead.”
The Lutzes loved to dance together, and while Dick was away, Edna would sometimes go to the enlisted club to dance with some of the soldiers. She knew they were probably lonely being stationed away from their families.
One day, after Dick returned from war, the Lutzes were driving past the club, and Richard, who was standing up on the hump of the backseat, noticed their location and said, “Mama isn't this where we used to pick up that sailor?”
“I trusted her,” Dick said. “When you love somebody ....”
The Lutzes danced their way around the globe.
“We've danced in every country in the world just about,” Dick said. “We've taken boat trips to South America ... flew to Europe and danced in every country we could go to. Went to Australia and did the same thing.”
Hawaii was a favorite travel destination, and they often traveled with a dance club. Later, they formed a company teaching dancing and booking dance bands such as Guy Lombardo and later Al Pierson, Tony Baron and even Oklahoma City bandleader Al Good.
The couple owned a skating rink on NE 23 for several years in the 1980s until a shooting caused that business to fail.
Dick was one of the first people in Oklahoma selling and repairing televisions. His resume includes a long stint for “Ma Bell,” which eventually became AT&T, where he helped invent a version of the coin-operated pay phone. He has the last one ever made hanging on his living room wall, still functioning even without coins.
And though he's long been retired from AT&T, Dick still works hard as a golf pro at Westbury Country Club in Yukon. He also makes customized golf clubs for his clients.
The Lutzes advice for maintaining a long, happy marriage?
“I tell you it takes a lot of forgiving on a lot of things that you don't know are going to come up,” Edna said.
“I'd hate to say do like I did. Everybody's different,” Dick said. “I don't know whether I would suggest somebody wait until they're about 60 to get married or not.”
It's for their unconditional love and respect for each other that Dick and Edna Lutz were nominated as one of The Oklahoma Marriage Initiative's Inspiring Couples.
Dick and Edna Lutz are featured in the "Oklahoma's Most Inspiring Couples" 2011 calendar, sponsored by the Oklahoma Marriage Initiative. Couples featured in the calendar are being profiled in The Oklahoman's Life section. For more about the Oklahoma Marriage Initiative's inspiring couples, go to www.foreverforreal.com.