Sharing Memories And Celebrating Fifty-Five Years Of Marriage And Family
By Cookie Steponaitis
photo by providedMarried 55 years and going strong, Jim & Shirley McGuire celebrate family, fun and life together.
photo by provided
photo by provided
photo by provided
photo by provided
Jim and Shirley McGuire are a bit perplexed as to why their life together is the subject of an article because it has proceeded as it should have. There was family, fun, trials, tribulations and celebrations that have been passed on in lessons and stories to three generations. There has been joy, struggle, sadness and many challenges, but they would not go back to change anything. They have achieved the hallmark of fifty-five years of marriage and are not quite sure what the hubbub is all about.
“Have you heard about the famous Girl Scout Roundup at Button Bay State Park?” inquired Jim McGuire with a grin. “It was 1962 and I was twenty years old and stationed at Fort Devens in Massachusetts. Our combat engineer unit was told we were going to Vermont to help with construction for this event. I remember turning to one of my fellow servicemen and asking, ‘Where is Vermont? It’s a part of Massachusetts isn’t it?’ You have to understand we didn’t ask questions. Our orders sent us to Vermont, so to Vermont we went.” McGuire did share that perhaps his commanding officer’s statement they were assisting in a project was a bit of an understatement. McGuire and his company of 100 fellow soldiers lived in tents and worked ten-hour days for over seven months. The group constructed the amphitheater, put in a half mile of Sandy Beach, installed powerlines on the property and across the road, helped set up 5,000 walled tents that held the Girl Scouts and from March to October got ready for a one of a kind event that brought over 9,000 Girl Scouts from around the world to Ferrisburgh. The theme of ‘Honor the Past, Serve the Future’ was the third of its kind held at sites spanning the nation.
When not working on the Button Bay grounds the 100 soldiers went off site and filled the dance halls and local businesses on both sides of the lake. It was at one of these evening gatherings when fate took hold and Jim met Shirley Stearns. The couple married on November 3, 1962 and would move a total of twelve times in their married life and would call Vermont home for over half of those moves. “He really was a good dancer,” shared Shirley. “We are not really sure which spot it was we met, but lots of the servicemen hung out at the Trading Post across the lake. We were married and returned where he was stationed.” Returning to the Green Mountain State in 1964 was a daunting task. “We came in and there was three feet of snow and no jobs.” Jim was offered a chance to milk cows on a local farm and he began what he calls his 1.5 years of ‘I’d rather not, but I will because I have to.’ From there he went on to careers that included many years of driving truck, working for power companies, owning a bar and always at the heart of everything was providing for and spending time with his family.
The McGuire’s children Rocky, Cheryl, Jackie, Colleen, Jim Jr. and Joe were born during 1960-1969. At one time there were five under the age of six and four in diapers. “I guess you could say we were kind of busy,” grins Shirley. “My father-in-law used to joke about the milkman and I told him Jim was the milkman.” With all the moves home was where the family hung their hat, but most of the children agreed that the little blue house was the favorite. “It was home,” shared daughter Jackie. “We had a yard, were in the country, had neighbors, chickens and could even swim in the front yard. What more could anyone else want? I learned a lot from my parents and the most important lesson was you didn’t need a lot of money to be a family. You were tight and the family worked and played together.” Sister Colleen chimed in, “Family was always the most important and you don’t ever give up.”
When asked to share favorite family traditions the living room conversation erupted into laughter, smiles and everyone sharing at once. Stories of Christmas morning with each child getting a long knee sock with an orange at the bottom, Sunday television times where hot dogs, M&M’s, soda, Walt Disney and Wild Kingdom were on the agenda. Not to be out done were the famous Sunday Tail Gate Picnics. “Now you have to picture this,” laughed Jim and Shirley McGuire. “You have eight people in a station wagon and you stop by the store to pick up one pound of bologna, one loaf of bread, one big bag of barbeque potato chips and a six pack of soda. The destination is some stream, river or mountain road in the area. The meal is accompanied with swimming, playing games and lots of laughter.” On occasion the group would modify the game plan and send in two of the kids to Burger King to buy enough burgers, fries and drinks for the whole clan. They would come put carrying all off the food like a prize and off the station wagon would go for another Tail Gate adventure and party.
With eleven grandchildren and five great-grandchildren Jim and Shirley do not currently have a vehicle large enough to recreate those memorable Sunday escapades. Now it is Thanksgiving and Christmas where the emphasis is once again on food, family and fun. Instilling in each generation a strong work ethic and an understanding that family comes first, Shirley and Jim will be celebrating their fifty-fifth anniversary at the best place they know of, having a pot luck dinner at the one of one of the kids with everyone else coming over. The couple was clear when it came to advice for the next generation that marriage, like life is not easy. “You have got to work at it,” shared Shirley. “You can’t just get mad and say I’m done and be gone. It takes communication.” These sentiments were echoed by Jim.
Besides passing onto their children a love of family, both Jim and Shirley are extremely artistic and motivated to learn new things. Walking into their home beside the walls of family photos are handmade afghans, wood carvings and scroll saw work that stands as testimony to the hobbies that have become well known at local art and craft fairs in the state. When Shirley was asked when she learned to crochet so beautifully she chuckled and simply pointed to Jim. “Those are mine,” smiled Jim. “My grandfather, father and all the kids in my family can crochet. My mother taught me and she was right handed. I am left handed. I guess I have about fifty completed afghans around here and each child, grandchild and great-grandchild has one especially made for them.” Jim works with leather, wood carving and a scroll saw to create unique and beautiful items for daily use when not crocheting. “Come on over to the Saint Peter’s Craft Fair or the Elementary School Craft Fair,” explained Jim. “You can see what we have there.” Rounding out the wood, leather and crochet pieces are stunning paintings in a variety of mediums. “I love to paint,” concluded Shirley. “I did it for years and then stopped. I guess you can say I am back at it.”
The McGuire’s are not a couple to stay still much and traveled for almost a decade from 1987-1997 staying in Florida, Mississippi and California in the family RV. Yet, what drew them back each time was what kept them grounded in the Champlain Valley all these years. It is their family and family meetings, dinners, birthdays, celebrations, trials, tribulations that make life worth living. Keeping family in mind, this year’s birthday presents to the kids were raffle tickets for the American Legion annual freezer full of food raffle. When Jackie won, Shirley called her up and said, “Happy Birthday.”
November 3rd is the actual date of the fifty-fifth celebration, but for Jim and Shirley McGuire it really is every day that is family centered. " The thing we are most proud of is our kids and grand kids. They are hardworking, honest and down right good people," concluded the couple. While they are not quite sure what all the fuss is about, they are sure of one simple thing. Family is life and with that as the first rule of your life, the rest falls easily into place.