John and Rachel Nichols celebrated their 74th wedding anniversary on Oct. 30. What makes the 98-year-olds’ relationship last all these years? “Fight and make up,” Rachel said, with John adding, “I give her a kiss and I tell her every morning, ‘I love you.’”

Couple celebrate 74 years

Fight, make up and never forget to say ‘I love you’

ELLSWORTH — “I give her a kiss and I tell her every morning, ‘I love you,’” said John Nichols about his wife, Rachel. On Oct. 30, the couple celebrated their 74th wedding anniversary. 

So, what is the secret for sustaining such a long marriage?

“Fight and make up,” said Rachel, who lives with John in the house where they raised their four children, all of whom live in the area. It happens to be the house that Rachel grew up in and the house where she was born. Her father was also born in the house, which sits atop a field set back from the Buttermilk Road. 

The couple live with their son, Butch, who is their primary caregiver.

“What’s the sense in getting married if you’re not going to stay married?” John mused, adding, “If you fall in love, really fall in love, that’s for life.”

Their exact first date is hard to pinpoint, but Rachel suspects she met John, a Harrington native, at the local roller rink. 

“I always knew him ’cause I’d see him at the roller rink, [and] ’round everywhere,” she said.

Rachel celebrated her 98th birthday at the beginning of the year. John will turn 98 on Nov. 12.

“He married an older woman,” Rachel joked.

Their long lives have been spent serving the country, working for a local hotel firm, raising a family and going on adventures together.

After leaving high school, John became a merchant marine before being drafted into the Army. He served in the Army from 1943 until 1946 and spent time overseas in the Philippines, where he and his lieutenant oversaw 28 men, Butch explained. 

John earned a Purple Heart for his service, the reason for which he does not like to talk about. The subject continues to evoke raw emotions.  

John (standing) served in the Army from 1943 to 1946, including time overseas in Davao City, Philippines. He earned a Purple Heart for his service. TINA SCHEER PHOTO

“Let me talk about you,” said “Timber” Tina Scheer, who is good friends with the couple, “because young people should be proud of these men for what they did in the war, all these years ago. He still suffers daily from it.”

John was released from the service so he could be at his father’s side as he died. 

Strength and tenacity are lifelong character traits. Just this year, John had a heart attack as well as a broken hip, for which he needed additional care to correct a misplaced pin, Scheer explained.

“He’s been through quite a lot in his days,” she said.

John and Rachel were married in Brewer, at her sister’s house, in front of about 40 guests after John returned from the service.

John then spent about two decades working for Ocean Properties, a hotel firm with properties in Bar Harbor and around the globe. 

“That’s the best family I’ve ever worked for,” John said of the Walsh family, who own and operate the company. He speaks especially highly of Tom Walsh, the family and company patriarch.

After their children were grown, John and Rachel spent time traveling across the country. 

“We’ve been everywhere around the country,” said Rachel, to “almost every state in the United States,” including Alaska and Hawaii. 

In addition to their travels, John and Rachel have spent time living in Florida and Colorado.

Wherever they are, throughout their years together, John and Rachel continue to make jokes, say “I love you” and make sure that when posing for a photo, their arms are wrapped around each other.

Rebecca Alley

Rebecca Alley

Reporter at The Ellsworth American
Rebecca is the Schoodic-area reporter and covers the towns of Eastbrook, Franklin, Hancock, Lamoine, Sorrento, Sullivan, Waltham, Winter Harbor and Trenton. She lives in Ellsworth with her husband and baby boy who was joyously welcomed in June 2020. Feel free to send tips and story ideas to [email protected]

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