Metro Atlanta couple celebrates 71 years of marriage

Like a sturdy sailboat, Ann and Ken Hetzel’s marriage has weathered the storms

On the day before Thanksgiving in 1950, Ann and Ken Hetzel got married. Now, 71 years later, they tell the tale of their lives together, filled with travel, sailing and, most of all, love.

And in life, just like on a sailboat, the Hetzels have gone where the wind has taken them.

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“When we first got married, my grandparents had their 50th and we thought, ‘Oh my goodness, are we ever going to make it to that?’” Ann, now 90, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

“And Ken had said to me, ‘I don’t think we will.’ He said, ‘nobody in my family lives after 70 if they’re male,’ and lo and behold, he has done very well.”

Credit: Provided by Ann Hetzel and Ken Hetzel

Credit: Provided by Ann Hetzel and Ken Hetzel

Serendipitous beginnings

It began at a cocktail party. The ladies at Ken’s yacht club — two of whom were Ken’s and Ann’s aunts — had been encouraging Ken to get married. After drawing the short straw, Ann’s aunt was tasked with being the first to set Ken up on a date. She threw a cocktail party for the pair to meet, but didn’t tell Ann, who unwittingly came with a date of her own.

Once Ann and Ken met, though, they immediately hit it off.

Ken took Ann home that night and asked for her telephone number. Three months later, they were engaged. The rest, as they say, is history.

Getting through tough times

In 1998 Ken was diagnosed with colon cancer, and just a year later, Ann was diagnosed with breast cancer. But after a reoccurrence of Ann’s cancer five years ago, they are both in remission now. They found that their love and support for each other have kept their boat afloat. Above all, their faith in god — and in each other — has been the guiding force in their marriage.

“We’ve had our ups and downs with, you know, having had cancer and I’ve had it return. We’ve put it in the hands of the Lord. And we’ve come through it each time,” Ann said.

Credit: Provided by Ann Hetzel and Ken Hetzel

Credit: Provided by Ann Hetzel and Ken Hetzel

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Looking forward to their diamond anniversary

Now living in Dacula, the Hetzels spend most of their time enjoying each other’s company by Lake Lanier.

Through their more than seven decades together, they’ve raised three sons and become great-grandparents. They work together as a team without losing their individual identities.

Even with 71 years under their belt, they love spending their time together, and they hope that they can continue doing so. The couple is especially hopeful that they’ll make it to their diamond anniversary, to celebrate 75 years together.

That would also mark a major milestone for Ken, who is now 96. “I want to live to a hundred,” Ken said.

Asked for a little wisdom about the secret to such a long and happy marriage, Ken said, “Remember not to go to bed mad at each other, and remember the Lord. He’s got a destiny for our future.”

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