Married 65 years, Gordon and Sally Sharbuno are shining examples to engaged couples at family jewelry store.
It has been more than six decades since Gordon and Sally Sharbuno were newlyweds, still they find themselves surrounded by the glow of young love on a regular basis through the family’s Port Washington business, Sharbuno Jewelers.
“It is exciting when young couples come into the store to pick out their rings,” Sally said, “but we get just as excited for the ones who are getting married for a second time, like after a spouse dies.”
Each pending nuptial reminds the couple of their early days together.
The Sharbunos were married on Aug. 11, 1951 at Joseph Catholic Church in Waupun, where they both grew up.
“We knew each other since we were little and were always friends, but we didn’t start dating until our senior year in high school,” Sally said.
“She actually liked older men,” Gordy said, noting Sally’s preference had been upperclassmen up until that point.
After graduation in 1949, Sally went to Brown’s School of Business in Milwaukee and Gordy studied horology or — watchmaking — at Bradley University in Peoria.
Shortly before enlisting in the U.S. Army, Gordy decided to ask Sally to become his bride.
“He had to sell his saxophone to buy the ring, but I think his dad must have given him a deal because that sax wasn’t worth much,” Sally said.
At the time, Gordy’s father, Harold, managed a jewelry store in Waupun.
Eventually, Harold would open the Port Washington store where Gordy started working in 1954. Gordy’s son Tom came on board in 1984.
Even without benefit of a video record like those that document most ceremonies today, the Sharbunos’ wedding day still stands clear in their mind.
“We had five attendants. My brother was the best man, and his sister was my matron of honor,” Sally said.
The array of black-and-white photos, moved into a new album after the original book began to fall apart from frequent use, confirm that recollection.
“Our wedding was at 11 a.m., which was as late as you could have a wedding back then, and the reception at the local country club was over by 3 p.m.,” Sally said.
“From there, we headed north for our wedding trip. We got as far as Oshkosh when I remembered I left the wedding cake in a suitcase back home, so we drove back to Waupun. When we walked in the door, everyone asked, ‘What’s wrong?’”
After resolving the matter of the missing cake, the newlyweds headed off again. By the time they got back to Oshkosh, it was 11 p.m.
“We drove 250 miles that day but ended up spending the night 35 miles away at a hotel in Oshkosh,” Gordy remembered.
And that was the beginning of a blissful life together, the couple agree.
That assessment is especially impressive because the Sharbunos have spent a lot of time together at home and in the jewelry store, especially after their three children were grown.
“In all the years we’ve been married, we never had an out-and-out fight. If we had a disagreement, it would end when we’d silently walk away in different directions,” Gordy said.
Longevity aside, Sally makes no claim to knowing the secret to making a marriage endure.
“If there is a key, it is probably to take it slow and get to know each other — before and after you are married,” she said.
“There is always a process of give and take in any marriage.”
Unconditional support and the ability to adjust are other keys, the couple agreed, noting that Gordy, who is 86, lost the fine motor control in his hand needed to work on watches and fine pieces of jewelry after suffering a stroke in 2010.
“I can’t do much at the shop any more other than visit with customers,” he said.
Still, Sally, who turns 86 next month, said they have learned to take the adjustments brought on by age in stride.
“We still do what we can do,” she said.
Although it may run counter to the marketing interests of someone in the jewelry business, Sally said there doesn’t seem to be any correlation between the size of the wedding ring and the likelihood a marriage will last.
“Not that I’ve noticed,” she said.
Owning a jewelry store has meant Sally does get to enjoy some gorgeous “bling,” including a ring featuring an impressive diamond that Gordy gave her several years ago.
“I think that ring would have cost quite a few saxophones,” she joked.
Photo credit: Sam Arendt