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Batavia couple celebrates 70 years of marital bliss

BATAVIA – After living in St. Charles all her life, Margaret Ritchie decided to travel to San Diego because she heard about its wonderful climate.

While she was there, she ended up meeting the love of her life, who she affectionately refers to as "her cowboy." She has been married to Gene Ritchie for 70 years now.

The couple married on July 15, 1950. They recently celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary with their family.

They met at a prayer meeting in a one-room schoolhouse in Jamul, which is located in San Diego County.

"He rode his horse to the prayer meeting in his cowboy boots and his cowboy hat," Margaret Ritchie recollected. "And had never seen a real cowboy. He was very different from all the boys I had known."

Fittingly, their first dates were on a horse.

"We would go horseback riding in the country," Margaret Ritchie said.

Gene Ritchie was attracted to Margaret at first sight.

"She took my breath away, to begin with," he said. "Here was this nice, long-haired blonde girl sitting there."

The Ritchies – who are both 91 – married when were 21 years old. However, many of her former classmates from St. Charles High School were already married by the time they got married.

"I was thinking, 'Gee, am I going to be an old maid,' Margaret Ritchie said. "Everybody married young in those days."

They moved to St. Charles in the 1950s and lived for a time with her parents.

"My parents had built a little addition for themselves and they were planning on renting out the big house," Margaret Ritchie said. "And we came along and rented it. We had only two kids at that time. We got up to seven (Blake, Lee, Mark, Melissa, John, Tom and Amy) and they all went through the St. Charles school system."

They didn't plan on having a large family.

"We didn't plan any of them," Margaret Ritchie said. "They just happened. But they were welcome. I loved every one of them. They're all really good kids."

They lived in St. Charles for more than 20 years and then moved to Elburn, where they lived for several more years. Margaret Ritchie received the Studs Terkel Humanities Service Award in 2004 for her work with the Elburn Public Library.

The couple currently lives in Batavia. Because of the pandemic, the Ritchies are spending more time with each other.

But they are not getting on each other's nerves. Far from it.

"We haven't argued in 20 years," Margaret Ritchie said. "There's nothing that upsets us. There's nothing worth arguing about."

And after 70 years of marriage, he still refers to his wife as "sweets."

"He never has called me Margaret," she said. "Not really."

What's the secret to a long marriage? Laughter, for one thing.

"Laugh a lot," Gene Ritchie said. "But not necessarily at your spouse. That's dangerous."

She has always enjoyed his sense of humor.

'We don't laugh at each other, we laugh with each other. Or something like that," Margaret Ritchie said.

Notes from friends who would like to congratulate them on their wedding anniversary can be sent to

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