One Lebanon couple recently celebrated 70 years of marriage after an unusual night in Chicago in 1949 led to a lifetime of commitment.

Earl and Dorothy (Dot) Ashley said an “accident” 70 years ago led them on a path neither one would have imagined when they met. 

Dorothy, 89, moved to Chicago in 1948, taking a train after graduating from Lebanon High School. She said she had an aunt that worked in a chemical plant in Chicago, which sparked her interest. 

Earl, 92, lived in Chicago with his parents, who moved to the area after the Great Depression. He was a member of a Loyal Order of Moose fraternal and service organization and decided to visit a nearby lodge with a friend one night in April 1949. 

The same night, Dorothy was visiting the lodge with a couple who provided her with room and board.

“I usually babysat their children when they went to something special like that, but that time, I guess they wanted me to meet some new people because I haven’t been living there long,” she said. “They got another babysitter and took me to the Moose lodge with them.”

The couple said neither one would have ordinarily been in the building. 

“I saw him walk through the door and I looked again because I knew the boy he was with. Something just went, ‘click.’ I don’t know. I’ve kind of always felt like it was meant to be,” Dorothy said. “Earl asked me if he could take me home, but I told him no because I felt I should leave with the couple I came with. He said, ‘Well, can I call you?’ I said, ‘Yes.’ ”

The couple dated for three months before getting engaged. They married four months later in November 1949. 

The two said they were opposites — Southern girl and Yankee boy, optimist and realist — but they shared the same core values. 

“We just seemed to click. We had some the same philosophy about life and some of the same roots,” Earl said. 

“He was good. He was a good Christian person,” Dorothy said. 

The family settled in a Chicago suburb and had two daughters — Carol and Janis. Carol Gundy lives in Lebanon and Janis lives in Rockford, Ill. Earl and Dorothy also have two grandchildren and give great-grandchildren.

Following Earl’s retirement from a utility company in Chicago, the couple moved to Lebanon in 1990, and area they had looked at for a while because of Dorothy’s family roots and frequent visits. 

“There’s just a difference from the North. People are more open and make you feel like family,” Earl said. 

Through the years, the couple has visited all 50 states, backpacked for five days in the Smoky Mountains and spent a summer camping in Alaska. The couple said one key to lasting 70 years is the commitment and cohesiveness they possess. 

“If you don’t have the commitment, you won’t get through the hard places,” Earl said. “The longer you build, the more you begin to mesh in your thinking.”

Earl said one problem to avoid is turning away from your partner instead of pushing toward them when bad situations arise. 

“Work through your problems and don’t just get divorced. Hang in there and remember what you saw in that person when you first met them,” Dorothy said. 

The couple celebrated their 70th anniversary with activities they both enjoy — card games and magic tricks — with a brunch at House of Cards in Nashville. 

“We’ve just been extremely blessed to be able to be together this long. We know it’s something special,” Dorothy said.

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