Many couples feel like they’re flying during their first kiss — but when Fred and Susan Stuebner make that claim, they mean it literally. “Fred was in the Air Force, and earned his pilot’s license,” Susan, 74, recalls. “He took me up in a private plane, and our first kiss was 1,000 feet in the air.”
This hard-to-top outing took place shortly after they first met, in Chicago in March 1962. Fred, a native of the city, was working as a field engineer for IBM; originally from Michigan, Susan was in her last year of nursing training. Now 83, Fred remembers that their paths first crossed at a youth event put on by their church; afterward, he approached the pretty young woman “and I asked if she needed a ride…” “And I did!” Susan finishes his sentence.
A whirlwind romance followed — “He had me busy five nights a week,” says Susan — and Fred popped the question only months later. “I told him I wanted to be his wife, but I didn’t need an engagement ring,” she recalls. “But she got one,” Fred says with a smile.
The pair exchanged vows on August 11, 1962 — the same day as Susan’s nursing school graduation. “The wedding was at 2 p.m, then we had cake in the church reception hall,” she says. “Fred’s mother had a buffet dinner at her house, and I graduated at 7 p.m.” That same night, they boarded Fred’s plane and set off on a honeymoon that included a stop in Poughkeepsie, where Fred had done his IBM training.
The Stuebners spent the next seven years in Chicago, where two of their four children were born. When Fred received a transfer back to Poughkeepsie in 1969, they built a house in LaGrange, and have lived there ever since.
After caring exclusively for her children for 16 years, Susan was a nurse at Beacon’s Highland Hospital for 10 years before switching over to Vassar College’s health center in 1989, where she still works on a per-diem basis. Fred isn’t out of the work force either: Since retiring from IBM in 1987, he has focused on his own small business, LaGrange Instruments, which performs research and development services on electronic sensory devices.
Looking back on their 53-and-a-half years of marriage, the Stuebners agree that their fondest memories are of the trips they took to various European and South American nations as well as Russia, New Zealand, and Australia. “I put together a list of all the countries we and our children visited,” says Fred, “and the number is over 50.”
The couple attribute their successful marriage to having the same religious values, and to being on the same page financially. “We lived within our means,” says Susan. Fred’s advice to young couples is to back each other up — especially in front of the kids. Susan stresses the importance of showing appreciation to your spouse: “Be sure to say ‘good job’ more often than you criticize.”