Mickey Luken

Long-Lived Love

It all started in a hospital.

Leo Luken, the pitcher on a fast-pitch softball team, had come to St. Joseph's Hospital in Fort Wayne, IN, to visit a teammate who was a patient. When a pretty nursing student came in to check on the patient, Leo knew he wanted a date. He got her phone number, called her and asked. Mickey said yes.

It was 1942, and Leo was making $85 a month at the Zollner Piston Company, which made 40,000 pistons a year for B29 bombers. Mickey was finishing up nurses training at St. Joseph's and lived in the dormitory. She would graduate later that year.

The couple married in 1943 and stayed in Fort Wayne. The babies started arriving the very next year. After the second child, the couple bought a place in the country. They would live there for the next 37 years and would be blessed with five more children. Unfortunately, they grieved the loss of one baby just three days after her birth.

With six children to feed and clothe, a home addition to pay for, and college tuition in the future, Leo was concerned about their finances. Mickey helped by sewing all the children's clothing, growing food in her garden and canning it, and managing the household.

Happily, they were able to turn an enjoyable pastime into a profitable second career-together. Ever since Mickey had convinced Leo to take dance lessons, they had spent most Saturday nights in local dance clubs. They danced beautifully together, and people began to notice.

"Other couples would see us dancing and ask us to teach them," Mickey said. "So we did." For 22 years, six nights a week, they got paid to teach hundreds of people how to dance.

Leo retired in 1982 and the couple began to travel, thanks to a great deal from Eastern Airlines. "For $500 a year, you could take as many flights as you wanted, up to once a week, anywhere in the continental U.S.," Leo said. They traveled the country to play golf in every locale, taking time to enjoy another of the hobbies they had discovered.

At the age of 71, Leo shot 71 in a golf game. When a golfer scores his age or less in one round, it's cause for celebration. For Leo, it has been cause for celebrity. He has a scrapbook of news clippings of his amateur career. "I've shot my age 708 times as of today," he said recently. His success is well documented, especially since 2006 when he beat Arnold Palmer by three strokes in a Shoot Your Age Tournament in Florida.

When asked what the secret is for a long and happy marriage, both husband and wife answered with two words. Mickey said "Hard work." Leo's reply was "Yes, Dear," with a chuckle.

"Seriously," he continued, "I guess you might say we are compatible; we don't disagree on much. We usually discuss important issues and decide together." Mickey said, "You have to learn when to say yes and when to say no."

The two gazed at one another lovingly as they talked about their life together. "The best thing has been our great family," Mickey said. "All our children are successful and they are all nice kids." Leo agreed.
In summary, Mickey exclaimed "Life has been fun!"


Leo: 90 years young
Mickey: 88 years young
Married Since: Feb. 27, 1943 - 66 years this month!
Children: five girls and one boy
Hometown: Fort Wayne, Indiana
Years on Hilton Head Island: five
Best Quote: "We never had any grass grow under our feet. We were busy!"