“Find someone to love and keep on loving them,” is a 91-year-old’s advice for younger generations, which took the internet by storm. A picture of Bob Hoemann holding his words of wisdom was viewed by millions of people.
That’s according to Debbie Michael, activity director for St. Clair Nursing Center, who posted his picture on Facebook earlier this month. Hoemann resides at the center with his wife Norma Dean.
They have been married for 71 years, and together have four daughters and several grandchildren. The Hoemanns raised their family in Union.
The first time Hoemann saw his wife, she was coming out of a movie theater in the mid-1940s. Norma Dean was 18 and Hoemann was not quite 21, he said.
For Hoemann, it was love at first sight. As for Norma Dean, “I had to work on her a little bit,” he said with a laugh.
“She just melted me,” Hoemann said.
On their first date, he picked her up in a 1932 Ford convertible with rumble seats.
“I didn’t have a lot of money, so I spent what I had,” Hoemann said. “I probably took her to another movie and to a hamburger place where I could buy something cheap.”
Hoemann and Norma Dean were married in 1948. The secret to a long-lasting marriage is to not be selfish, according to Hoemann.
“I used to drive fast and drink a little bit,” he said. “She said she wasn’t going to kiss me anymore if I kept drinking, and I said ‘I quit.’ ”
He added that he also gave up smoking cigarettes. While raising a family, Hoemann worked as a quality insurance inspector and as a supervisor for a corporation now called Boeing. He retired from his job after 34 years in 1988.
Norma Dean was a homemaker who made their children’s clothes, Hoemann said. He remembered a jacket she made for him, which was not to his taste, but he wore it anyway.
After their children were grown, she worked as a general education development (GED) teacher at East Central College.
“She’s a pretty smart gal,” Hoemann said.
He added that his wife taught him how to be a good husband.
“I wanted to be a good husband because of her,” Hoemann said.
His favorite meal was spaghetti prepared by Norma Dean.
“She knew how to make it,” he said.
In retirement, the Hoemanns would vacation in Austin, Texas, for shuffleboard tournaments. Hoemann mentioned Norma Dean’s trophy collection.
“I played pretty good, but not near as good as she did,” he said. “She took it more seriously than I did.”
Hoemann and Norma Dean would leave around Christmas time and stay in Austin for three months. They traveled there annually more than 20 years, according to Hoemann.
The Hoemanns have been residing at St. Clair Nursing Home since July 2018. Hoemann is very attentive to his wife as he holds her hand throughout the day and when they go to bed. He also puts cold cream on her face in the morning.
“She’s a sweetheart. Always has been and always will be,” Hoemann said.
St. Clair Nursing Center Administrator Denice Marsh said “They are definitely a beautiful couple.”