CINCINNATI (AP) – When Helen Auer died on Wednesday, she was sitting in her chair. Her husband of 73 years came into the room and knew right away. Joe leaned over, gave her a kiss goodbye, and whispered in her ear: “Helen, call me home.”
Just 28 hours later, Helen did. Joe Auer died at the age of 100. His children figured he could manage one night without her, but not two. Wednesday they will have a funeral mass in front of the same altar where they were married in 1941.
This was a couple from a different time. They survived the Depression in East Price Hill near Cincinnati, they met at church and had their first of 10 children before Joe went off to fight in World War II. Helen was pregnant with their second when Joe left. She kissed him at the end of the driveway and he walked down toward Greenwell Avenue and then Union Terminal on his way to go fight the Germans with the U.S. Army.
Helen (nee Fluegeman) was able to mail him a photo, somewhere in France, of her with their two children, Barry and Judy. Joe would meet Judy for the first time when she was 3 years old.
Joe carried that photo in his wallet as he trudged through Europe after landing at Utah Beach on D-Day. He kept that photo in his wallet, in fact, the rest of his life; smudged and worn and endlessly important. “It never left his wallet,” Jerry Auer, Helen and Joe’s 10th and final child, said. “It’s still in there right now.”
Mary Jo Reiners, one of their daughters, was driving to the funeral home Monday to help make the final arrangements. “It’s a joyous time,” Mary Jo said. “Mom and Dad lived a blessed life.”
Mary Jo retired a little bit early so she could help them at the end, when Helen’s arthritis was getting bad and Joe needed help with the meals and the laundry. She said her mother was the gregarious one. “She loved her family and her friends. She loved being busy with her family.”
Joe was a little more quiet and handled the discipline in the family. But Mary Jo said he was defined by his dedication to his faith and his family and the Earth.
“Dad thought of his children as a gift from God, that was a responsibility for him,” Mary Jo said. “He taught us to be servants to God and to be caretakers of his Earth. He was recycling on his last day.”
This marriage was a love story, but it was a real-life love story. Joe and Helen’s marriage survived because they loved each other and because they worked at their marriage and they shared a devout faith.
Money was a little tight and 10 children can add stress to any relationship, but they always managed. Joe used to take two buses each way to his job as an engraver. He bought his first car when he retired.
When their youngest was in third grade, Helen went to work in the cafeteria at the St. Lawrence Parish school making hot lunches. She and four other women would spend the morning gabbing and singing the whole time. “They were called the sisters of the skillet,” Jerry, 52, said.
The oldest child, Barry, is 72. Then came Judy, Steve, Mary Jo, Jeanne, Karen, Tom, Chris and Jerry. They lost their son Bob Auer seven years ago to cancer. They raised them all on Enright Avenue.
Eventually the Auers had 16 grandchildren, 29 great-grandchildren, and one great-great grandchild. All of whom, Jerry said, have a marvelous example to live up to.
“They were simple, humble people. They wanted nothing and got everything in return,” Jerry said. “If somebody were thinking of getting married, they could do a lot worse than to look at my parents.”
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press.