On the day I arrived to interview Fred and Barbara McCollum, it happened to be their 61st wedding anniversary. Considering how impressive that number was to someone who hasn’t even been married for 5 years, I wanted to know their secret.
“Patience,” Fred says, laughing. “To be with me for 61 years, Barbara needs a lot of that.”
All joking aside, it is abundantly clear that Fred and Barbara have shared a lot of love over the past 61 years. And it all started because of Fred’s persistence.
As a salesman for the Stanley Bostitch company, Fred sometimes had to call in orders and the person on the other end of those calls was Barbara. “It was her voice,” Fred recalls. “It was so nice, I had to meet her.” He asked Barbara out, and she refused – more than once. But that didn’t stop Fred, and he kept trying until Barbara said yes. They’ve been together ever since.
Fred and Barbara have lived in California for most of their lives, although neither was born here. Fred, a native of Massachusetts, moved west in 1953 after serving in the Navy. Barbara grew up in Washington state and moved to the Bay Area after college. “I wanted to get some sun!” she says, smiling. Fred’s work brought them to Chicago for a few years, but they found their way back to the Bay Area.
Fred had a very successful career with Stanley Bostitch, rising to the rank of regional manager and even hiring the first female salesperson for the company. Barbara stopped working once they had children, and she concentrated on raising their three kids until they all made it to college. After that, she took a position as a secretary for a private Christian school. “I loved that job,” Barbara says. “God provided me with a wonderful opportunity there.”
A strong faith is a constant in the couple’s life together. Barbara counts Philippians 2:3 as a roadmap for how they both choose to live, saying, “It says to think more highly of others than you do yourself. That’s how we try to live each day.” Family is also extremely important to them, especially considering just how big theirs happens to be: they have three children, eight grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren. They’re so close to their family that Barbara can’t bring herself to use the term “in-law” when it comes to the spouses of her kids. “Law makes it sound like a legal obligation,” she says. “We love them. It’s love above everything – always.”
Since moving to Sterling Court last September, Fred and Barbara have settled in quickly. “Time flies here,” Fred says. “We love everything about it.” Since neither of them drive, the couple appreciates the rides Sterling Court provides to their doctor’s appointments, shopping trips, and church services. They are also fans of the staff and what they provide the residents. “They do everything for you here,” says Barbara. “What’s not to like?”
An avid sports fan and a decorated high school athlete, Fred still keeps up with his beloved Red Sox and is planning a trip to Fenway Park in April with his sons. Barbara started a Bible chat group at Sterling Court that meets two times a month and hopes to grow its membership as the weeks go on. And while they still keep busy, it’s clear that the time they spend together brings them the most joy.
When I ask again them for their secret to staying together for so long, it isn’t just Fred who provides an answer. Barbara has one, too. “Always look on the bright side. There will always be others who have it worse than you do. So, look at the bright side and appreciate what you have.” And when I mention that 61 years is a long time, Barbara just smiles and looks at Fred.
“We still have a long way to go together,” she says, as the two share a smile. Indeed, they do.
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