By Kaitlin Felder


Michele and Chris Knight
2000 – present

Michele and Chris Knight found each other in 1999, at a club in Joplin, Missouri. Michele was 26 and Chris was 30 when they were going out with their friends at the club. A year later, Michele married Chris in the First Presbyterian Church in Michele’s hometown of Iola, Kansas.

Twenty years later, they can look back and see what makes things work so well.

“Communication and trust are the keys to a successful marriage,” said Michele.

Michele and Chris are the owners of Deck the Walls, which is located on 1901 East 32nd Street in Joplin. The couple purchased the franchise in 2005

“I was a manager at a restaurant that was closing, and my husband had always wanted to own his own business. So, we killed two birds with one stone. We have owned the business 15 years as of February 2020,” Michele said.

Jill and Gary Fast
1981 – present

Jill and Gary Fast crossed paths on the Lamar square when they were teenagers in December 1978. By 1981, they were married, and 38 years later, they still love doing life together.

One secret to their happy marriage is to not have secrets. “Be honest with each other, don’t keep things to yourself,” said Jill, who is a personal banking officer of Lamar Bank and Trust Company.

“Making a marriage last is through the process of giving. There is no part of it that is easy. Learn to lean on each other because you both might be wrong,” said Gary.

Jill and Gary Fast’s relationship is not an easy one because of Gary’s profession as a farmer. Being a farmer is not an easy task. There are always going to be problems that spring up from the soil, but it is worth it because life on the farm is the best. Jill and Gary described their relationship in four words: “Love, life and laugh.”

Kathy and Dan Wininger

1977 – present

A simple meal and a drive-in movie were all it took to impress the girl next door when Dan Wininger took his future bride, Kathy, on their first date October 18, 1976. Dan stepped up the romance by playing “You Are So Beautiful” on the jukebox. Kathy was hooked, and marriage soon followed June 17, 1977.

Over the years, he’s upped his romance game by singing that same song to her on their frequent pizza and karaoke dates. The audience now includes their three children and five grandchildren.

After a 43 year union, which includes owning Wininger Auto Body, Dan and Kathy have a simple recipe for a long-lasting marriage: “Put God first, family second and everything else will fall into place. You have to love your spouse more than you want to be right, and always communicate!”

They love doing life together and are never far from their next adventure, even if that’s just a drive down a country road with Dan singing his favorite song to his favorite girl.

Gayle and Patty West

1964 – present

Gayle and Patricia ‘Patty’ West met November 14, 1964, when Gayle attended a play at Seneca High School. Once he saw Patty, he was truly smitten.

“Gayle asked his cousin’s wife about me and asked if she could get him a date with me. She called me the next day and asked if I would be interested in meeting Gayle, and I agreed to meet him” said Patty.

On May 7, 1965, Patty married Gayle at the Church of Christ in Seneca, Missouri. Gayle worked in a management position at Yellow Freight System for 30 years and retired in 2005. Patty worked as a teacher for 30 years and retired from the Neosho School District in 2010. The couple now live on a farm and raise cattle.

Their union has lasted 54 years. And through their years of marriage, Gayle and Patty had two children. They were later blessed with three grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

Mary and Wayne Womack
1956 – present

Mary and Wayne Womack were teenagers when they first met through a church group, and it has been love ever since.

“Through that affiliation, we met in our early teens,” Mary said. Mary married Wayne June 16, 1956, in Quincy, Illinois. Their union has lasted 64 years.

The key to a long marriage depends on “commitment, staying true to your vows and having faith in the good Lord above,” Mary said.

Wayne worked for Firestone Machine Shop in Quincy, Illinois, for 17 years. The couple were transferred to Joplin, Missouri, in 1971. Wayne worked with Kirby Vacuums Distributor from 1968 to 2000, when he retired.

Through their 64 years of marriage, they loved and cared for their family. Mary and Wayne described their relationship in four words: “Love, commitment and faith.”

Gladys & Henry Kroon

1948 – present

In 1947, a pretty waitress named Gladys caught the eye of Henry Kroon at a café in Rock Valley, Iowa. Once Gladys got off work, Henry was there waiting for her and walked her home. On August 27, 1948, Gladys married Henry in Rock Valley.

In 1957, Henry and Gladys moved to Eagle Grove, Iowa, where Henry worked for the Boone Valley Coop as an assistant plant superintendent in charge of maintenance, while Gladys was a stay-at-home mom to their children.

“I sewed a lot, and I taught my daughter how to sew,” said Gladys.

“In November of 2016, they moved to Spring Hill Assisted Living in Neosho, Missouri, to be close to me,” said their daughter, Judi Leberman.

Their union has lasted 72 years. Through their union, Gladys and Henry had two children, three grandchildren and three great-grandchildren, all of whom reside in the Cedar Rapids, Iowa, area. Their daughter, Judi, lives in Neosho, Missouri.

Leta and Leonard Oyler


Leta and Leonard Oyler met by chance in Leonard’s hometown of Southwest City, Missouri, in 1946. That chance meeting turned into romance, and Leta moved to Leonard’s hometown while he was on leave from the service. On June 27, 1947, Leta married Leonard in Girard, Kansas, after he left the service.

The key to a long marriage depends on “compatibility, give and take,” Leta said.

“I cannot say that we have not had an argument or two,” said Leonard, a retired postmaster from Pawhuska, Oklahoma.

Leonard and Leta’s union has lasted 73 years. And through their 73 years of marriage, Leta and Leonard were blessed with three children. They later became grandparents and then great-grandparents. They have had a wonderful life together.