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This pair helps care for the community

Dec. 3, 2012

City of Oconomowoc - Two turtledoves signify a loving couple and for Lake Country Publication's take on the iconic 12 Days of Christmas we did not have to look very far to find a well-known example to profile.

Bill and Lois Jackson, long known for their community advocacy and coordination of the Oconomowoc Food Pantry, will celebrate 60 years of marriage in May.

Both agree that humor is the key to their happy union.

In the beginning

Lois, 78, met Bill, who will be 81 this month, at a local dance.

"We went to the same high school in Philadelphia. In our little community there was a dance at the community center which was right next to my house," she recalled.

Bill was already out of high school, when he attended the event.

"It was a Monday night," Bill remembered with a smile.

"I asked him to dance at a ladies choice. He's never let me forget that," Lois said laughing.

The couple married in 1953 and a week later Bill was sent to Korea for 18 months.

"I lived with my mom and dad and he sent his paychecks home and I saved them. When he came home I had an apartment ready for him," Lois said.

Before joining the service, Bill worked in a manufacturing plant building parts for aircraft. After the war ended, the company downsized and Bill accepted a job with a refrigeration company in New Jersey.

As Bill progressed with the company, the family relocated, first to Ohio then to Oconomowoc.

"We said this is it," when they arrived in Oconomowoc, Bill said.

"We found an area we really enjoyed," he added.

"We raised three children here; they all graduated from Oconomowoc High School," Lois said.

The early years

Both Bill and Lois acknowledge that it's a different world today than it was when they were first married.

"I was a stay-at-home mom and we always lived within Bill's income. Nowadays most families are two incomes. I'm not saying it was Uptopia but if we needed more money, Bill took a second job. When we had issues we worked them out. It's all together different now," Lois said.

Bill agreed.

"We're an entirely different generation. When we were growing up it was at the tail end of the depression. No one had anything. By today's classifications, we'd all have been poor," he said.

Those challenging economic times provided them with a different sensibility toward finances.

"You saved up for what you needed and paid cash for it, so you weren't burdened if you were out of work for a week or so. Nowadays, they go into debt immediately," he said of young families.

When asked what the secret is to a happy marriage, Bill did not miss a beat.

"I traveled," he said with a laugh.

Lois nodded, smiling. "His sense of humor."

Finding purpose

Bill stayed with the company until his retirement in 1995 and soon determined he needed to find something to fill the void.

"When he retired he was doing stuff in the house and playing golf in the summer, but by the fall he was saying he was going to alphabetize my herbs and spices," Lois said.

She knew just the answer to his problem.

"I told him to go volunteer somewhere," Lois said.

She knew firsthand how offering your time and talents to a worthy cause could cure a number of issues.

"I never worked outside of the home; I was a stay-at-home mom. When we moved here I wanted to meet people so I started volunteering at Oconomowoc Memorial Hospital and I'm still volunteering every Friday morning," Lois said.

Long invested in the volunteer mode, Lois was on the committee that founded the Oconomowoc Food Pantry in 1981.

"In 1996 he came to the food pantry and got involved," back when the operation was housed in a cramped space on Wisconsin Avenue.

Bill quickly became an integral part of the organization.

"I used to kid that I was the passion in his life, but no longer - this is," she said of the food pantry.

Both have their own areas of responsibility within the organization.

"We don't really work together at all. She has her things to do and I have mine," Bill said.

He can usually be found in the back of the facility packing and unpacking food items, while Lois is in the front of the pantry working with people, which plays to both their strengths.

Lois and Bill say their experiences with the food pantry have left them humbled by the generosity of the people in the community.

The two value their time together and make it a priority by planning a weekly outing.

"Friday is our date night. We go to the movies and out to dinner just by ourselves. That really is helpful, we both enjoy that," Lois said.

But Lois came up with the real reason they have been happily married for six decades.

"Of course, he married a wonderful person," she pointed out.

Bill's laugh left no doubt that he agreed.

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Weekend Happenings

Featured this week:  

North Shore Bank-Taste of Lake Country: 5 p.m. July 29, 4 p.m. July 30, Pewaukee Beach Front, 120 W. Wisconsin Ave., Pewaukee. Headline Friday night is The Toys and Saturday night The Love Monkeys. Free.

Kids from Wisconsin: 7:30 p.m. July 29, Oconomowoc Arts Center, 641 E. Forest St., Oconomowoc. Celebrating its 48th show season with a talented group of 33 young performers representing 29 different hometowns across Wisconsin, this year’s tour theme is Sing! Free.

Wisconsin State Frog Jump Championship: 1 p.m. July 30-31, Cory Park, Downtown Dousman, Dousman. Visit  

Catelyn Picco: 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. July 31, Mama D’s Coffee, 104 W Main St., Wales. Free.

All weekend happenings