Sam and Sharon Stimmel, of Columbia, celebrated their 50th anniversary Nov. 2, 2013, with a trip to Branson for two weeks.
Sam and Sharon were both born and raised in East St. Louis, and met as freshmen in high school.
Shortly after they met, the Stimmels moved to Texas when Sam’s dad, who worked for Alcoa Aluminum, was transferred. Sam and Sharon stayed in touch through letters for a couple of years, but eventually lost touch.
Following high school graduation, Sharon went to beauty school and Sam joined the U.S. Air Force. After he completed basic training, he was sent to Chanute Air Force Base in Rantoul to become an aircraft mechanic.
While at Rantoul, Sam’s cousin invited him to a party in East St. Louis, and told him to bring a date. Sam didn’t know any girls in Rantoul, but not wanting his cousin to have to set him up, looked up the only girl he could think to ask — Sharon.
“We fell in love instantly,” he said.
Sam was stationed next in New Mexico and later volunteered for duty in Korea, which allowed him to come home to Illinois to marry Sharon.
Sam and Sharon were married Nov. 2, 1963, at St. Paul Methodist Church in East St. Louis, and moved to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.
Sharon started working as a beautician in Dover, and for a time made more money in tips than Sam earned as a three-stripe airman first class, thanks to all the senators and congressmen’s wives who tried to outdo each other in tipping.
After Sam was discharged from the Air Force, the Stimmels moved to Texas and Sam began working for Alcoa, but he missed working on aircraft. He and Sharon made arrangements to move to Columbia, and Sam attended Parks Air College to earn his air frame and power plant license. For the duration of his career he worked for Ozark Air Lines, TWA and Trans State Airlines.
Sam and Sharon retired in 2002. They have two children: Suzanne Gooch of Trenton, and Sam Stimmel III of Dupo. They also have two grandchildren, Taylor and Brandon.
Sharon is a member of Monroe County HCE and Monroe County Relay for Life, and Sam is a member of American Legion Post 581 in Columbia. They belong to Bethany United Church of Christ in Columbia.