Growing up in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Janet Hammer was a typical girl. She went to high school, she did well in her classes, and she took a test with the US Navy to work at the Pentagon.
Yep, young Janet had bigger designs than most kids her age, and along with a girlfriend took the federal exam. A week later she got a job there and as fate would have it, living in the Virginia/Washington D.C. area also introduced her to her husband Jim, a Navy man himself.
“I went into the Army in 1953 and then joined the Navy in 1954,” Jim remembers. “I met my wife in Washington D.C. and we’ve been married for 61 years.”
Jim spent time as a quartermaster aboard a ship in the Navy. When he wasn’t out on the water, he and Janet started a family, eventually moving back to Redding, Pennsylvania, about half an hour from his hometown of Lebanon.
The pair had five children, and despite her impressive resume at the start of her working days, Janet “retired” to be a stay-at-home mom.
“I didn’t go back to work until our youngest girl was in first grade, and then I just worked 10-3 every day so I could be home with the children,” she says.
But when her youngest graduated from high school, Janet did the complete opposite of what most people would do - she went back to school to start an entirely new career.
“Our youngest graduated high school in 1982, and that July I started nursing school and became an LPN,” she says. “I always wanted to be a nurse and I graduated in 1983.”
The couple had family in Florida and wound up moving there, where Janet started her nursing career. They stayed in Florida for 15 years before moving back to Redding. By 2014, Jim was having some health concerns, trouble with his legs, and when he went to rehab, the staff suggested the pair began looking for an assisted living facility.
“One of the staff members suggested Rittenhouse Village at Muhlenberg, and a lady from there came out to our house. We decided it was the best move for us to make,” Janet says.
Making their decisions together and supporting each other has been the most vital component of Jim and Janet’s marriage. They have not had it easy; three of their five children have passed away as adults, the last in 2014.
“After 61 years together, you better get along well,” Jim jokes. “We don’t complain much. Things are good here, and I’m not just saying it.The thing that we don’t do is be influenced by what other people tell us, and we never will. Some people gripe, but we know that everything can’t be perfect 100% of the time.”
The couple make sure to spend plenty of time outside of their apartment to stay busy and keep living their lives.
“We’re off to Bingo in about 15 minutes, and yesterday we had root beer floats prepared for us,” Jim says. “We don’t stay in our room much, we have tablets and we use the WiFi to play games. There’s lots of entertainment that comes in the dining room when we go down, and we just keep being us, and we just get along.”