It took 50 years for Dick Bradley and John Stewig to say “I do.”
“When it was possible for us to be married and actually blessed, it’s sort of like ‘Oh my word, there is a God,'” said Bradley.
Bradley and Stewig met in 1962 when they were both elementary teachers in Madison, Wisc. The school secretary introduced them.
“She said, ‘I think you’ll find the art teacher somebody that you’ll enjoy,'” said Bradley. “And we have for 55 years.”
Their relationship grew while participating in a church choir together. Stewig was the organist and Bradley, a singer.
“We had met and courted in the Episcopal church and then the wildest fantasy would have been for us to be married in the church and we were,” said Bradley.
But that took five decades to happen. Mainly because gay marriage didn’t become legal in Wisconsin until 2014. So when they decided to take that step at 78 and 75 years old, they took the train to Minnesota and were married by an Episcopal priest.
“I think we both wanted our relationship blessed because God had always been an integral part of our relationship,” said Bradley.
Before that could happen, there was a proposal 50 years in the making.
“It was at the International Hotel in NYC,” said Bradley. “We were of course sharing a room and I finally looked at him and said ‘would you be willing to spend the rest of your life with me?'”
Stewig of course said “yes.”
Early on in their relationship, they both said they never kept it secret but they did keep it quiet.
“In those days, our kind of relationship was was not ‘out’ as kids refer to it today so it was a much quieter kind of thing and neither of us were bar kind of people so it wasn’t that kind of a courtship,” said Bradley.
However, their colleagues at school knew and so did their families, who grew close over the years.
“We have always been blessed with intimacy,” said Bradley. “Being together, holding one another, sleeping together, those kinds of things…go on eternally until death separates.
Where the sexual aspects of life is the thing that people get all screwed up in their minds about gay people. Yes when you’re young, that’s extremely important but life goes on and you get old and things don’t work like they used to but the fact that you still enjoy touching one another.”
And they offer this advice to young couples of any sexual orientation.
“People either evolve in a relationship or they refuse to evolve,” said Stewig. “We also have become different people and that’s why I said much earlier you have to be willing to work with the people you have become, because otherwise it can just fall apart very easily. So it is commitment to seeing change in people and situations.”
“Both of us have remarked several times that if the curtain came down today that would be just fine,” said Bradley. “And wow, what more can you ask of a relationship than you feel that completed.”