CLARKS SUMMIT — Sometimes “the one” is the one you least expect.
Myrna and John Diven, of Clarks Summit, learned that firsthand more than 50 years ago.
Myrna Yocum met John Diven in a World Civilizations class during their freshmen year at Muskingum College in New Concord, Ohio during the early 1960s.
“I sat up front and John was hiding in the back with the students who never answered questions in class,” Myrna said.
One day, shortly after the pair had been on a few dates, Myrna said their professor decided to read a student’s paper on feudalism aloud in the class because it was so well-written.
“(The professor) had never done this before,” said Myrna. “He read the paper and we (were) looking all around the room to decide whose paper he was reading.”
To Myrna’s surprise, the paper was John’s handiwork.
“…I was totally surprised and thought, ‘You’ve got to be kidding,’” she said.
Myrna decided to ask John for a date. “In those days women didn’t usually ask men out on dates, but I had gone out with him a couple of times and my sorority was having a hayride.”
After a hesitation, John accepted Myrna’s offer, but by the time they returned to the sorority house after the hayride, John’s eyes were swollen shut. Myrna described his face as “all flushed and red.” John didn’t tell Myrna had had allergies.
“I didn’t want to say no (to the date),” said John. “My eyes itched and watered (from that hay ride). That was our first and only hayride.”
With the nearest towns far away from the college, two of the couple’s more frequent dating destinations were the local Dairy Queen and the library where they studied together.
“Back then, we couldn’t afford college and a car. When the weather was nice, we’d walk down to the Dairy Queen for an ice cream and count the cars,” Myrna said.
John added, “We sat on the wall and watched traffic.”
John and Myrna dated approximately for three years before John popped the question under a tree by the campus lake.
“Will you marry me when we graduate?” he asked Myrna.
Myrna, who describes herself as “a very serious person,” said the first words out of her mouth were, “I’ll marry you only if you’ll balance the checkbook and take care of all the financial matters.”
They were married on June 5, 1965, in the First Presbyterian Church in Myrna’s hometown of Wooster, Ohio. They eventually settled in Clarks Summit, and this year the couple will celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary.
Why were they attracted to one another?
John said “her killer smile and her personality,” and for Myrna, “his wrestling (in college), along with his feudalism test” in that World Civilizations class, she said.
“He is a very gentle, soft spoken man. Later on, I found out he had a wonderful sense of humor,” said Myrna. “I didn’t see that so much. I think I was too serious.”
John was a wrestler and Myrna had been a wrestling fan in high school and liked athletes.
“I always thought marrying a coach would be good,” she said.
Prior to retirement, John was a high school physical education teacher and coached wrestling for 25 years, as well as track and soccer. Currently, he helps coach soccer goalkeepers at Baptist Bible College and is a volunteer assistant coach at Abington Heights High School.
“I’m proud he’s still coaching. It’s one of his real loves,” said Myrna, a retired Abington Heights elementary school teacher.
Most weekdays, Myrna stays active with Tai Chi, yoga and Silver Sneakers classes at the Abington Senior Center, and she also takes watercolor painting classes from Al Ondush. They’re both active at their church, First Presbyterian Church of Clarks Summit, and try to visit with their grandchildren every five to six weeks.
They have three children: John, Jr., of Keene, New Hampshire; Jim, of Scranton; and Abbey Campbell, of Baltimore County, Maryland; and four granddaughters.
How do they feel about each other after 50 years of marriage?
“We’re still together and she still has that great smile. I’m still doing the checkbook. I wouldn’t change a thing,” said John.
“I’ve never had a moment that I thought it was a mistake,” she said. “When I was engaged to be married, my mother gave me a list of eight or 10 things you needed to consider (before marrying) and communication was the first one on the list. Communication isn’t just words. I think we communicate pretty well.”