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Joan and ‘Bud’ Altmayer say they enjoy life to the fullest and continue to have a deep love and
respect for each other after 75 years of marriage.
Sherrie Norris | Watauga Democrat

Originally published: 2013-04-01 10:32:31
Last modified: 2013-04-01 10:32:30

Altmayers celebrate 75 years of marriage

by Sherrie Norris

On March 14, Magnus 'Bud' and Joan Altmayer of Boone reached a milestone of 75 years of marriage --  a huge accomplishment, by today's standards.

The couple agreed that their love for each other is as strong today as it was when they exchanged vows in 1938 -- and it's been a good life, over all, they said.

Health concerns have required a temporary separation, as Bud was admitted to Glenbridge Health and Rehabilitation a short time ago, "I guess that's the kind of thing you can expect as you get older," said Joan "But, I hope to bring him back home, soon." 

About 40 years ago, the Altmayers came to the area, purchased a "summer home" at Appalachian Ski Mountain and divided their time between South Florida and the North Carolina Mountains until they decided to retire here full-time in 1975. 

"If you can call it retirement," said Bud. "We owned and operated an art gallery on Main Street in Blowing Rock for about six years. Our vacation home quickly turned into our full-time residence."  
The love story between Bud and Joan began,  -- in Bud's words -- in a swimming pool. Joan's memories vary slightly, but they both agree that, at age 16, they were attracted to each other and were among a group of friends who hung out together in Miami and spent a lot of time at the pool. 

"Joan was quite the swimmer," Bud said. "She was a sexy looking gal who swam endless laps every day."

They remember Miami "back then," as a great place in which to grow up, with constant beach parties and fun activities. 

"We had friends by the dozens and we all stuck together," Bud said.

By the time they turned 18, the couple's romance blossomed; at 21, they were married. "The only mistake I made," Bud said, "was that I didn't marry her sooner."

It was during "the Great Depression," Bud said. "Times weren't that easy. We wanted to get married earlier, but we couldn't afford to."

Selling real estate at the time, Bud's plans to marry Joan hinged on the closing of a "lucrative deal."  "I was expecting a good-size commission, so we eloped," he said. 

The real estate deal fell through and he didn't collect, but a $50 loan from his father for a honeymoon at Lake Wales got them off to a good start, he said.

While in military school, Bud had been commissioned into the military, effective on his 21st birthday. As one of two children, Joan was raised in a "comfortable" family.

"Her father worked in mortgage investments, but when the stock market broke, he went broke," Bud said. 

Enrolled at the University of Miami at the time, Joan was forced to withdraw from school; she found work as a model in a local department store.

Bud was an only child. His father, the sole Buick automobile dealer/distributor in about a 250-mile radius in South Florida, was a successful businessman, but also had difficulty escaping the  country's economic collapse. 

Bud entered the service in 1942 and served in the US Air Force for five years, three of which were in Europe during "the heat" of World War II," he said. 

"He was not granted a leave for 2 years," Joan said. She wrote to him daily for three years and stayed with their families, while working as Southern Bell service representative.

Bud attained the rank of major by the time he was discharged, but his battle had just begun. 

He suffered from (undiagnosed) Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. "I had a lot of problems and couldn't even speak," he said. "It was difficult for both of us but she (Joan) got me through it."

Bud eventually followed his father's footsteps and owned a Pontiac dealership in Homestead. "I did well until the local Air Force base closed and took away my best customers," he said. 

He also worked as a comptroller for the Miami Housing Authority and as a life insurance underwriter before retiring at "50-something," he said. 

He credits Joan for an excellent job as a mother raising their three children, while he made a living for the family.

Their two daughters and one son have all excelled in their professions and blessed their parents with six grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren. 

As retirement loomed, the couple began to "scour North Carolina," Bud said. "We had previously visited my parents, who had a place at Mayview. Joan's family always went to Asheville. We looked all around and finally decided to settle in Blowing Rock."

The Altmayers have both been life-long volunteers and have made significant contributions locally since moving to the area.

According to former Red Cross director Sonny Sweet in an earlier interview, "Uncle Bud" has been the oldest (active) Red Cross volunteer in the county and served the local chapter for more than 20 years. His involvement decreased a few short years ago, but his contributions are felt daily. 

He authored "The Watauga County Chapter of the Red Cross: A History by Bud Altmayer" and has long been considered "the epitome of the Red Cross volunteer," Sweet said. "He has truly been the heart of the chapter and through his daily visits for many years, kept things moving at the office." 

With a love for history, Bud also penned five books, mostly with a regional flare; he is a noted expert on numerous subjects, for which he has been a long-time presenter for civic and community groups. 

"Several of his books have been reprinted," said Joan, and are available through Amazon and (by special request) Barnes and Nobles. "They are also available for Kindles now, too and at the Watauga County Library. "
One of his most recent projects was assembling an Indian artifacts display, which has found its place amid his many collectibles of note, including numerous medals of commendation and family photographs. 

Making a "smart move" several years ago to Appalachian Brian Estates "required some adjustment," said Bud, but it has turned out to be a positive experience through which they maintained social activities and contacts. 

For many years ago, Joan volunteered at the Blowing Rock Library and until last year, drove herself there one afternoon each week.

She has always been an accomplished seamstress and has produced exceptional works of art, as evidenced by the large tapestry on their living room wall and various pieces throughout the apartment. She also knitted and attended classes at the Senior Center each week, but said she has "slowed down on that."

Joan's mobility has been compromised since a life-threatening illness several years ago, but she said, she has "done well, over all."  

"We aren't able to travel and do things like we once did, but we make the best of the opportunities we have had." Bud said. "We have a deep love and respect for each other and we are unusually close." 

Joan said, "We have always honored each other's opinions and agree to disagree if necessary, but, of course, I'm always right."

When asked of any advice for newlyweds, Joan stated, "Be patient and don't go to bed mad."

Bud responded, "Start saving your money at a young age for your old age and when the bills come due, take care of them first before you blow your money on something else."

After 75 years together, they surely know how it's done.