By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger
Recently, an aide at Sunnybrook Living Care Center in Fairfield playfully asked resident Elmer “Bud” Adam how he could stand to be married to the same woman for 70 years.
His answer? “It was easy.” Life itself wasn’t always easy for the couple, who farmed and raised 13 children near Richland, but Bud and Helen Adam knew that their love for each other — and for God — could help them weather any storm. And, for nearly 70 years, they have.
In a room at Sunnybrook last month, with several of their children beside them, Bud and Helen held hands as they reminisced about their life.
As teens growing up in the Richland/East Pleasant Plain area, Bud Adam and Helen Pacha knew each other through family connections, but it wasn’t until they saw each other from across a dance floor in Wellman that sparks began to fly. Bud noticed Helen’s beauty and Helen found herself drawn to the handsome man with brunette curls. “His hair was so curly he couldn’t comb it back,” she recalled with affection. After that, they went on their first date — a movie and ice cream, and began going steady.
The connection between them ran much deeper than simple attraction. Both came from devout Catholic families who from the start were supportive of the relationship. “My parents really liked
Bud,” Helen said.
Three years later, with his father’s encouragement, Bud bought a farm and asked Helen for her hand in marriage. She wasn’t impressed with their future living quarters, which did not have running water or electricity. Bud recalled Helen telling him to “burn it down.” He didn’t, but she agreed to marry him anyway.
They married on Aug. 12, 1948, in a corrugated metal Quonset hut which served as the temporary church for St. Joseph Parish in East Pleasant Plain. (The church had previously been damaged by fire.) Bud was 23 and Helen was 19. A photograph of the honeymoon shows Bud and Helen walking down the streets of Chicago, hand in hand, smiling.
Accommodating a growing family
The following year, Helen and Bud welcomed their first son, Bob. Within 20 years, they would add nine more sons and three daughters to the family. Bud and Helen always had two cribs in the master bedroom and built on additional bedrooms and other amenities as the family grew. Three children in, they installed electricity and running water.
Helen became something of an amateur engineer at home. “She was always thinking of ways to make life easier,” said son Father Rich Adam. One of her inventions was a shelf between the garage and living area, with sliding doors on each side. When these two doors were both opened, groceries could go directly from the car (always a station wagon!) onto that shelf/platform, and then placed on pantry shelves for storage. This eliminated a lot of back and forth from the car to the house, said son Father Nick Adam.
Another of Helen’s inventions was a picnic-style table big enough to seat the family and frequent guests. The suspended bench seats were a breeze to sweep under, saving time and effort on cleanup. Perhaps Helen’s ingenuity rubbed off on the children, as a few of them pursued careers in engineering. “Maybe the engineers in the family were subconsciously influenced by her ability to manage all of us and still keep her sanity,” said Fr. Nick.
Confidence in times of uncertainty
Farming can be a stressful and risky profession but at home, Bud and Helen shielded their children from this reality. Fr. Chuck noted that tithing was always a priority, even when money was tight or crops were suffering from inclement weather. “Dad never went to church without an envelope,” he said.
Faith and trust in God gave Bud and Helen confidence during times of struggle. Mass attendance was always a given, and the family prayed the rosary together daily. When tough decisions had to be made, Bud and Helen prayed novenas. One significant decision involved the purchase of another farm, which could potentially add much needed income. After praying a novena, Bud and Helen decided to make the investment. After purchasing the property, its value rose significantly. They knew then that God had given them the strength to make the right decision.
Growing up, “We really didn’t have anything but faith and love,” daughter Suanne said. “We didn’t have much,” Fr. Chuck responded in agreement. “But looking back, we had everything,” Suanne said.
Living by example
Three of the Adam children — Nick, Chuck and Rich, became priests for the Diocese of Davenport. Twelve of the Adam children attended college, taking on professions such as teaching and engineering. Son Andy now runs the farm. Fr. Nick notes that there are no divorces among the nine married Adam children and their spouses. “In this day and age, it’s something that no doubt has been influenced by the prayers of my parents and their example of marriage.”
“By their modeling they showed us what a marriage should look like,” Suanne said. “Dad always loved mom and always showed it. He always had his arm around her. I read that the greatest thing a man can do for his children is to love his wife.” The children don’t recall their mom and dad fighting at home. If dad got irritated, he would go find something to do.
There was always something to do on the farm.
Bud and Helen passed their faith on to their children, as well. Fr. Nick noted that the Adam children see Mass attendance as a need, not an obligation. “For sharing the faith, we will be eternally grateful.”
Helen credits faith for the longevity of her marriage and her children’s marriages. “A family that prays together stays together.”
Grateful for a long life together
A few years ago, Bud and Helen moved to Fairfield, where Helen lives in Sunnybrook’s assisted living residence. Every day she drives to the Living Care Center to spend the day with Bud. Their enduring connection is palpable. “They’re almost always holding hands,” Suanne observed.
Helen and Bud have 23 grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren. When asked to reflect on how she feels about her upcoming anniversary, Helen said, “Thankful … for 70 happy years.”
Letters to Bud and Helen
To commemorate her parents’ 70th wedding anniversary, Suanne asked family, friends and clergy to write letters of memories to Bud and Helen. Here are some of the highlights:
“I was at Richland/East Pleasant Plain when (Bud and Helen) celebrated 50 years in 1998. … I can’t remember seeing them without smiles on their faces. They were always warm and welcoming and made me feel like part of the family.” — Father Paul Connolly
“Meals after Saturday night Mass (at the Adams’ house) will always be fond memories for me. (Remembering) sitting in the rocking chair and visiting always brings a smile to my face. Thank you for your hospitality.” — Father Charles Fladung
“Helen and Bud Adam are two very special people and I am glad we crossed paths in life. They are both so welcoming and inviting when I go and visit them. I especially remember once when I visited them on the farm and we were talking about where different people lived and immediately Bud said, “Come on, let’s go for a ride.” Helen, Bud and I climbed into the pickup and we went all around the farms in the area with Bud telling a story of each farm we went by. What a delightful visit. Also, Helen always had something to offer to eat, sometimes a whole meal.” — Shirley VanDee, parish life coordinator for Ss. Joseph & Cabrini Parish, Richland/East Pleasant Plain.
“It was a privilege to be invited to supper at their home. The conversation at table was lively. Helen and Bud were fun to hold a conversation with. There were always a lot of interesting and funny topics to talk about. And they could laugh! We all laughed.” — Father Tom Stratman