"She was the prettiest girl I ever saw," said Charles, 88. Then just a 15-year-old student at Eaton Rapids High School, he was already head over heels for the new girl in town.
Nina, now 87, was 14 years old and had just moved to Eaton Rapids from Lansing with her family. "I thought I was moving to the end of the world," she told the Lansing State Journal.
In Eaton Rapids, Charles was in Nina's new circle of friends. "He was just an all-American boy," she said. "He did a lot of activities and sports."
The teenagers started dating just a few months later. Their first outing involved ice skating on the frozen Grand River in frigid January temperatures. Nina remembers that it was "bitter cold."
Said Charles, "She had black hair and the frost was so bad that by the time we were done her hair was silver."
The couple graduated from Eaton Rapids High School a few years later and married that same year, 1943. Nina was just 17 and Charles was 18. On June 11, the couple will celebrate 70 years of marriage. It's a rare milestone by today's standards but the Gullivers say they never doubted their relationship would last.
The local couple raised four children together, welcomed 10 grandchildren and later five great-grandchildren. They still live in their Eaton Rapids home together and they still take yearly driving trips to Florida. By all accounts they are "best friends" who's hardest moments came only when they were separated at times because of jobs.
"We married a week after our high school graduation," said Nina. "We wanted to be together. I know when we were married people were probably shaking their heads and thinking, 'It won't last.'"
But Charles and Nina both say they "grew up together," moving to Miami after their first son was born in 1945. The change in scenery was made without much money or job prospects but the couple said the 10 years they spent there were good fun.
Charles got a job working as a bell hop at a Miami Beach hotel where many Hollywood legends and well-known athletes often stayed. Over the years the Gullivers met Babe Ruth, Jack Benny, Gary Cooper and Elizabeth Taylor. Then Charles took a summer job on Mackinac Island at The Grand Hotel. By the time he stopped working there the Eaton Rapids resident was the famous hotel's superintendent of services.
After a decade in Florida the couple moved back to Eaton Rapids, by that time a family of six. "We were glad to move back at the time," said Nina.
Life in Eaton Rapids came with ups — the family took camping trips and took up sailing together — and downs — Charles had heart surgery and Nina had a gallbladder removed. But the couple said they never second-guessed their union.
"Everything was jointly," said Charles. "We don't have any separate bank accounts or anything like that. We had family meetings."
Daughter Charna Welch, whose name is a blending of both Charles and Nina's names, said her parents made decisions based on what was best for everyone in the family. She said they are and were a patient and loving couple who knew how to enjoy life.
"They're best friends," said Welch. "We didn't have much money but we didn't know it because we had fun. If someone would have said, 'You guys don't have much,' we would have thought they were crazy."
The Gullivers said they'll celebrate their 70-year union with a family party.
Nina says the secret to their success is simple, "Just love and health I think," she said.
Chuck said some of their good fortune can be traced back to values, though.
"At that time, marriage was thought about in an all-together different way," he said. "It seems too easy to opt in or out of it now. When we were married it was forever."