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A mother's proposal begins a nearly 70-year marriage

Navy service keeps young man from presenting the ring

By JEFF SAUNDERS Reporter Published: May 28, 2017 12:00 AM
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Navy service kept James Forsyth from proposing marriage in person to Macedonia resident Jeannette Vlach, so he had his mom do it for him.

"It was pretty much a surprise," said Jeannette Forsyth. "We had a wonderful marriage and wonderful kids."

Forsyth, who lived in Munroe Falls with Jeannette, his wife of 67 years, died on Good Friday, April 14, at 87. He is among those being honored with a banner in this year's third annual Stow-Munroe Falls Armed Forces Banner Program.

"We bought this for his birthday March 21," said his son Michael. "Unfortunately, he's not going to be able to see it."

Michael Forsyth said his father at least knew about the gift that Michael and his wife Michele purchased.

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"He seemed like he was pleased with it," said Michael.

Forsyth worked for the Cuyahoga Falls City Schools as a teacher, coach and guidance counselor for more than 30 years. Before that. he served in the Navy from 1948 to 1952, including two stints in the active duty Navy with some time in the reserves in between. He started as a crew member on the attack cargo ship USS Seminole.

"They carried barrels of oil up to Alaska," said Jeannette Forsyth. "He would talk about that. He was a radioman."

"He used to talk about a few of the ports, Seattle, Puget Sound," said Michael.

He was on the Seminole when he made his proposal by proxy, sending his mother Thelma, who lived in Maple Heights and died in 2002, an engagement ring. She presented it to her future daughter-in-law, then 16 years old, at a party in 1949.

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When asked how she felt about the proposal, Jeannette said "surprised, happy, excited," adding that she believes her own mother had known about it.

The couple had met about two years earlier when Jeannette was babysitting for a family that owned a drive-in restaurant where James worked. He showed up at the house asking for a couple of people that lived there. They weren't at home, but he stayed and they started getting to know each other while playing with an Erector Set.

"He was the only guy I ever dated," said Jeannette.

A photographer that James, who took photos for his high school yearbook, did some work for took a photograph of Jeannette wearing the ring while standing next to Thelma Forsyth. It ended up being published in the Bedford Times-Register newspaper along with a brief story.

"I was surprised it was in the paper," said Jeannette.

The non-bylined story, headlined "Distance No Barrier to Romance and Betrothal," says, "When you're stationed in San Diego, Calif., with the U.S. Navy and the young lady resides in Macedonia, Ohio, the thing to do is to have your mother present her with the engagement ring.

"That's how James Allen Forsyth, S/R, solved his problem and that's precisely what happened Sunday evening when his mother, Mrs. Thelma Forsyth, of 5125 Clement Dr., presented the engagement ring to her future daughter-in-law, Miss Jeannette Vlach, at a party in Miss Vlach's home on Macedonia Rd.

"Mr Forsyth sent a picture of himself and the ring in California together with this message: 'A ring for the girl I want to marry, Love, Jim.'"

They were married in 1950, just after Jeannette graduated from high school and just before she turned 18. Toward the end of his time in the Navy, they lived in Tennessee, where he was stationed.

"That's where our first son [Wayne] was born," said Jeannette.

James went on to earn a master's degree in education from Kent State University and went to work in Cuyahoga Falls. He taught health and physical education at the elementary school level, then taught middle school math and coached basketball and track and field before becoming a guidance counselor at Cuyahoga Falls High School.

Besides Wayne and Michael, the Forsyths' other children include daughter Janice and sons James and Andrew, with 11 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren added to the family.

"He was a very hard worker, wonderful father, loved to travel," said Jeannette."We just took the kids all over."

"We went through several trailers, motor homes," said Michael. "We hit every single state except Alaska and Hawaii."

He added that they also made it to Mexico and Canada, as well. Jeannette and Michael remembered one epic trip in 1968 in particular.

"We had a little trailer. Five kids and the dog. We went 10,000 miles in seven weeks," said Jeannette. "The kids remember that as the best trip we ever took."

They went to see the Indianapolis 500, then to Tennessee and Texas and Mexico, then to California, including San Francisco, back to Mexico at Tijuana and up to Michigan. Along the way, they drive through Death Valley, the Painted Desert and Yosemite National Park.

"I miss him so much," said Jeannette.

"He was a good dad," said Michael.

Email: jsaunders@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9431

Facebook: Jeff Saunders Record

Twitter: /JeffSaunders_RP


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