PAXINOS - A Mount Carmel couple married just weeks before the husband left to fight in World War II celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary Monday, Veterans Day.

Mildred and Francis Callahan, now both 89, renewed their vows during a Mass at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church, Mount Carmel. They've done so nearly every year since 1943; the only exception is when Francis was deployed.

After the Mass, more than 40 relatives and friends attended a celebratory breakfast at Masser's Restaurant in their honor. Their son, David, put together a slide show of family photographs accompanied by music from the 1940s and 1950s.

Her husband sitting to her right and photographs spanning 70 years flashing on a screen before them, Mildred tapped her foot in time with the music played from a computer speaker.

"Closer, my dear, come closer/The nicest part of any melody/Is when you're dancing close to me," a man crooned in a big band version of "Music, Music, Music."

Asking for a date

Dancing is how the Callahans came to be, well, "The Callahans."

As Mildred - or "Millie," as she's known - tells it, she was a student at Mount Carmel Township High School when they met. A friend of hers who went to Mount Carmel Catholic High School invited her to a Friday dance to raise money for the school yearbook. That's where she met Francis, a Catholic High student.

"I didn't intend for anybody to take me home," Millie said after breakfast Monday. "We were dancing together and Joanie said to me, 'Me and Joe's going to take you home.' And (Francis) said to me, 'No, I'll take you home. Is that OK?' So he took me home and when he took me home he asked me for a date."

That date occurred the next day, Saturday.

"I guess we've been going together since then," Millie said.

Lots of letters

They graduated in 1941. Francis was drafted in 1943, bound for the 2064th Engineer Aviation Fire Fighting Platoon. He was stationed in New Orleans ahead of deployment. Millie, still a Kwiatkowski at that point, rode a bus west and then a train south to meet him there.

They'd been together 2 1/2 years - "on and off," she jokes - and had decided it was time to marry. Their ceremony was held in St. Ann Catholic Church. Two weeks later, Francis was gone, off to Europe to fight in World War II. Millie returned to Atlas.

"For the first few months, I was over in England I couldn't write a letter where I was," Francis said.

He'd eventually get permission to write home. "I got an awful lot, I know," Millie said of letters from her husband.

They wouldn't see each other for two years while Francis was fighting overseas. After that, they've been together ever since.

Seven children

Francis, a private first class, was honorably discharged on Dec. 5, 1945, at Fort Indiantown Gap, Annville. He had fought in the Normandy-Northern France-Rhineland-Central Europe campaigns, earning six Bronze Star medals for combat.

The Callahans lived with Millie's family for a short time before they purchased 237 S. Locust St., Mount Carmel. Her father helped her paint the home while Francis was at work. Her father said the house was big and had a lot of rooms. She assured him that filling it wouldn't be a problem.

They raised seven children in the home, and now have 15 grandchildren and 16 great-grandchildren.

"The best part is when I'd come home from college, I'd see little love notes under the pillow from my dad to my mom. He'd leave her little notes," said a daughter, Peg Callahan, of Harrisburg.

Special gathering

Frank Callahan, of Richmond, Va., one of their sons, agreed his parents are great role models. They'd been celebrating their anniversary with family get-togethers the last 25 years. His father made sure all of them could make it to the 70th anniversary celebration.

"My dad called us up six months ago and said, 'You all have to be here,'" Frank said with a laugh.

Jody Callahan, of Danville, David's wife, said she considers her in-laws to be her parents. "I'm very happy for them and it's good to be in the family," she said.

The Callahan's other children are Tom, of Apollo Beach, Fla., Joanne Fishburn, of Ashland, Diann Parenzan, of Morrisville, and Ann Wengrenovich, of Elysburg, along with daughter-in-law Janet, Frank's wife.