Every great love story has an equally great soundtrack. Merrill and Elaine Luman’s soundtrack began when they met and began dating as high school students at Parsons High School in Parsons, KS.w
That was over 70 years ago and beat goes on for the Lumans, now 91 years old.
When asked about their first date, Merrill said, “It wasn’t even a formal date. It was kind of a mutual thing. I think we went to a movie.”
Their first date may not have been formal, but Merrill and Elaine became an item soon after.
“We went to prom together, we did everything together,” Merrill recalled.
Following high school, Elaine went to the University of Kansas and studied education and music, while Merrill relocated to Texas to attend Howard Payne University where he studied music.
1950. Gas was 18 cents a gallon, and milk was still delivered to the doorstep. It was a gentler time with little violence and the nation was past the Great Depression.
It was the year the Lumans started the soundtrack of their life together when they were married in a beautiful ceremony Aug. 8, 1950.
The Lumans started their family with two sons. The family now includes three grandchildren.
Elaine enjoyed a career in education, where she later became a counselor, but Merrill says music has always been a source of joy in Elaine’s life.
“She’s a talented musician. She played for three churches at one time here in Columbus,and played for over 700 weddings throughout her career as an organist. Sometimes, Elaine would play for as many as three weddings in one day,” Merrill said.
The Lumans lived in Houston for a number of years, and discovered Columbus during their search for a weekend place. “We were heavily involved in church, with my career as a choir director and Elaine playing, so our weekends were Fridays and Saturdays,” he explained.
The weekend trips to Columbus turned into permanent residency for the Lumans 31 years ago.
The Lumans wasted no time becoming active members of the Columbus community, with Elaine working to help obtain several historical markers throughout the city, including one for their present home.
Elaine and Merrill donated a collection of Santa Claus memorabilia to the Santa Claus Museum in town, and the Luman Room is named for their donation.
Merrill, known to some in music circles as “the father of the handbells,” owned and operated a handbell repair shop in Columbus for a number of years.
Merrill and Elaine founded the Columbus Community Choir, with the choir traveling to Germany to perform for the military hospital in the 1990s.
Merrill’s career as a choir conductor took him all over the globe, including stints with the Billy Graham Crusade in Japan in 1963 and 10 years as a Holland Cruise line chaplain.
“I have had the opportunity to direct choirs in Korea, Australia, Mexico, Europe, all over really,” Merrill shared.
When the Lumans turned 65, they retired and traveled the world together. “We love traveling. We have been to 150 countries, taken two world cruises and we have taken road trips to all the states,” Merrill said.
Merrill said it doesn’t feel like he and Elaine have been married for 70 years, “time gets by,” he said as he looked through photos of them through the years.
What’s kept them together? “Lots of laughter and lots of love,” Merrill shared without hesitation.
The Lumans had a celebration planned for their platinum anniversary, however, coronavirus has halted those plans, Merrill said.
“Elaine had her dress picked out for it, and we had invitations made. Well, things happen,” Merrill shrugged.
Not discouraged by the change of plans, Merrill said he and Elaine plan to make the best of their anniversary and the invitations that are still sitting in their dining room.
Merrill said it doesn’t feel like he and Elaine have been married for 70 years. “Time gets by,” he said as he looked through photos of them over the last seven decades.
“If music be the food of love, play on.”
- William Shakespeare