He was a few years older than the high school students trying out for a play at his church, so he was reluctant to join the cast.
But his sister was the director, so he couldn’t say no.
It turned out to be a good decision for Andy and Joann Gohlinghorst of Council Bluffs.
It was 1947 and Andy was a 19-year-old high school graduate working for his dad in the family plumbing business.
Joann Varner was 15 and finishing her sophomore year at Abraham Lincoln High in Council Bluffs.
Both were members of St. Paul Lutheran Church in Council Bluffs and sang in the choir, but they had never met before and for some reason had never even noticed each other.
But that changed once they started rehearsing for the church play.
Andy remembers showing up for play practice and spotting Joann across the room. In a bright blue sports coat and white shirt, Andy caught Joann’s eye.
They chatted a few times during play rehearsals, and then Andy asked if he could give her a ride to choir practice.
He picked her up in his 1930 Chevy, and after practice, he took her out to eat at a Council Bluffs diner know for its great loose-meat sandwiches.
Soon they were dating regularly, spending evenings dancing at Peony Park, fishing at Lake Manawa and spending time with each other’s family.
They connected over their strong Lutheran faith and their love for big band music.
Even though he was older and Joann was just in high school, her mom and dad liked him from the start. Her parents knew his family through church and thought Andy was a responsible young guy with a strong Lutheran faith.
He proposed at Christmas 1949 and they married May 5, 1950, at St. Paul Lutheran Church.
Andy eventually took over his dad’s plumbing business and Joann became the bookkeeper, the two of them working side by side for more than 45 years. They have three children, two grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
One of the couple’s sons now runs the plumbing business, Gohlinghorst Plumbing, making it a third-generation family company.
Andy and Joann will celebrate their 66th wedding anniversary this spring.
They feel blessed they met at that church play decades ago, and say their best roles have been husband and wife.
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