Eight decades of love

By Richard Meek

The Catholic Commentator  

Hands held tightly, smiles never leaving their beaming faces, a simple glance sending messages of the heart, Lloyd and Audrey Schroeder could be mistaken for a couple still in the early stages of love. 

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Lloyd and Audrey Schroeder will celebrate their 74 wedding anniversary in June. They are scheduled to participate in the annual Diocesan 25th, 50th, 65th & Over Wedding Mass and Reception Feb. 23 at 2 p.m., at St. Thomas More Church. Photo by Richard Meek | The Catholic Commentator 

 

But this Gonzales couple, who are New Orleans natives, is a relationship that has spanned more than three quarters of a century, one that has been filled with the joy of raising a tight-knit family and the anguish of losing a young child. 

Their travels have taken them around the world, and Audrey’s love of the New Orleans Saints remains as intense as it was when she and her husband were active in the Touchdown Club. 

“I love my Saints,” she said during a recent visit to the couple’s Gonzales home, a neighborhood where Irma Thomas was once their neighbor. 

“As much as she loves her children and grandchildren, she loves the Saints more,” the couple’s oldest daughter, Pam Strickland, joked, sparking a hearty laugh and a nod of the head from her mother. 

The Schroeders, who will celebrate their 74th wedding anniversary in June, are one of several couples scheduled to participate in the annual Diocesan 25th, 50th, 65th & Over Wedding Mass and Reception on Feb. 23 at 2 p.m.,. at St. Thomas More Church in Baton Rouge. The Mass is sponsored by the Office of Marriage and Family Life of the Diocese of Baton Rouge.

“We are together 99 percent of the time and enjoy each other’s company,” said Lloyd Schroder, whose first job out of high school was helping build the Higgins boat in New Orleans that would change the tenor of World War II. “We have a very close family.” 

Theirs was a romance that began on the playground of St. Ann Church in New Orleans. As Audrey, 14 at the time, was watching the Catholic Youth Organization team compete, she quipped to a friend, “I like that little blonde-haired fellow.”

At that time, the St. Ann CYO was preparing for its annual day trip to Abita Springs, the only caveat being each person was required to have a date. 

” (Audrey’s) mother owned a grocery store and I like to eat,” Lloyd, who was 15 at the time, said. “So who was my date?” 

It was the first date for either one and they would never date anybody else. 

Lloyd’s attraction was such that when he met Audrey, he knew she would be his wife. 

“She was pretty, she was young, a good girl,” he said. 

The courtship years included walking from their midcity neighborhood to the Saenger and Lowe’s theatres in downtown New Orleans, buying movie tickets at 26 cent apiece. Then it was back to Audrey mother’s grocery store, where, Lloyd said, “they had ham on the bone and I would make a sandwich.” 

Attending carnival balls and sporting events were also included but Lloyd noted “no bars, no drinking,” although one “special night” brought them to the famed Blue Room at the Roosevelt Hotel, where their mutual friend stiffed them for the tab. 

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Lloyd and Audrey Schroeder were married June 11, 1946. Photo provided by Pam Strickland

 

Five years later, on June 11, 1946, the couple was married and that is when their tapestry of life was launched. The couple visited Europe on 10 occasions, with the French Riviera being Lloyd’s favorite, and Paris the favorite of Audrey. Their travels have also taken them to Hong Kong, Tokyo, Hawaii and many domestic locations.

But their deepest love is with their family that includes five surviving children ranging in ages from 73 to 58, 12 grandchildren, 13 great-grandchildren and two great-great-children. The children and grandchildren are scattered throughout the south but for holidays they are often all together. 

Previously, the family tradition was to gather every Sunday at the family home with up to 30 people present. 

“Our house (in Harahan) was the house everybody came to,” Strickland said. “They were always together. I’ve never heard them say a bad word unless it was during a Saints game, and that was mild.” 

Added Audrey, “All of my children and grandchildren are blessings from God.” 

After leaving Higgins, Lloyd spent 19 years in sales before he and two partners purchased a machine company, a business he would own until he retired at the age of 79.

The Schroeders remain active even as they approach the centennial milestone. Only recently has Lloyd hired a gardener but Audrey, who inherited a love of cooking from her mother, continues to whet her husband’s appetite with her own specialties. 

“I’m a good cook, and he likes to eat,” said Audrey. 

Asked to name his favorite dish, Lloyd hesitated, but when pressed, he admitted “crawfish bisque,” before immediately rattling several more favorites, much to the delight of his wife. 

The Schroeders do frequent area restaurants, courtesy of gift cards given to them by their children and grandchildren. Carrying on a long-standing tradition, they also make monthly visits to a local casino so Audrey can play the “one-armed bandits,” an activity she has enjoyed for years. But their life has not been without tragedy, having to deal with the death of their young son who was born with special needs and died at the age of nine. Although the death of a child can often put a strain on a marriage, Lloyd said the only inconvenience was a lack of sleep while tending to the child’s needs. 

“There was never any strain on the marriage; we lived through it and were happy to do it,” he said.

“I have a strong devotion to my faith and the Blessed Mother is my favorite,” Audrey said of her coping mechanism. “She has helped me a lot.” 

As far as offering tips to young couples, Lloyd said it is important to marry someone who shares the same standards, the same ideals and the same beliefs. And they both agree to never go to sleep angry. 

“I don’t think he has a bad bone in his body,” Audrey said, her eyes shining while giving her husband an extra squeeze as they were holding hands.