When Charlie met Joanie: South Hadley couple celebrates platinum anniversary at Soldiers’ Home

  • Charles and Joan Allard have fun during their 70th wedding anniversary celebration at the Soldiers’ Home in Holyoke. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Charles and Joan Allard share a moment during their 70th wedding anniversary as the room applauds for them, Thursday, Oct. 18, 2018 at the Soldiers' Home in Holyoke. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Charles Allard, left, and his wife, Joan Allard, talk with NASA astronaut Daniel Barry during their 70th wedding anniversary party Thursday at the Soldiers’ Home in Holyoke. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Charles and Joan Allard share a moment during their 70th wedding anniversary, Thursday, Oct. 18, 2018 at the Soldiers' Home in Holyoke. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Charles Allard, second from left, talks with NASA astronaut Daniel Barry, standing, while his wife, Joan Allard, third from left, talks with Barry's wife, Sue, during the Allard's 70th wedding anniversary Thursday, Oct. 18, 2018 at the Soldiers' Home in Holyoke. Looking on, left, is Bennett Walsh, the superintendent of the Soldiers' Home. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

Staff Writer
Thursday, October 25, 2018

Bingo at the Soldiers’ Home on Thursday nights is typically date night for Charlie and Joanie Allard. Last week, however, marked a special occasion — the couple’s 70th wedding anniversary. 

A celebration of the Allards’ platinum anniversary took place in the canteen of the home for veterans where Charlie, 93, a World War II U.S. Navy veteran, has lived since 2014. Sitting beside him was Joanie, 86, who met Charlie after he returned from the war. They were married on Oct. 16, 1948 at St. Patrick’s Church in South Hadley. 

“It’s quite a day,” Charlie said with a smile as he greeted friends and family members arriving for the celebration on Thursday, Oct. 16. Charlie also served the South Hadley Fire Department for 31 years, from 1954 to 1986, and retired as a deputy fire chief. 

“He was working at a construction site as a heavy equipment operator when he went to the store across the street to get an ice cream cone,” Joanie, of South Hadley, recalled of how the couple first met. “I was sitting on the steps because I had a nail in my shoe. I was trying to get it out, and he started talking to me.”

When Charlie returned from WWII in the late 1940s, he worked for a few years at a lumberyard in South Hadley before becoming a firefighter.

During the war, Charlie worked as a medic aboard the USS Fayette after signing up for the Navy at 17 years old.

“My mother had to sign for me,” Charlie said. “I was putting bandages on wounded soldiers, traveling the Pacific for three years.”

He said the ship was part of six invasions throughout its deployment between 1944 and 1945. Charlie, along with six doctors, a dentist and more than 30 medical personnel, tended to a total of nearly 1,500 injured Army and Marine soldiers, he said.

He was about 23 when he left the service, Charlie said. He lived in South Hadley before and after marrying Joanie.

Seventy years later, the couple have two daughters, six grandchildren, and seven great-grandchildren.

Station wagon to space 

At Thursday night’s celebration, the Allards were surprised by a visit from their friends Dan and Sue Barry, a couple who drove from South Hadley.

“You never know who’s gonna show up,” Dan said to Charlie, who wiped away a few tears.

The Allards and the Barrys became close over the course of nearly a decade because of a business that Joanie started, called College Limousine, in South Hadley.

Joanie began the limousine service in 1968, providing rides for Mount Holyoke College students, faculty, staff and trustees in the family’s station wagon until 1998.

“We took care of Mount Holyoke College mostly,” Joanie said. “We ran for the whole 10 years that college president David Truman was there. He was wonderful, we got along fine with him.”

Dan, who was a mission specialist and astronaut for NASA, first met the Allards in 1992 when they would drive him to Bradley International Airport in Connecticut for his weekly flights to Houston, Texas. On one of his missions, Dan brought the keys to the station wagon to the International Space Station in August 2001.

Back on Earth, Charlie was always ready to pick him up and drive him back home. “Pretty much every week, you could always count on Charlie being there,” said Dan, who sat with the Allards as they played Bingo.

“He would always say to me, ‘I’ll take care of him,’” added Sue, a retired Mount Holyoke College biology professor.

“But it was much more than that,” Dan said. “It wasn’t just a ride to the airport — it was a tour through the history of the Pioneer Valley. He knows every historical house, he knew every nook and cranny, and he must’ve known 15 different ways to get to the airport.”

Dan said Charlie would also tell him stories about WWII and his service as a firefighter in South Hadley.

“He’s a pretty heroic guy,” Dan said. “Who can count how many lives he has saved? He’s probably saved hundreds of people’s lives. How many people can say that?”

Luis Fieldman can be reached at lfieldman@gazettenet.com.