Half an Inch, Half a Year, and 55 Years of Marriage

Back in the 1950s, Norm Dick, who now makes frequent pilgrimages to the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, survived a terrible car accident.

Half an inch
Doctors told him that he was a half inch away from breaking his back in a place that would have paralyzed him from the waist down at the young age of 21.

On May 24, 2018, he and his wife, Judy, of 55 years renewed their marriage vows before their children and grandchildren at Shrine, thanking God for the countless ways He has guided their relationship throughout the years.

Norm grew up in Buffalo, New York, as a Protestant but had never really practiced his faith until his accident changed his life.

"[After] I got into [the] auto accident, I prayed that if I didn't get paralyzed, I would try to become Catholic," he said.

God not only spared his legs, but gave Him a new sense of purpose.

"A friend of mine took me to church a couple of times and I converted," he said.

Half a year
When he was about 26-years-old, he was traveling all over upstate New York, working as a civilian for the United States Army Corps of Engineers dredging lakes and rivers.

One fateful day in mid-April 1962, Norm happened to travel through Fairport Harbor, Ohio, hundreds of miles away from where he had been living.

22-year-old waitress, Judy, was serving Norm's table.

At the time, Miss Judy Maruschak was just a single, small-town girl working at one of the only two restaurants in Fairport Harbor.

She had been hoping to get married one day, but at that point in her life, she had passed over every suitor in her small town.

"We had only one small traffic light," she said. "Everybody knew everybody."

But of course, she hadn't met Norm yet.

Judy said, "I went over to him [after serving dinner] and I said, 'Would you like something for desert?'

He said, 'Yea, you.'

And I said, 'WHAT?!' Just like that. And he said nothing. Then he just ordered a piece of pie because he likes sweets. But I really barked at him when he said that to me."

Then a couple days later, still working in the area, Norm worked up the courage to ask Judy out on a date.

"I said, 'You got to come meet my parents, though, you know.' So he did. He came to my house," she remembers.

"It was late because he had worked [until] 10 p.m. So, my mother wasn't happy about that. I told her he had been working on the dredge and he had to come after work. So he came in and he had this big heavy green shall sweater he used to wear and it made him look muscular like this."

Norm said, "When she got home ... her mother told her, 'You shouldn't go out with him because he's probably married." But Judy reassured her mother that he wasn't married.

On the first date, they went across the bridge to Painsville to a restaurant where Judy's Uncle Billy happened to be providing the entertainment, singing smooth ballads throughout the evening.

After Norm finished his work in Fairport Harbor, he would drive about over 500 miles round trip every weekend just to spend Saturdays with Judy.

Judy said, "He would get there at 1 a.m. or 2 a.m. [on a Friday]. He'd stay Saturday. We'd go out, maybe hang around the house or whatever. He'd leave Sunday after church and he'd have to drive all the way back up there again."

"So we decided the get married," Norm said.

?"We met in April, got engaged in July, and we got married [the following] January [in 1963], and it lasted 55 and a half years. We were going to get married on May 25 because my grandmother got married on May 25. My mother and father got married on May 25. So we were going to get married on May 25. But because of the distance and the weather, we decided to get married right after Christmas. So that's how we got married in January [1963]."

Still, May 25 bears some importance to them, as that was the day I happened to interview them for this story.

Judy recalls, "We were going to the drive-in on route 20 to visit [his] sister and mother. [Norm] said 'My sister really likes you and she wants to kind of know if we're going to get married.' And I said to him, 'Oh.' And he waited for a few moments and he said, 'So when are we?' That was his proposal driving down route 20 in the car. And I looked at him and that's how he proposed."

Norm said that it worked out the way God wanted it.

"Another inch more we would have never met. It's just amazing," said Judy, referring to Norm's accident. "That's the way it looked. It was meant to be. I mean, who would have thought? Everything at the right time."

They paid $295.00 for the engagement ring at Sears.

"Can you imagine it being $295 for an ring?" Judy said.

"She paid for the whole wedding," Norm said. "She paid off my car bill, [a 58 Ford fairlane 500]. I didn't have any money."

"He didn't have any money," Judy affirmed. "I saved everything I got. I think I even paid for the marriage license."

After Judy became pregnant with their first child, they settled in an apartment in Buffalo where they would remain for 8 years.

By then, they had a few kids. Then their landlord raised their rent from $70 to $75.

"I only had $40 allowance [per week] for food for us so we decided [we had to] move. We decided we wouldn't buy a thing for a year. We wouldn't buy any clothes, we wouldn't go out to eat. Nothing for a year, and we'd save every penny and that's what we did. We managed to save $1,000 and that was everything and we started looking for a house [in Cheektowaga, New York]. We've been in the same house since 1972."

55 years of marriage

"We get along real good," Norm said. "Money wise we're not rich, but we're not poor. We're rich in spirit."

In the 1950s, a nun at Judy's primary school had given her an image of the Divine Mercy. She kept it all those years.

About 8 years ago, her son started talking about visiting Stockbridge, Massachusetts, to see the Norman Rockwell Museum. Hearing about Stockbridge, Judy made the connection between her old prayer card and the Shrine. In prayer, she felt a strong urge to visit.

About once a month for the past several years, Judy and Norm have been driving about 10 hours round trip to the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.

"When you stop and think, 'Oh yea that had to happen for that reason and that had to happen for that reason.' But at the time you're not thinking about it. I would live here [in Stockbridge]. I could just stay here all the time," she said. "It's like another world when you start coming up that hill. You go home and it's like, 'I don't want to go home.' I get very quiet on the way home."

"When we leave here she cries," Norm said. "She's crying right now."

"I can't help it," Judy said, wiping a tear from her eye. "It's just ... [God] is good. So, that's our story."

You might also like...

What's the connection between the pro-life cause and our obligation to environmental stewardship? In the latest in our series on Catholic social teaching, we rediscover doctrine that's only natural.

On Saturday, Aug. 3, the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy hosted the annual Encuentro Latino festival. Find out how this annual festival testifies to the power of Divine Mercy and the intercession of Our Lady.

On the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, we need to be open to love of God and neighbor - that is, to mercy.