GROVELAND — For Bill and Phyllis Forsyth, their 70 years of marriage has been a journey of faith, love and understanding.
“We were always involved in our church and its needs to give back to the community,” Phyllis said. “You fall in love at first, but after living together for a while you maintain love with respect. You must also communicate because if you don’t, you really won’t know how the other is feeling.”
Bill Forsyth, 94, grew up in Marblehead while Phyllis (Southwick) Forsyth, 93, grew up in Swampscott. They met on a train to Boston in 1949 when she attending medical secretarial school in Boston and he was attending machinist and toolmaker classes. In January of 1953, after Bill did a stint in the U.S. Army serving in Germany, they married.
“No one drove a car if they worked or attended school in Boston,” Phyllis said. “It was always a full train.”
They lived in Lynn for about eight years while raising three children, then moved into to a home on Gardner Street in Groveland, where they had their fourth child.
“We needed a place where the kids could enjoy the outdoors as our yard in Lynn was too small,” Phyllis said.
They would spend 61 years in their Groveland home and now have 11 grandchildren and 22 great grandchildren.
The couple moved to Nichols Village last year and recently celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary with more than 20 family members.
During their lives, Phyllis worked as a medical secretary and also played violin with the North Shore Philharmonic Orchestra and later became a charter member of the Merrimack Valley Philharmonic, where she served as principal second violin for 43 years.
Bill was in manufacturing in one form or another, with 18 years with Honeywell in Lawrence as a principal manufacturing engineer and in the shoe industry as a toolmaker.
He retired early from Honeywell in 1983 and opened his own toolmaking shop in the basement of his Groveland home.
“I had a permit from the town that cost me $13 a year,” he said.
Phyllis retired around that time to manage their busy home business.
“It was a lot of fun for me and I woke up every morning with a big smile,” Bill said. “I worked until I was about 72 then I sold the business and started doing woodworking until I lost my eyesight.”
Their children, Gail Forsyth Vail of Georgetown, David Forsyth of Sandpoint, Idaho, Nancy Forsyth of Waban, Mass, and Martha (Forsyth) Pond of Manchester, New Hampshire, all attended college and have their own careers.
“We are still members of the Groveland Congregational Church but since neither one of us drive any more, so we have to get rides to church,” Phyllis said. “Bill is legally blind and I have vision problems too.”
Both have managed to stay healthy, attributing it to a balanced diet that includes ample amounts of fruits and vegetables and getting regular exercise by walking.
“We always had a vegetable garden, which grew in size over the years,” Phyllis said.
Bill recalls the time when the town implemented a leash law for dogs and his garden suffered as a result.
“There were no woodchucks but as soon as the law went into effect in the 1960s they became a big problem for our garden,” Bill said. “They’d take one bite out of each vegetable to find what they liked and would clean out a row of beans in one sitting.”
The transition from their own home to Nichols Village, a 62-and-over community, was not an easy one.
“It was hard at first as Bill had done so much woodworking it was hard to move,” said Phyllis, who recalled stopping by a dairy farm to pick up bottles of milk for their family. The farm eventually closed and the property became Nichols Village, she said.
‘We would leave the money for the milk in a cigar box,” Phyllis said.
Before moving to Nichols Village, Bill handed over many of his tools to his son in Idaho.
“He’s retired and is now teaching his grandchildren how to make things, so I’m without a shop — which is for my own good as it was starting to get dangerous for me working around power tools,” Bill said. “My shop was like a magnet to me.”
Some of the tools he passed on were from his great grandfather’s wood shop in Lynn, which he started in 1879 and made wooden blocks for cutting out leather shoe parts.
The family business continued to operate but after World War II the shoe business tanked, Bill said. “I worked in my father’s shop for four years and watched as my dad worked himself and smoked himself to death as business declined. So I went to work as a tool maker for United Shoe Machinery Corp in Beverly. I bounced around from machine shop to machine shop until I got a call from a friend who worked at Honeywell and said I need your brain.”
“Everyone here is friendly,” Bill said about Nichols Village. “We’re still in the process of settling in and are taking our time so we don’t get overwhelmed with the many activities they have to offer. But it’s working out for us, especially with help from our three daughters.”