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story.lead_photo.caption Denny and Elizabeth Ritter wed on Sept. 16, 1967, in South Bend, Ind. She was reticent about marriage because she wanted a career and independence. “He accepted me and my career, and I went to school and he never said a word about me traveling and all the rest of it. He was always very supportive,” she says.

Technology brought Elizabeth Carter and Denny Ritter together long before the age of online dating.

Elizabeth had a job as a computer programmer for a bank in South Bend, Ind., in her early 20s. It was 1965 and technology was new, but her bank and another bank in a nearby town had bought an early-model computer together, and their staff shared time using it.

The first time I met my future spouse:

He says: “I was just finishing a shift at work. I thought she was smart and pretty enough for the both of us.”

She says: “I had started working there about a month before he did, and we just became friends.”

On our wedding day:

He says: “We flew to Nassau. We got married in a church in her neighborhood, and our honeymoon was in Nassau following that.”

She says: “We had champagne with his mom and dad at 10 in the morning, right after we were married.”

My advice for a lasting marriage:

She says: “Compromise.”

He says: “Agreed.”

Denny worked on that computer from 3 to 11 p.m., and Elizabeth used it from midnight to 8 a.m.

She came in early for her shift, and that's how they first crossed paths.

"I hated being late for anything," she says. "But after that he started staying later and I started coming earlier."

They became friends and started meeting at 11:30 p.m. so they could have coffee and talk before Elizabeth's shift began. Sometimes Denny would stay to help Elizabeth carry the heavy bags of canceled checks that had been run through a large machine to gather information for entry into the computer system downstairs.

Still, it lacked the element of romance.

"I think he liked my friend Nancy," Elizabeth says. "Denny had a '63 Corvette then. It had two seats and kind of a hatchback. We went somewhere in his car and Nancy sat in the front seat and I had to sit in the back. But we ended up together somehow."

It was when they both found themselves at a Christmas party hosted by some co-workers -- neither of them with a date -- that their relationship began. Years later, they consider this to have been their first date.

"The guys in the computer group lined up to get a Christmas kiss from the girls, and according to Elizabeth, I lined up twice," Denny says. Elizabeth offered him a ride home after the party.

"We went up into Michigan to a coffee shop and talked all night long," she says.

When she dropped Denny off, she noticed his brother and sister looking out the window, hoping, she surmises, to get a look at her before she drove away.

"They wanted to see what I looked like, I think," she laughs. "Denny didn't date much, and he must have mentioned me to them."

They went to a steakhouse for dinner on Valentine's Day in 1967, and when they finished eating he proposed, catching her off guard.

"I had told him I didn't want to get married because I just thought it would be too hard. I wanted to have a career," she says. "I can't remember if he convinced me or what, but I do remember being very scared. I wanted a career, and I wanted to be able to take care of myself. I didn't want to have to depend on anybody to take care of me."

They married on Sept. 16, 1967, at a church in Elizabeth's South Bend neighborhood. Elizabeth was 24 and Denny was 26. "It was just us and the preacher," says Elizabeth, who wore a yellow dress with a matching coat for the nuptials.

Elizabeth did maintain her career after marriage.

"He accepted me and my career, and I went to school, and he never said a word about me traveling and all the rest of it. He was always very supportive," she says.

They moved to Little Rock for computer programming jobs at Systematics in 1976, writing programs for banking, designing, coding, testing and the like before installing them and then providing phone support for banks in other cities. Both are retired now.

The Ritters raised one child -- DeAnna Johnson, who died a year and a half ago. The Ritters have three grandchildren.

They don't talk about technology much anymore.

"It's passed us by," Elizabeth says, although she's fairly certain she could catch up if she had the desire. She does, after all, use iPads and PCs and iPhones. "Everyone tells us that if we could do the mainframe the new computers would be easy for us, but we don't really try to keep up."

She's confident she made the right choice in marrying him.

"He's been a good husband," she says. "I've trained him well, and we're in good shape."

For his part, Denny is happy with their decision, as well. "I've decided to keep her," he quips.

With their programming backgrounds, it's no wonder they see numerical patterns in their daily lives.

"Our anniversary is the 16th of September, Denny's birthday is the 15th of October and my birthday is the 14th of November," says Elizabeth, "so it's 16, 15, 14."

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Photo by Special to the Democrat-Gazette
Denny Ritter and Elizabeth Carter met after the banks they each worked for pooled their resources to buy a computer and chose them as the employees to use it. Her shift followed his with only an hour between. “He started staying later, and I started coming in earlier,” she says.

High Profile on 10/08/2017

Print Headline: 1965 computer a matchmaker for 2 programmers

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