Couple still revving engines after 50 years

HURON After 50 years of marriage, Dave and Susie Koffel are still revving engines, literally.
Sandusky Register Staff
May 24, 2010

HURON

After 50 years of marriage, Dave and Susie Koffel are still revving engines, literally.

The Koffels, 72, of Huron have dedicated their lives to family, each other and auto racing. Now they are looking forward to taking a step back in time by retracing their original wedding night locations.

After nearly a year of planning, the Koffels have gone all-out for an explosive bash in the year they've nicknamed "Our 50th Anniversary Tour." The race-themed party will display the couple's collector cars and show off their bench row from Norwalk Raceway, which they've split into four pieces and made into bleachers. Of the 80 invitations sent out, more than 60 guests have RSVP'd, including Susie's 1957 bridal party.

The Koffels will spend tonight in room 112 at the Bellevue Hotel, once branded the Hunter Motel -- the same hotel and room where they stayed 50 years ago to the day.

"We've stayed a lot of places," Susie said, "A lot of glorious places, but we want to stay where we did then."

They'll host their party on Saturday and then swoop off on Sunday to Quaker City Dragway, which will be celebrating its 50th anniversary of opening the track.

Susie said they were at the track for the opening day.

Starting their 50th year together with a 10-day Florida trip in March, the Koffels drove Susie's 1939 Chevrolet Coupe for the occasion. The coupe, which has been repaired and put into fine-tuned condition, holds a special meaning to the life partners.

"He married me for it," Susie said with a laugh.

"She always said I married her for that coupe," Dave said, chuckling.

The couple's anniversary invitations are printed with two pictures: one from their wedding day weekend, and one taken recently. Both pictures show the two standing next to the coupe at the same farm location, wearing similar clothes.

"It's amazing how little things have changed," Dave said of the farm.

In May, they went to a cruise-in at Ocean City, Md., to see 3,000 street rods.

"We've been very busy with business, so we've taken a variety of short trips," Dave said.

They also attended Susie's 50th class reunion at Mount Union College and celebrated with two of her original wedding party members who won't be able to make the party.

Dave and Susie met in 1953 during their senior year of high school and went on a few dates, but drifted in their own directions once college came around.

Through friends of their parents, the two found each other once again and haven't parted for more than a few days since.

Their first dates included a sock hop and a trip to watch the drag races.

"I remember Dave's mother called my mother and told her it was quite all right for me to stay at their home since it would be such a long drive," Susie recalled.

From that day on, both of them were hooked on racing and each other.

They were traveling together on Christmas Eve in 1956 when Dave pulled over halfway to their destination and told Susie to pop open the glove box. There she found her ring and the seriousness of Dave's commitment.

"The rest of the evening was a blur," she said, "I was too busy looking at the glitter."

The couple married on August 17, 1957. They were the third generation to be married on that day, in the same church. The minister who married them was the same minister who married Susie's mother and grandmother, and also the same man who would later baptize her two sons.

Living in Michigan, Susie was a teacher and Dave worked at Chrysler. Both retired in the 1980s.

They opened their own race engine repairing/building race shop in 1980 -- and with the fear of being landlocked created another shop, Koffels Place II in Ohio.

Dave said since they had such a strong affiliation with Norwalk Raceway, it was a logical step.

Still contracted by Chrysler, they developed their own aluminum cylinder heads for racing which carry the Chrysler part number.

"I retired (from teaching) in 1989," Susie said, "And enjoyed a day and a half of retirement and promptly went to work in our business."

Susie Koffel said the only time they were apart was when Dave was off racing and she was home with their first son, who was a year old at the time.

Now with shops in both Ohio and Michigan, Dave commutes for days at a time but Susie barely notices his absences.

"He calls me all the time," she said, laughing.

Fifty years later, they're still going strong and racing hard.

"It doesn't happen by magic," Susie said of maintaining a marriage. "As long as you're best friends, there's all kinds of things you can learn about with each other."