SMITHTON, Illinois — Life in Smithton moves at a tranquil pace, and it's the kind of place where everyone knows their neighbors. But more than anything else, Smithton is home to a heartwarming love story spanned over six decades.
Meet Kent and Joan Wisenstein, a couple whose love story began in high school and has stood the test of time.
"It all began when she needed a ride home," Wisenstein chuckles as he reminisces about their high school days. That chance encounter led to a love story for the ages, and they've been inseparable ever since.
But there's another love in Wisenstein's life, a romance that has endured even longer than his marriage to Joan. For the last 73 years, Wisenstein has been a baseball pitcher, taking the mound for at least 20 starts each summer. This story is even more remarkable because Kent is now 85 years old.
"He's a phenom, that's for sure," says one of the spectators at a recent game. Others chime in, expressing their disbelief at Kent's age-defying abilities. "It's really unbelievable," says another, echoing the sentiments of many.
At the Bridgeton Municipal Complex, Wisenstein was mowing down the batters like a seasoned pro.
He's a ground ball pitcher, and that night, he was racking up ground ball outs like there was no tomorrow.
When asked if he could go the distance and pitch a complete 9-inning game, Wisenstein exclaimed, "Oh yeah, it's real, no wind."
He attributes his ability to go deep into games to his precision on the mound, saying, "You can go deeper into games if you are throwing strikes."
His competitive spirit is evident in his reactions after allowing a hit.
"Gosh dang it," he mutters to himself, but he quickly regains his focus and continues to dominate on the mound. "He's the president of the league, gotta help him out," Wisenstein chuckles after giving up a base hit.
Even more heartwarming is that at every game, you'll find Joan Wisenstein in the stands, either keeping score or crocheting. Kent frequently visits her between innings, and their bond is as strong as ever.
"In Joan, your white hair," Wisenstein, said, "I think it's genetic."
It's clear that their love and humor have only grown stronger over the years. Kent Wisenstein, the venerable lefty, has accumulated over 1,500 starts in his remarkable 73-year baseball career. When asked about his future in the game, he smiled, "I hope to pitch when I'm 90."
As for Joan, some playfully suggest that she's attracted to her husband because he's a ballplayer.
Wisenstein laughed, "Yeah, I think so. That's the only reason - that and I'm left-handed."
Wisenstein has not only left an indelible mark on the baseball diamond but also in the hearts of all those who have witnessed his incredible journey. As he continues to defy the odds, Kent and Joan Wisenstein remind us all that love knows no age, and passion has no limits.
Theirs is a love story that Smithton, Illinois, and the world will cherish forever.