Harvey and Irma Schluter are a couple married for 75 years – he is 104, and she is 92. They remember most of the turning points of the 20th century such as seeing an airplane in the air, the Great Depression, Neil Armstrong walking on the Moon, etc. Mrs. Schluter even mentioned the weather in her home town during Kennedy assassination.
Recently, they have witnessed the power of nature, and two major hurricanes that have impacted the USA are bearing their names. “I don’t know how they’ve done that, to have a Harvey and Irma,” Mrs. Schluter said Wednesday. “I don’t know how that worked out.” She doesn’t know how that is possible, but we do.
In 1979, the World Meteorological Organization alternated man’s and women’s names for tropical storms which are formed over the Atlantic Ocean. They created six master lists of names which are used in rotation, which means that those names in 2017 are going to reappear in 2023. Only those hurricanes that cause huge and catastrophic damage will have their names withdrawn from the list, and they will never be used again.
The name Harvey was first used in 1981 as a name for a storm, whereas after that, six other storms were named the same. The name which followed Harvey was Irene, but Irene had to be retired in 2011 when the Hurricane destroyed the Caribbean and many cities located on the East Coast. Considering the destruction rates of both Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, their names will never be used again.
Curiously enough, The Schluters have been together since the 1940s. Back in those days, Harvey was visiting his brother at a duplex in Spokane, Irma’s hometown, when he saw his future wife with her sister in the apartment below. Irma was still in high school. He fell in love immediately, whereas Irma, at that point Schumacher, was hesitant.
“I wasn’t quite through school yet,” she said. “I wanted to wait until I was done. But he talked me into getting married before that.” They got married in 1942 and started living in Fort Meade, Md., shortly after that they returned to Washington. Harvey worked as a barber, but Irma felt lonely alone in their home since both of them have grown up in big families. It seemed natural to start to take in groups of foster children many of whom were physically or mentally disabled. According to The Spokesman-Review of Spokane, over the decades, the couple has taken in 120 children.
Harvey had a barber’s shop in the Hillyard suburb where he worked for 45 years, but he said that his most rewarding life achievement was being a foster parent. Considering that they lived in eastern Washington, they have never seen hurricanes. But over the decades, major hurricanes struck the US, such as Hazel in the 1950s, Carla, Inez and Hilda in the 1960s, Agnes and David in the 1970s, Hugo and Gilbert in the 80s, Mitch and Andrew in the 1990s, Katrina and Felix in the 2000s.
Luckily for Irma and Harvey, they have never been affected by a serious weather event. However, she said that they had to stay inside for the last several days because of the wildfires in the Pacific Northwest. When they were born in the early 20th century, the radio was just invented, whereas TV was still science fiction. Now, they can watch the damage hurricanes with their names cause to the Caribbean and the US cities.
“Really sad,” Mrs. Schluter said of the news reports. “I have no idea what I’d do; I’ve never been in that kind of a situation. I’d try and help some people, I don’t know how. You just do whatever you think would be best to do. If you can help someone, then help them.”