”Until death do us part,” these words are heard at weddings around the world, and for many, those same words conjure the image of a long-lasting marriage with the fairytale ending; an elderly couple holding hands for one last night’s sleep before both passing onto the next life with Christ. Now insert reality…as these fairytale endings are more a thing of fiction than fact…usually seen only in movies. That was until we were contacted by Doug Strong ‘78, a second generation Houghton graduate.
You see, Doug’s connection to Houghton began well before he was born; over 70 years ago, when his mother, Mary Tiffany ’40, began her freshman year at Houghton College in the fall of 1937. At that time, each new student was given an upper-class ‘big sister’ or ‘big brother’ to help orient them to new and sometimes overwhelming experience of college life. Mary‘s ‘big sister’ was junior Mary (Madwid ’38) Hurd. Mary Hurd helped Mary Tiffany find her way around campus, get through ‘Frosh Week,’ navigate dorm life in Gayeodaeo and the occasional tea party on the quad. Houghton was also where Mary Tiffany met the love of her life and husband to be, Clinton Strong ‘41. And in 1944, after each had graduated, they were married.
Over the next 60 plus years, Mary and Clinton led a fulfilling life together: Mary taught high school and worked as a librarian at the Buffalo Public Library while Clinton was studying hard in medical school and doing his residency. He set up his family physician practice in Holland, N.Y. and she volunteered with several organizations, including the Houghton Alumni Board. They welcomed the blessing of a baby boy, Douglas, in 1956, and Clinton became known as the quintessential country doctor, the “Doc” who delivered over two thousand babies and braved blizzards on house calls to help those in need.
They were known to be gracious hosts; holding leadership positions in both the community and in their church.
After Clinton retired from his practice in 1998, the two packed up and moved to a retirement community in Buckeystown, Md., and eleven years later, in 2009, as their care needs increased they relocated again to Cristwood Park retirement community in Shoreline, Washington. In both cases, their moves allowed them to be close to their son Doug and daughter-in-law Cynthia and their beloved grandsons Timothy and Nathanael.
When Clinton and Mary relocated to Washington, they were 90 and 91 years old. It was an emotionally difficult move for the both of them, Mary in particular as she was sad about leaving all of her lifelong connections on the east coast. But at the very first dinner at their new home in Cristwood Park, an elderly woman walked up to Mary, looked at her and asked, “Are you Mary Tiffany?” Surprised, Mary said, “Yes,” and then discovered that the woman was Mary (Madwid ’38) Hurd, her “big sister” from when she was at Houghton. “Seventy years ago, I was assigned to help you get accommodated to Houghton,” Hurd said. “Now I will do the same for you here.”
For the last few years of their lives, Mary Hurd (and other Houghton alums at Cristwood Park) did in fact provide a connection for Mary and Clinton, 3,000 miles away from where they all first met some 70 years before at Houghton College.
Mary (Tiffany) Strong went to be with the Lord at the blessed age of 95 on Sunday, December 29, 2013. One might say that this was a fairytale ending… but the story is not over. You see, exactly five weeks later, also on a Sunday, Clinton, Mary’s husband of almost 70 years, also went to be with God.
It is stories like this that illustrate the true understanding of what it means to be at Houghton College. Houghton instills in us a deep connection, a sense of community that will reverberate throughout the decades of our lives. Houghton is not just a place with trees, roads and buildings, Houghton is us. We… are all Houghton.
Mary (Tiffany '40) Strong
Clinton Strong '41