Christmas card 1

The first time the card was signed is on the right lower side with the year 1971. The most recent are on the upper right side — 2020 and 2021, which is when the card was sent to John Sirasky.

PUNTA GORDA, Fla. — For 50 Christmases, John and Kathy Sirasky and Mark and Marsha Leathers sent the same card back and forth, no matter where they lived.

When the Siraskys received their card from the Leathers in 1971, both couples were living in Ohio. John Sirasky said he and Kathy agreed it was a cute card.

“So we sent it back to the Leathers in 1972, and the tradition began.”

“Kathy and I were even years, and Mark and Marsha were odd years,” Sirasky said.

How it all began

Marsha Leathers was a teacher, as were the Siraskys. All three taught school in Akron. John Sirasky and Marsha Leathers were paired on the same teacher’s bowling league.

“Mark Leathers worked in the business community, but he would drop by and watch Marsha bowl. Afterwards we would go out to dinner, and that’s where our friendship grew,” Sirasky said.

But the friends’ tradition is now different.

“Kathy and I were married for 52 years; she passed away in February,” John Sirasky said. “Next year I’ll be signing the card just ‘John,’” he added.

That is when it will be Sirasky’s turn to send the card back to the Leathers.

Over the years, different signatures appeared on the Christmas card, which is now crowded with five decades of writing. After the couples’ children were born — both have two sons — the children’s names would be added.

The Siraskys had Andy in 1974 and Matt in 1976; the Leathers had Dan in 1974 and Jeff in 1975.

“As our sons got older and moved away, we went back to signing the card ‘John and Kathy’ and ‘Mark and Marsha,’” Sirasky said.

The card racked up mileage over the years, too.

“We started in Akron, Ohio, and they (Leathers) lived nearby.”

But later, the card traveled further.

“We moved to Springfield, Ohio from Akron and stayed there for 37 years,” Sirasky said.

From there, he and Kathy Sirasky moved to Danville, Kentucky, in 2012 to be closer to their grandchildren, he said.

The Leathers, meanwhile, moved to Iowa in 1974, Arizona in 1976, and then Oregon in 2020, where they still reside.

After his wife died, John Sirasky moved to Punta Gorda.

“I like to play golf, and my brother has lived in Sarasota for 10 years, while my sister has lived in Rotonda for 45 years,” he said.

For now, he plans to return to Ohio for long stretches in spring, summer and fall — but Sirasky said that could change.

What won’t change, he said, is to continue sending and receiving the Christmas card.

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