A 19 year-old boy and a 19 year-old girl made an eternal promise to love one another for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health as long as they both shall live. This marriage was formed on June 11, 1977 at Albion Lutheran Church, rural Godahl, Minnesota 40 years ago to this day. Their honeymoon was in the Black Hills of South Dakota, the farthest either of them had been from home. They had no idea what life would bring, but they were full of optimism.
They started their life together living in a trailer house and holding down entry-level jobs. He worked at Kraft. She worked at JC Penny’s. They were poor in life, but rich in love. Eventually he got a sales job at New Ulm Furniture and they built their home on Viking Avenue in his hometown of Hanska, Minnesota (population: less than 500).
The couple decided to purchase the furniture store in Hanska and then slowly acquired other neighboring buildings (the old hardware store & old funeral home) to expand their store.
They tried for years to have children, but struggled with infertility. Her sisters and brothers were having children, but still no luck for this couple. She was ready to be a mom and he was ready to be a dad. She went through expensive fertility treatments, waited very patiently, and prayed hard. In 1988 after 11 years of marriage, they finally had a baby boy. They loved their little boy so much! He put huge smiles on their faces and deepened the joy in their hearts.
Four and a half years and more expensive fertility treatments later, they welcomed a baby girl in 1993 to complete their family of four. Every night he would read to his children and encourage them to become intelligent, independent little people. She would bake cookies, sing them songs, and give extra morning snuggles. They worked incredibly hard to give their children a better life than they had.
Life was not without its ups and downs. In 1991, her mother died suddenly of a heart attack at the age of 58. Three weeks later, his father died suddenly of a heart attack as well. Instead of grieving two difficult losses separately, they healed together and comforted one another.
While the kids were still young, this family of four moved six miles out of town to a century-old farmhouse on six acres of land. Years of memories, renovations, and landscaping were completed to make this their dream home. In the backyard, he built a swing set and a large two tower fort with a climbing wall and two slides for the kids to play on. They taught their children how to ride a bike, play T-ball, mow the lawn, and love dogs unconditionally. Family vacations to Florida, Hawaii, Nevada, countless other states, and Scandinavia inspired a love of travel and sense of adventure in their children.
Eventually the kids learned to drive cars and leave home as often as they could, graduating high school & college, and finding their own lives to create. The couple is still living in their big white dream home with beautiful gardens and adorable dogs. They still own and operate their furniture store, over thirty years later. They probably kissed each other good morning, chatted over a few cups of coffee before attending church, and are sharing a tear as they read this.
These young 19 year old ‘kids’ were my lovely parents. They are the truest example of love, commitment, and faithfulness that I have ever encountered. They love deeply, laugh easily, and would do anything for a person in need. They taught me how to be kind and how to be a good friend. They have been the perfect role models for what it means to have a happy marriage and what it means to build a life with your best friend.
Please leave a note or a favorite Steve & Darlene memory in the comments below or simply stop in their store and wish them a HAPPY 40 YEARS of marriage! A celebration is planned for later this year (when these not-so-young kids turn 60)!!!