Honoring marriage vows

Visiting with some the longest-married couples of Judith Basin
Thursday, February 13, 2020
Honoring marriage vows

Lyle and Dorothy “Dude” Mikeson celebrated their 65th anniversary in December. They met at a dance in Utica and were wed on Dec. 4, 1954. Photo courtesy of Hannah (Mikeson) Marquardt

Honoring marriage vows

Bill and Viola Annala of Geyser celebrated their 65th anniversary just a few weeks ago. They were married on January 22, 1955. Photo courtesy of Misty Annala

Honoring marriage vows

Ken and Mae Rosman have been married 63 years. Long marriages run in the Rosman family. Kenny’s uncle Al Rosman was married to Pearl for 73 years. Photo courtesy of Mae Rosman

Honoring marriage vows

Jack and Darlene Schmitt were wed on Nov. 22, 1953. They were married on a Sunday at the Mikeson Ranch north of Merino. Photo taken from the Dec. 3, 1953 Judith Basin Press

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Tom and Carol Swanz of Utica met in high school through sports. They were wed on June 25, 1959 and have been together for 60 years. Photo courtesy of Suze Aune

Honoring marriage vows

You could have floated a boat with the tears of Harlowton girls when Andy Andersen chose Alverta to be his wife, Andy said. The happy couple has been married 60 years. Photo courtesy of Andy Andersen

What is the secret to staying married for decades? Well, if you were to ask couples in Judith Basin who have been married for over 60 years, you might find that there is no exact recipe, other than sticking by one another through thick and thin. You might also find these individuals truly honor the wedding vows they made in the 1950s. One undeniable key to a long marriage is a long life in general. Another is mutual respect.

In honor of Valentine’s Day, the Judith Basin Press reached out to community members to learn from the wisdom of those married 60-plus years.

Jack and Darlene Schmitt of Stanford (66 years)

Jack and Darlene Schmitt were wed on Nov. 22, 1953. They were high school sweethearts. They were married on a Sunday at the Mikeson Ranch north of Merino. “Mrs. John Marlow, Jr., was her sister’s matron of honor,” as written in the Dec. 3, 1953 Judith Basin Press. Jack’s brother Harold was his best man.

Darlene, whose maiden name is Mikeson, attended the Merino country schoolhouse until she was a freshman, then she attended school in Stanford. Darlene and Jack met at a Sadie Hawkins dance at the Stanford High School, and they have been together ever since.

When visiting with Jack and Darlene, they didn’t have an exact secret trick to share for making their marriage work for so many decades, but Jack did discuss the importance of treating each other well and how he was raised.

“I think it matters how the men were raised growing up as for how they treat women,” said Jack. “Our mother had us do dishes and pick up our own plates. Boy that helps a woman!”

Jack Schmitt was about seven or eight years old when World War II started. Two of his brothers were drafted. One of his brothers was taken as a prisoner of war.

“I remember my mother crying so many times for my brothers. It had an effect on me. I have always tried to treat women well,” said Jack. “Plus I have a wonderful wife.”

The couple has four sons. They also have six grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

Lyle and Dude Mikeson of Stanford (65 years)

Lyle and Dorothy "Dude" Mikeson celebrated their 65th anniversary in December. They were wed on Dec. 4, 1954. They had their oldest son one year after their anniversary.

Dude and Lyle have spent most of their lives together. They have lived on their ranch their entire married life. Lyle was even born there.

How do they manage to make their marriage work so long?

"I haven't got a clue," said Dude. "It just happens. You don't leave for every reason; you tough it out and hang in there."

The couple met at a dance at the Utica Community Hall. They went to different schools but graduated the same year. Dude, whose maiden name is DeMars, went to school in Denton and lived in Coffee Creek. They’ve been together ever since that fateful dance.

The couple has three children, two sons and one daughter. They also have six grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

“You never think you are going to get old. We didn’t. We thought we would stay newlyweds,” said Dude.

Bill and Viola Annala of Geyser (65 years)

Bill and Viola Annala of Geyser celebrated their 65th anniversary just a few weeks ago. They were married on January 22, 1955.

Viola can’t imagine her life without Bill. They were young when they met in high school in Geyser.

“Those days you didn’t get to travel too much. Not many people had vehicles,” said Viola.

When asked how they keep their partnership functioning for so many years, Viola notes the importance of maintaining some independence.

“You do your own thing when things get to be tough,” said Viola.

The couple had four sons. They also have nine grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

“Our life together has been good,” said Bill.

Ken and Mae Rosman of Utica (63 years)

Ken and Mae have been married 63 years. Long marriages run in the Rosman family. Kenny’s uncle Al Rosman was married to Pearl for 73 years, 1925 – 1998.

Both Al and Pearl are now departed, but Al lived to be 101, and Pearl lived into her 90s, Mae said.

Ken and Mae were wed July 24, 1957.

“It was hot summer day,” said Mae.

They had met at a dance in October of 1956. Mae liked Ken’s calm disposition and that he wasn’t showy or full of machismo. Mae had been a teacher in Hobson. She grew up close to Plentywood. Ken was born in Moore, where the hospital was at the time.

“We met at Windham at a dance. In those days, they had a dance every Saturday. One weekend it would be in Windham and the next weekend it would be in Utica,” said Mae. “We danced a lot in those days.”

Ken has lived near Utica all his life, except when he was in the Air Force from 1952 – 1956.

How do they keep their marriage working? To Mae, it is important for people to have realistic expectations and work through tough times

“You take the good with the bad,” said Mae. “You have to expect some problems or it isn’t life. You stick it out.”

As marriage vows state; for richer or poorer, in sickness and health.

To help make ends meet while raising their kids, the couple drove the school bus. The ranch they raised their kids on had first belonged to Ken’s father Antone, who went by Tony.

Ken and Mae have three children, one boy and two girls, and three grandchildren. Their son lives nearby, and one daughter lives in Minnesota, and the other daughter lives in Illinois.

“Time goes by real fast. You think it’s been ten years, and it’s probably been 20. Your kids keep you going,” said Mae.

Tom and Carol Swanz of Utica (60 years)

Tom and Carol Swanz of Utica met in high school through sports.

“She was going to school in Buffalo, and I was going to school in Hobson,” said Tom.

Carol said, “I was a cheerleader in Buffalo. He played basketball in Hobson.”

They were wed on June 25, 1959.

Tom laughed heartily when asked, ‘How do you keep your marriage working for that many years?’

“I don’t know. It didn’t seem to be a problem. We evidentially got along really well and didn’t have too many difficulties,” said Tom.

In addition to working at the family’s home on the ranch, Carol was a schoolteacher. She taught the first four grades in Buffalo as well as art in Hobson.

“We worked on farms and ranches all of our married life. It has been rather quiet compared to some marriages,” said Tom.

When asked what advice he would give his younger self, he said it wasn’t something he thought much of when starting out.

“We took the vows until death do us part,” said Tom.

Not everybody has held true to his or her vows in the next generations.

“A lot of people don’t stay together anymore,” said Carol.

“Our generation was more committed to making a life together,” said Tom.

Fortunately, this happy couple did stay together and have been given the gift of growing old together.

The Swanz’s have three children, two girls and a boy, as well as six grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

Don and Alverta Andersen of Stanford (60 years)

Anyone who knows Don “Andy” and Alverta Andersen, also knows they are a near perfect match. The two were wed over 60 years ago on Nov. 28, 1959.

“We met in high school,” said Alverta. “We both lived in Harlowton. We went to the same school all of our years until we graduated. To be truthful, I never started dating him until between my junior and senior year. We both went out with lots of other people and had lots of different friends. … He probably decided I was the one for him before I did.”

“You could have floated a boat with the tears from the other girls in town when I chose her,” Andy added, with a wink.

Alverta talked about dances at that time, when the girls waited for the boys to ask them to dance.

“I didn’t miss too many dances. I got asked to dance quite a bit,” said Alverta.

Decades later, this couple has not lost energy. Andy barbers in Stanford and Denton. They even bought the building that houses the Judith Basin Press last year and started Alverta May’s Laundromat. They work together throughout.

“Your vows say it all. You stay together until the end,” said Alverta. “It seems to me our world was different then. We took our marriage vows seriously and truly.”

The couple has three children, two sons and a daughter, as well as eight grandkids and one great-grandchild.

“My mom and dad were married for 65 years, and I’ve truly followed in their steps,” said Alverta.

“She is probably the luckiest girl in the world,” said Andy.

Editor’s Note: To the six couples interviewed, thank you for sharing your time and wisdom.

To anyone we missed, please let us know so we may add a note to the next paper.

The following are a few additional names provided while researching couples married for several decades - Don and Marilyn Derks of Hobson, Clayton and Joyce Busch of the Stanford area, Gerald and Sue Evans of the Geyser area, and Marvin and Joan Antila of the Geyser area.

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