Written by: Anna Behning
April 7, 2022
This is a special post. Three months ago, my grandparents, Melvin (91) and Nancy (86) Lubbers of Mitchell, South Dakota, celebrated SEVENTY years of marriage. Do you know anyone who has been married that long?
Last week I got an Instagram DM asking if they could write a story on my grandparent’s marriage. So I called up Grandpa and Grandma and got to asking some questions. Through these questions, I discovered the secret to being married for seventy years.
Nancy & Melvin met while roller skating at the local rink in Mitchell, South Dakota. Was it love at first sight? We aren’t sure, but they definitely were “falling” for each other that night whether it had to do with the roller blades or not. Shortly after, Melvin proposed to Nancy at the ballpark in town where she blissfully said yes!
On January 6, 1952, Nancy (at the age of 16) and Melvin were married at First Lutheran Church in Mitchell, South Dakota. Nancy recalls having a light lunch with cake and ice cream after the service in the church reception hall.
Nancy’s dress was purchased from Jarold’s Shop in Mitchell for $35 and the veil for $15. She had red roses in her bouquet. After being asked why she kept her dress all these years, she replied, “it was something special and I liked it really well so I just preserved it.”
According to their youngest daughter, Melissa, Melvin always joked about getting their wedding rings from a gum-ball machine. However, Melvin divulged secretive information that they were actually purchased from Knodel Jewelry in Mitchell, SD.
Three weeks after their January 6th, 1952 wedding, Melvin was shipped off to basic training for 4 months. He got to come home after basic training for 10 days before being sent to Japan for more training. After training was over he spent 8 months fighting in the Korean War in North and South Korea. He was a Sergeant and a tank commander. Nancy recalls that “writing letters was our only form of communication as newlyweds, we couldn’t just call each other.”
After returning from war, Melvin and Nancy had five children. Grandpa was a salesman and enjoyed his hobby farm with lots of sheep while Grandma worked at the grocery store, in addition to raising five kids!
70 years of marriage didn’t come without its struggles, however. Nancy says that Melvin sometimes gets carried away with his teasing and “that gets me very agitated.” While Melvin adds, that Nancy “doesn’t speak up so I can’t hear her.”
Melvin and Nancy still reside in Mitchell, South Dakota and enjoy the company of their 5 children, 12 grandchildren, and 21 great grandchildren. So what is the secret to 70 years of marriage?
According to Nancy, “forget and forgive and make the best of your life situations.” Similarly, Melvin adds “you won’t always agree, sometimes you have a disagreement, but when you have one of those you sit down and talk about it and come up with an answer – don’t bring it back up.”
Last spring I was honored to photograph Grandma in her original wedding dress and Grandpa in his army uniform. I’ve added more photos from that shoot below. Grandma said that the shoot “was a lot of fun” and she was excited that the dress still fit! After asking Grandpa how it felt seeing her in the dress after 70 years he said “Oh BOY that brought back memories – they were good memories.”
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