To reach 75 years of wedded bliss is a rarity, but Don and Fern Persons are celebrating just that next week.
The couple married at a pastor’s home in Judson, Minn. Fern’s aunt and uncle, Ester and Edwin Evans, were the attendants. There are no pictures of the ceremony, which was on Feb. 23, 1935.
Fern had moved to Mankato, Minn., when she was 17, after her parents had died. She was staying at a house across from a filling station when she met her future husband.
Don saw Fern at the filling station and struck up a conversation with her, after which the filling station attendant warned her, “You don’t want anything to do with him. He’s a devil,” Fern joked.
“After that I just started going with him,” Fern said.
They dated for about nine months and then got married.
Fern was 17; Don was 22.
Don was in the Army during World War II and was slated to be sent overseas.
“I was standing in line to get on the boat when they pulled me out,” Don remembered. He said Army officials were picking soldiers out of line who looked “too old” or had three kids or more. At the time, the Persons had three kids, Nelson being the youngest.
“I saved him,” Nelson joked.
His time in the Army was the only stretch out of the 75 years of marriage the couple was away from each other for a considerable amount of time.
“We wrote all the time though,” Fern said.
The hardest part in their marriage was when Don moved the family from Minnesota to California in 1958.
“I didn’t want to go,” Fern said.
But the family grew to enjoy it, or at least the children did.
“It was like a new country to us. Dad would come home from work and go swimming in the ocean,” Nelson remembered.
Later the family moved from California to Oregon.
“He looked for houses to rent in Woodburn and Albany and found one in Lebanon,” Fern said.
The family moved to Lebanon in 1975.
They have been members of Our Saviors Lutheran Church since 1970.
Don worked for Carlson Linoleum until 1970, and worked in construction when he was younger. Fern worked as a secretary for Martin Aviation in Orange County, Calif., and later for a fabric store.
The couple has five children, Mark Persons of Waterloo, Ric Persons of Lebanon, Becky Nelson of Albany, Judy Persons of Southern California and Chet Persons of Steamboat Springs, Colo. The Persons have nine grandchildren, 11 great-grandchildren and 10 great-great grandchildren.
A celebration is planned for 2 p.m. on Feb. 21 at Our Saviors Lutheran Church in Lebanon.
“I can’t even find a 75th anniversary card!” Nelson joked.
So what’s the secret to making 75 years of marriage work?
“Never go to bed mad,” Don said. “We never did, never,” Fern added.
Don, 96, and Fern, 91, now live at The Oaks.
“We just thank God everyday we still have each other and we have the kids we have,” Fern said.