By Jen Bakken
Once upon a time . . . 60 years ago, in fact, three couples were married.
It was June 1949, and as they said “I do,” little did they know that years later, they’d end up celebrating anniversaries with strangers from other parts of Minnesota.
Walter and Mary Grotz married June 21, 1949
For Walter and Mary Grotz, it all began when they met at a dance at the Waverly hall.
Mary was in high school and Walter was fresh out of the service, having served over two years with the Army Air Corps as an engineer on a B24.
While flying over Germany he was shot down and spent six months as a prisoner of war.
The couple dated occasionally, then, after graduation, Mary went to work at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester for two years.
Walter, a lifelong Delano resident, worked part time at the local post office and at a car dealer.
They were engaged in 1948, and Walter began building the home they still live in today.
The couple raised four children and as a family, enjoyed camping and traveling.
Walter and Mary’s love of traveling has continued throughout their lives, taking them to wonderful places including Japan, Okinawa, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Australia, New Zealand, Europe, and the Holy Land.
Walter retired after 16 years as the Delano postmaster, and Mary spent 19 years working for General Mills as a consumer respondent, answering letters and taking calls for Betty Crocker.
The couple is very involved with two ex-prisoners of war organizations, belong to the Minnesota Club of the Sun Cities, the American Legion, American Legion Auxiliary, the General Federated Women’s Club, Friends of the Delano Library, and the Delano Heritage Center.
Mary is also an active member of the Delano Catholic Community and Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Sun City West, AZ.
They now spend their winters in a suburb of Phoenix, and enjoy spending time with their six grandchildren.
Pete and Pat Theis married June 25, 1949
Though Pete and Pat Theis met while attending high school in Kimball, their courtship didn’t begin until Pete was out of the service.
He spent three years as a mechanic with the B29 bomb group stationed on Guam, while Pat was home helping her family and working part time.
Neither of them remember their first date, and they laugh about it. A year after exchanging vows, the couple moved to Delano.
While Pat was a stay-at-home mother to their three children, Pete operated the Delano Amoco station, which he owned for 40 years.
Over the years, Pete has been involved with the American Legion, the Legion firing squad, and served on the Delano Fire Department for 33 years.
Playing cards and bowling have been a hobby of theirs and although Pete jokes that what he enjoys doing most is “nothing,” hunting, fishing, and golf have all been favorite pastimes. Four grandchildren keep them busy and smiling.
John and Mary Olson married June 25, 1949
Like Walter and Mary Grotz, John and Mary Olson met on the dance floor.
John grew up in Montevideo, where he worked on his parents’ farm. Mary was raised in Wheaton, MN, and after becoming an LPN (licensed practical nurse), worked in a hospital.
One of Mary’s friends introduced them and before long, they were married.
Hoping to live closer to her parents in Rockford, the couple moved to Maple Plain.
While Mary performed office work, John worked in construction. They raised one daughter and have one granddaughter.
Over the years, John has been very active in the community through the Delano Athletic Club, Delano Sportsmen’s Club, and he is a charter member of the Knights of Columbus.
He has also been visiting the residents at Golden Living Center every Thursday for over 35 years.
They are both active at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church and with the Delano Helping Hands Food Shelf.
Currently, John is in the hospital with congestive heart failure, but with treatment and rehabilitation, Mary expects him home soon.
60 years of marriage
Walter and Mary Grotz met John and Mary Olson on St. Patrick’s Day when they moved to Delano in 1950.
Eventually, Pete and Pat Theis joined the group in 1955. Realizing they had more in common than the year they were married, the couples became friends and began celebrating anniversaries together.
Recently, Congresswomen Michele Bachmann honored Walter and Mary Grotz’s 60th anniversary when she submitted remarks to the Congressional Record.
“Madame Speaker, I rise today to congratulate and honor Walter and Mary Grotz,” stated Bachmann. “Their accomplishments as individuals and dedicated citizens would be enough to warrant recognition, but the love and devotion they have shown to one another sweetens their story as American heroes.”
The same can be said for all three couples as they set an example for married couples not only in the Delano community, but across the world.
Their secret to success
What is the secret to a successful, happy, and lasting marriage? If asking these three couples this question, the answers vary.
“Doing things together,” said Pete Theis. “That kept us together,” While Pat Theis feels having a lot of faith in God played the biggest part and the help of their children and family also helped bring them great joy.
“Yes, God’s will,” agreed Mary Olson. “We’ve faced many trials and tribulations, but we’ve been lucky. It takes a lot of hard work.”
All three couples agree that it seems young couples don’t always go into marriage with the right attitude.
“If it doesn’t work, they seem to just give up,” said Mary Grotz. “I wonder if they all really try.”
Walter Grotz agrees with his wife, but likes to add his own humorous tone to his advice.
“They treat it (marriage) like a pair of shoes,” he said. “They get tired of them and just get a new pair.”
Newlyweds may wonder in the beginning how to divide up responsibilities. Should they share equal in every single task? If you ask these couples, the answer is no.
“You find out who is better at it,” said Mary Grotz. “And then, you just do it.”
The wives in this case all take care of the bills and checkbooks.
“We just get an allowance,” laughed Walter Grotz.
Surprisingly, they won’t admit to having any big arguments or fights, but agree everyone has disagreements that you have to work through.
“Well, not us,” smiled Walter Grotz. “We still have to go through our first one yet.”