By Ryan Gueningsman
DELANO, MN Gus and Dolores “Do” Ohlendorf look back at their 70 years of marriage and wonder where the time has gone.
“It’s just impossible,” Gus said. “It can’t be that many years.”
Flashback to 1944 70 years ago when the couple was married in a small church ceremony in Collinsville, IL.
Gus was 19 years old at the time he and Do were preparing to marry, and he was told that he had to be 21 years old to marry, or else have Do’s father’s permission
“I’m old enough to be shot and to shoot someone, but not old enough to get married,” Gus said.
“That shows you how dangerous marriage is,” he added with a smile.
Do’s father gave his permission, and following supper, the couple went to St. Louis to spend a night.
Gus, still with a slight southern accent to his voice, was in the US Air Force, working in communications. He spent close to two years in Italy, and the couple was married before he went overseas.
Do will turn 90 July 5; Gus Nov. 20.
“For three months every year, I’m married to an older woman,” Gus joked.
Their son, Doug Ohlendorf, is 64 years old and lives with his wife Cathy just outside Delano. Gus and Do’s grandson, Keith (Doug’s son), was killed at the age of 26 in a traffic accident 10 years ago, Gus said.
Gus and Do moved north to Minnesota about three years ago, to be closer to Doug.
A story of high school sweethearts
“We went to school together,” Do said.
“She lived on a hill, and I lived down in the city,” Gus continued.
They are true high school sweethearts who never strayed too far from each other.
“I had taken out another girl or two, but nothing serious,” Gus said.
The name of another suitor of Do’s came up in conversation, and Gus was quick to point out to her, “but you didn’t go steady with him.”
Following his discharge in 1946, Gus went to work at Union Electric in East St. Louis. He began as a meter reader, progressing through the ranks.
“It was a good company to work for,” he said.
He credits part of the success of their marriage to Do being able to stay home, raise Doug, and be a housewife.
Do said Doug was his high school valedictorian and “is really a smart young man.” Gus served served on the school board as a member and as chair, Doug said.
“They were active in PTA and the band parents organization,” Doug said. “Gus also served as a deacon in church.”
Do was an only child; Gus had two brothers and two sisters, all who have passed away.
They have nieces and nephews in Illinois, Indiana, and Florida, and said they enjoyed getting together with them.
Following Gus’s retirement, the couple enjoyed traveling, camping, and dancing, dancing, and more dancing.
“We have just had a wonderful married life,” Gus said.
Doug and Cathy, also high school sweethearts like Gus and Do, have lived in Minnesota 24 years. Prior to Minnesota, Doug and Cathy moved to Oregon, where he was a postdoctoral associate and she was an award-winning high school chemistry teacher.
They then moved to the East Coast where Doug worked first at Genex (a biotech start-up company) and then Dupont.
Since 1990, Doug and Cathy have both worked at the University of Minnesota.
Doug is a professor and Cathy is an assistant research professor. They work with each other in the biochemistry, molecular biology and biophysics department on determining the three-dimensional structures of proteins and how structure produce function.
Gus and Do said they were losing family members back in Illinois, and weren’t able to live on their own.
They originally settled in at the Legacy of Delano before health issues forced Do to relocate to the Golden Living Center in Delano.
“We rather enjoy it,” Gus said of his new home. “You have the medical care and a lot of other things you wouldn’t normally have.”
A day at a time
Gus said there was no “this is your job” and “this is my job” when it comes to their marriage.
“We usually worked as a pair in everything we’ve done,” Gus said.
When asked the most romantic thing Gus had ever done for her, Do had a hard time coming up with one distinct answer.
“We took small vacations and celebrated anniversaries,” she said. Small parties took place on their 25th and 50th wedding anniversaries. However, Gus said it’s hard to come to terms at times with those milestones.
“You don’t think that much ahead,” Gus said. “Time goes fast.”
Health has been fairly good to both Gus and Do, though there have been some issues in recent years.
“The Lord’s been very good to us,” Gus said.
“You take it one day at a time, and the years accumulate,” Gus commented.
Do said they are just common, everyday people.
“As long as we were together, that seemed to satisfy us,” Gus said. “We didn’t have a lot of money, but we enjoyed ourselves tremendously. I wouldn’t do a thing different.”
Despite both Gus and Do stating there really haven’t been any secrets to their marriage, both shared nuggets of good advice through the course of conversation:
• Take it a day at a time.
• Help each other.
• Don’t hold secrets.
• Put the Lord into your marriage he’ll see you through it.
• Think of each other, and put the other person first.
“The story, ‘It’s A Wonderful Life,’ that really holds true to us,” Do said.
“She’s been a wonderful wife and has helped me with everything I’ve done,” Gus concluded.