Why do some couples readily divorce and others stay together? Ask a dozen therapists or relationship coaches and you’ll probably get twelve different answers. We decided to bypass the professionals and get to the heart of the question by visiting St. Williams Care Center in Milbank to get our answer.
Four married couples live there. The grooms and their brides are: Ralph and Lois Stinson, Dale and Eunice Seffrood, Albert and Lucille Folk, and Bill and Linda Schank. Amongst them, they have over 250 years of marriage experience. Surely they would have the answer to our mysterious question.
Although Dale and Eunice Seffrood married later in life, they have been united for over 50 years. They cite faith and church as key to their happiness. Dale was a Lutheran pastor for nearly 30 years. He also served in the United States Army and spent time farming.
Eunice worked as a nurse in a hospital and at the University of Wisconsin, where she was responsible for the care of military men. Once the couple began raising their three children, Eunice became a stay- at-home mom. She says, “Our kids were so close together in age. I was lucky to stay home with them.” They now also enjoy six grandchildren.
Eunice and Dale agree having a partner who is the most important person in your life is paramount. “Having that one person always there for you to fall back on is so helpful,” Eunice says.
Ralph and Lois Stinson have been married for 66 years. The couple’s four children, four grandchildren, and great-grandchildren are the light of their lives, but they say what is most important to them is still each other. “We are glad we can live here together,” Lois says. “Being together is very important to us.” Lois seems unbothered by the changes aging has brought to her marriage and seems to always look on the bright side of things. She says, ” I think we have the best room in the whole place. We have a beautiful view.”
Ralph and Lois dated during high school and married while Ralph was serving in the United States Army. He worked for 30 years in the insurance industry at Milbank Mutual. Ralph was also civic-minded. He was a member of the Milbank City Council and held the position of Mayor of Milbank for several years. Lois was a teacher at a country school and later stayed at home to raise their children.
Albert and Lucille Folk have clocked 68 years together. When asked about the secret to their success, Lucille said, “Farming was our life.” Apparently, humor was also an important aspect of their relationship. Albert counted their offspring and announced they had seven children and 22 grandchildren. “I think.”
Albert also enlisted in the United States Army. Beginning at age 18, he served for two years during WWII. The men in his unit were first responders to bombings. “That was a scary time,” Albert says.
The Folks lived on a farm near Milbank most of their life, and raised their children on the farm. Lucille was a stay-at-home mom for their children. “We had eight children, but lost one as an infant,” she says.
Albert enjoyed fishing and hunting, but says some of the best times he remembers were trips he and Lucille took together. “We loved our driving trips to the Black Hills, California, and Texas. Lucille quickly clarifies, “We drove because I don’t think I would have liked an airplane.” (Is compromise another secret to their success?)
Bill and Linda Schank just celebrated their 64th anniversary. The duo has eight children, 15 grandchildren, and seven great-grandchildren. Their oldest daughter, Pam, said her parents met at a dance at Sioux Historic.
“My mom loved kids,” Pam says. “She loved to visit with people who didn’t have anyone else, she loved to travel, and she always loved fashion and dressing up.”
Linda was employed as a secretary before she married, and later became a CNA at St. Williams Home. She also styled the residents’ hair and worked in the laundry department. So, St. Williams Care Center already felt like home before the Schanks moved in.
Bill was employed as an accountant for the Ford dealership and garage for 35 years. He also owned and operated two laundromats in Milbank. After he retired from Ford, he ran a water softener salt business for 25 years.
“He was a hard worker,” Pam said. “He could fix anything. He did all the physical work, which kept his body in shape.” His exercise must have paid off because until the last few years, when Bill was over 90, he usually rode around town doing his errands on his bicycle – even in the winter months.
Pam recalls while she was growing up, her dad would often break out in song. “Something would trigger his memory and he would start singing some old song. He also was quite the dancer!”
Though none of these wise twosomes offered us the magic formula for making a marriage last, they reminded us of a quote by Stephen Gaines. “Being in a long marriage is a little bit like that nice cup of coffee every morning. I might have it every day, but I still enjoy it.” And might we add: two sugars are better than one.
Pictured: Ralph and Lois Stinson, Dale and Eunice Seffrood, Albert and Lucille Folk, and Bill and Linda Schank.