A cardiologist alerted us to this love story.
How perfect, right?
We’ve been saving these two hearts for Valentine’s Day.
“As you know,” Dr. Mark Erhard wrote in an email to the Pioneer Press late last year, “it has been such a awful year of nasty politics, COVID losses and financial woes for so many. A smile or kind word and a chuckle remains so therapeutic.”
This is why the doctor told us about the Aders.
“This summer,” Erhard wrote, “a beautiful couple of my patients — Merlyn and Elaine Ader of Maplewood — celebrated their 75th wedding anniversary. At 95 and 94 years of age, their infectious laughter and sparkling smiles continue to light up every room. They both remain so vibrant (and even drive themselves to the clinic).”
With the permission of Merlyn & Elaine and their family, Erhard shared a photo of them with the 75th anniversary cake Erhard and his team presented to them at one of their checkups (the couple’s hearts are still ticking strongly, thanks to a pacemaker for him and stents for her).
Their doctor hoped we would share the story of the Aders with our readers.
“I think it would do so many good,” Erhard wrote, “to have some happy news.”
With these doctor’s orders, we checked in with the Aders to see if they would be willing to share more about their 75 years together. The sweethearts agreed.
Due to COVID-19, we spoke to them in a socially distanced way — by phone last month.
We began at the beginning — we wanted to know how they met.
“It was 1943,” Elaine said.
“I was 17, she was 16,” Merlyn said.
They were teens growing up in the shadow of World War II in Menomonie, Wis. Elaine lived in town and Merlyn was in the country. In fact, he was serving his country: “I was a farmer,” he said. As the only son, he was needed at the dairy farm to help tend the cows and the pigs, as well as other duties.
Even in wartime, though, there was still time for a bit of fun.
“We met at a dance hall,” Elaine says.
“The 400 Club, west of Menomonie,” says Merlyn.
They still recall the soundtrack of their courtship.
“Polka and waltzes,” Merlyn says.
The dance partners soon signed on for life.
“It must have been love,” says Elaine.
Merlyn and Elaine were married on June 20, 1945: Harry Truman was president. Nazi Germany had fallen, but the world was still at war. A stamp cost 3 cents. “Sentimental Journey” was a hit song. They had probably heard Doris Day sing it that week on the radio:
Gonna take a sentimental journey,
Gonna set my heart at ease.
Gonna make a sentimental journey,
To renew old memories.
Despite the war and the rationing that went with it, their wedding day was a time to celebrate with about 60 of their guests. Even the June weather cooperated.
“Well, it was a nice day,” Merlyn recalls.
“We were married in Menomonie at Peace Lutheran Church at 2 in the afternoon,” Elaine says. “We had a chicken dinner at the back of the church afterward.”
“We had a wedding dance that night at the armory,” Merlyn says. “In those days, everybody had a wedding dance.”
Happily ever after had begun.
For Elaine and Merlyn, that meant three children: Roger, Danny and Kathy. Later on, the family of five moved to the Twin Cities for more work opportunities — by then, Merlyn had transitioned from cows to cars.
“Farming didn’t look too good,” Merlyn says. “With the big milking parlors, little farmers were being pushed out. It was time to get out of it.”
They settled in Maplewood as a family at the start of 1961. Merlyn worked at Whitaker Buick; later, when the kids were older, Elaine worked in the kitchen of one of the schools in Independent School District 622.
They were a close family — going grocery shopping together on Friday nights, focusing on the kids and their sports and activities, going to their cabin.
“They were fishing buddies,” daughter Kathy recalls.
Through it all, Merlyn and Elaine kept dancing.
“Over our lives, we must have been to 20 or 25 ballrooms,” Merlyn says. “The Bel Rae ballroom, the Majestic Ballroom down on 61 …”
Their favorites for dancing: A waltz, “Beautiful Brown Eyes,” and a polka, “Beer Barrel Polka”:
Every time they hear that oom pa pa
Everybody feels so tra la la
They want to throw their cares away
They all go lah de ah de ay
In their retirement, besides dancing, the couple decided it was time for a new adventure: They traded in their cabin for an RV.
“For over 30 years, we traveled around the United States,” Merlyn says.
They also visited all the state parks in Minnesota.
And, of course, they enjoyed spending time with their eight grandkids and 12 great-grandkids.
Together, the family celebrated many of Merlyn and Elaine’s big wedding anniversaries — their 40th in Hawaii, the 50th at the home of one of their sons, a party at Gulden’s in Maplewood for their 70th — but their 75th was quiet.
Because of the pandemic, Elaine and Merlyn marked their anniversary at home, with their children.
“We had shrimp for supper, and there was cake,” says Elaine. “That was our big day.”
Later on, their cardiologist presented them with another cake.
“To get to your 75th anniversary is almost unheard of in this day and age,” said Erhard, “and in a COVID year! We had to close the office down and have a party.”
(A socially distanced cake ceremony with a few people in attendance, with everyone following protocols.)
As the staff congratulated the couple, the doctor noticed something about them.
“They were laughing and flirting with each other,” he said.
Merlyn and Elaine, it’s obvious, really do still like each other as well as love each other. They’re … fun!
“Laughter,” their doctor observed, “truly is the best medicine.”
There have been hard times, too, over 75 years. Plenty of them. Including the pandemic. But as a couple who grew up in the Great Depression and lived through World War II, for a couple who has endured sadness — including the sudden passing of their son, Roger, at the start of 2020 — they have perspective on this current crisis.
“We just take it one day at a time,” Elaine says.
As a team for three-quarters of a century, they also know something about relationships. Asked for their advice, Elaine answers for them:
“I guess we have to give,” she says, “and forgive.”
Affection is good, too.
Here’s the marriage advice Merlyn gave his goddaughter:
“Don’t stay mad too long,” he said, “and hold hands and kiss!”
They follow that advice, says their daughter.
“They still hold hands and kiss every morning and night,” she says.
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