In honor of Valentine’s Day, the News-Chronicle visited Waterview Shores Assisted Living Community in Two Harbors, to speak with two couples about how they met and what it takes to stay together.
The family that sings together, stays together
Gretchen Boggie met her husband of nearly 70 years at a picnic.
"He was just out of the Navy. He had his guitar with him, and I loved singing," Gretchen said.
They were originally from different parts of the Twin Cities: she grew up in St. Paul, while Ray was from Bloomington. A few years after Gretchen graduated from high school, she started working in a bakery with Ray's sister when she wasn't studying education at college. Ray served in the Navy as a quartermaster and signalman in the North Pacific.
Ray played his guitar while the group of picnickers gathered around a bonfire when he met Gretchen.
"He reached around and tapped me on the shoulder and said, 'I’m taking you home.' I thought, 'OK,'" Gretchen said. "We’ve been together ever since."
The couple married in 1950 and spent the first few years of their lives together next door to Ray's parents in Bloomington. They built a house from used brick salvaged from the old Twin Cities flour mills. By building their house, Ray learned his trade from a neighbor.
"He was a master electrician and said he could show me how to wire, but he couldn't help do the work due to union rules," Ray said.
"And he turned out to be a good apprentice, so he [the master electrician] got Ray a job in the shop," Gretchen said.
The couple had four children and stayed in the cities until the kids graduated from high school. In the late 70s, they moved up to the North Shore. Ray got a job first with Reserve Mining, then started working for Seagren's Hardware, where he spent 42 years.
Part of the key to staying together, Gretchen said, has been singing together.
"We'd get together for everyone's birthday, and we'd sing and sing and sing," she said. "And we'd do things together like camping."
Their advice to young couples?
"Try to work together," Ray said.
"And think of things from the other's perspective," Gretchen said. "I think that's why we didn't argue too much. We think alike."
Lean on each other through difficult times
Judy and Phil Holbeck met at Emmanuel Lutheran Church. Phil had recently lost his wife of 23 years when they started dating a little over 31 years ago.
"Judy saved my life," Phil said. "I'm still here because of her."
Both Judy and Phil had children from their previous marriages. In fact, that's partially how they got to know each other, as she started doing housework for him once a week to lessen the burden.
Although the couple was happy together, they went through difficult times. Two of Judy's three sons died in accidents, and one of Phil's children died a few years back.
"It's something that you learn to live with, but it's hard when those dates come up," Judy said. "That's when you need to rely on each other and the church."
Despite the tough times, the Holbecks have good memories together, too. When Phil worked for the campground in Two Harbors, the couple would get to know some of the families who returned to the shore every year.
"We had a good time with those folks. Someone would have a bonfire, and we’d all sit around and B.S.," Judy said.
When asked if they have any advice for young couples, Judy pointed to the importance of communication.
"You have to listen to each other," she said.