Posted: February 2, 2021

In honor of February, the month of love, we interviewed a few Aase Haugen couples on their stories of marriage and a bit of sage advice for newlyweds.

Ruth and Lester Praska

Ruth and Lester Praska Wedding Photo

Getting together
Lester and Ruth Praska met at her sister Rosie’s wedding while Lester was decorating the cars and Ruth was a bridesmaid. They were sitting in a car under the yard pole at the event, Lester recalls, “Although neither one of us smoked, when I was playing around with the lighter I accidentally “branded” Ruth with it. Although it never actually touched her skin, it left a circle and we joked about how she was going to be mine forever – and we’ve have been together since.”

The big day
The couple was married one year later at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Protivin. “We were married at 9:30 in the morning on September 12, 1964,” recalls Ruth. “Lester didn’t see me in my wedding dress until I walked down the church aisle. It was a beautiful day, full of family and friends. We served two meals, one at noon and one at 4 p.m. That sounds expensive, however, it was not catered but I had helped other ladies with their weddings, so we exchanged help!” The Praska’s had a dance at the Innwood in Spillville and when on a honeymoon to Wisconsin Dells, National Falls, Canada and toured around Minnesota, South Dakota before making their home back in Iowa. They enjoyed going to live polka dances and raising their family of five and today they have eleven grandchildren.

A little advice
“Every married couple has ups and downs,” say the Praska’s. “But if you love each other you will get through it and work it out.” Ruth says in the beginning they were able to manage getting on their feet and adds, “To make ends meet, couples need to try and work hard and have fun!”

“Everything is different for couples of today with problems going to schools, stress and COVID19-related unemployment,” say the Praska’s. “The best advice we can give is to love everybody, have a good relationship with no secrets, always talk things over, and don’t compete with your neighbors."

Shirley and Alfred Ludeking

Shirley and Alfred Ludeking Wedding Photo

Getting together
Alfred and Shirley Ludeking met on a blind date. Shirley was a music teacher in Traer and Alfred was a chiropractor in Reinbeck. Their wedding day was a beautiful November evening during the Thanksgiving week. Unlike a lot of weddings today, it was after work so they both took a few hours off of work before the evening's event. It was a small ceremony of family and friends.

Challenges and advice
Their relationship didn't change much over the years and the biggest struggle they faced was with Shirley's Parkinson's Disease. The couple agrees that one of the biggest challenges young people face these days is determination. Alfred says some of the worst advice he ever received was when he was told he couldn't do something. “His determination always came through when there was doubt,” Shirley adds. “If we could give any advice,” says Al, “We believe you should make your goals and keep up your determination to achieve them.”

Cliff and Elaine Schroeder

Cliff and Elaine Schroeder Wedding Photo

Life is full of surprises
“Elaine Anderson and I first met at a youth conference in Minneapolis,” says Cliff Schroeder. “It was like any other conference and neither one of us thought it would be as life changing as it was.” He described their dating as very casual and involving groups of friends that they had known for a long time. “My proposal of marriage was somewhat on the spur of the moment and took place in Dart's Park in Owatonna, Minnesota. Witnesses to the event were a bunch of ducks and geese who were permanent residents of the park. Since I was a poor college student, I substituted my high school class ring as a substitute engagement ring. It didn't fit her finger, so we wrapped tape around it to make it the right size,” says Cliff. He had gone to college a year before Elaine and part of her motivation to attend the same college was all the dating opportunities that were available on the campus. The United States was in the midst of WW II and most of the boys were in the military service. Cliff recalls, “Our wedding day, one year later, was September 11, 1944. We were married in Owatonna, MN on a Monday. It was a cloudy, overcast day and since we had the ceremony in the afternoon, it decided to rain.”

Marriage and College
During college Cliff was working full time at a company that made shells and machine gun barrels for the war effort and Elaine worked part time in the college library and for the dean of the college. “The cost of college and the requirements of marriage mean that you have to be a person of determination and motivation,” says Cliff.

According to the couple, compared to the demands of a country at war, the requirements of life are not all that different for young couples today. The important values are still empathy, putting yourself in your spouses' shoes, trust, motivation and determination. “In our view, the greatest of these is empathy,” says Cliff. “Often there is a struggle in a marriage relationship to see who is going to be the dominant person. We have found that our marriage has worked better when we mutually practice the values mentioned above.” The couple says they are reminded of a cartoon from years ago which said, "Life is like an ice cream cone. You have to know how to lick it.”

Ginny and Wayne Clement

Ginny and Wayne Clement Wedding Photo

Getting together
Ginny and Wayne met on a blind date and have been married for 46 years! “When we were at our reception Wayne’s groomsman thought it would be really hilarious to carry our 1973 Dodge Charger up the church steps of St. Joe’s in New Hampton,” says Ginny. “When we came out of the church there were people taking pictures and believe it or not, Wayne drove the car down the steps!”

Sticking together through crisis
The couple survived through the farming crisis and say COVID19 is the crisis of today. “It is easy to stay in touch, but you feel separated because you can’t physically be together,” says Ginny. “But keep the faith, you will get through it.”

When asked about the challenges for today’s couples, they say, “It’s hard for both spouses work and try to raise a family.” Their advice is, “Be true to your spouse. Sit down and talk out issues, don’t give up on the first argument, and don’t immediately run for a divorce.” Even with all the crisis this couple has faced, they say, “We learned to love each other more through the years.”

James and Lavonne Dougherty

James and Lavonne Dougherty Wedding Photo

Getting together
James and Lavonne met when her parents were moving away and he came to help finish baling hay before the move! The couple borrowed a car for the day and they were married during James’ last days in the service in Oakland, California.

Challenges and advice
The couple moved back to Iowa and bought a fixer-upper house to start out with. Money was short and the house needed updates, but they stuck together and made it happen. Even though James is a man of few words, they believe communication is important for couples. The best advice they got was to take time out and relax. Their advice to couples is to listen closely to each other.

Dale and Sara Putnam

Dale and Sara Putnam Wedding Photo

The big day
“Twenty-three years later, I still have many crystal-clear memories of our wedding day, most very happy, like watching my soon-to-be stepdaughters having such fun getting their hair styled,” says Sara. “But a few quite sad, like watching Dale's best man holding up a cell phone at the ceremony so that my mother, who was very ill and not able to attend, could listen to us exchange vows in her care facility.” But the first memory that always comes to Sara’s mind of that day is holding hands with Dale, looking him in the eyes, saying 'I do,' and knowing with absolute certainty that this was the man she would be with for the rest of their lives.

How things can change
Sara says, “When Dale and I married, we were both young(ish), healthy, able-bodied, and able to care for ourselves and one another. Over the years, there were times that I needed more caring for and times that Dale needed more caring for. Adjusting to that “imbalance” in our relationship was challenging each time but also brought us closer together.” The couple also says they learned to put things in perspective over to realize what was critical to hash out and work through, and what they should let go.

A bit of advice
“I’m sure today’s busy schedules and inescapable technology present challenges Dale and I didn’t face, but I think some of the biggest challenges today’s young couples face today are likely the same that couples have for years,” says Sara. Communicating well, making time to grow the relationship, establishing healthy boundaries, working through stressful situations, and making sure goals and values are in sync are a few tips the Putnam’s shared.

Spend time together. Talk. Share. Laugh. Hug. Recognize which issues are small and which are big, and learn to let go of the ones that really won't matter in a week or two. Don't take one another for granted because you never know what the next day will bring. Do little things for your partner without being asked. Say thank you—and mean it. Listen to and learn from one another because change is inevitable over time.