Orville and Stella Nelson arent marriage counselors, nor are Lorraine and Ernest Iverson, or Irvine and Harry Anderson. Still, the couples in Strum, Wis., (pop. 1,057) have years of experienceand sound advicefor newlyweds.
The Nelsons, Iversons, and Andersons are three of the six couples who make up the Couples Club, a group that meets monthly at the Strum Nursing Home to share their thoughts about what it takes for a marriage to last.
Youve got to keep your sense of humor, says Stella Nelson, who has been married to Orville for 58 years. If you can laugh at things, they just dont seem that bad.
Stella still has her wedding dress, and a piece of their wedding cake remains in her freezer. The couples wedding bands, however, didnt last as long; they wore thin and had to be replaced after 50 years of marriage.
Lorraine Iverson, whose 57-year marriage to Ernest is the shortest in the club, agrees laughter is good medicine for a marriage. However, the laughter must be with one another, not at each other. Never put your mate down in front of others, Lorraine advises.
Ernest has his own idea about maintaining a long marriage. Go fishing together, he suggests, recalling how he and Lorraine fished every summer until he moved into the nursing home.
All of the husbands in the club live in the nursing home, as does Aggie Prudlick, who married her husband, Tom, 71 years ago. The other five wives visit their husbands every day, rain or shine.
Social worker Sue McNally formed the club in January 2000 to keep the nursing homes married residents connected with their spouses. When McNally realized the wealth of wisdom among the group, she thought it would be great to share the knowledge.
She helped the couples compile an 18-page bookletAdvice for Newlywedsof quotes and thoughts for maintaining a marriage. The booklet initially gained attention by word of mouth, then through an article in an Eau Claire, Wis., newspaper that was distributed nationwide by The Associated Press. Since then, the Couples Club has received requests for copies of the booklet from more than 30 states, McNally says.
With 366 years of marriage between them, members of the Couples Club know what it takes to honor a commitment and work through difficult times.
You have to remember, most people didnt believe in divorce back then, says Ione Radcliffe, who married her husband, John, in 1940. It just wasnt an option. We married and worked hard to keep the marriage good.
Some might say their relationship started under stormy skies; they met at a carnival where John asked Ione to ride a Ferris wheel with him in the pouring rain. But 60 years later, they are still married.
Several club members say the arrival of children marks a turning point for most marriages. You know much more about your spouse after you have children, says Irvine Anderson, who married Harry 60 years ago and raised two children. You work things out better when you know your spouse better.
Ione Radcliffe notes that spending time together gets easier as the children grow older. You can spend more time together when the kids have grown and gone, says Ione, the mother of five adult children. Then you have more free time.
Iones husband, John, knows just what to do with that free time: Kissing time, he says. Thats important. I kiss her every day.
All members of the Couples Club say they are delighted to still be married to their long-time spouse. John Radcliffe says he would not change a thing about his marriage. Shes the best thing that ever happened to me, he says. Shes the best thing in my life.
Copies of Advice for
Newlyweds can be obtained
by writing to Sue McNally,
the Strum Nursing Home, P.O. Box 217, Strum, WI 54770-0021. A $5 donation