June's Formula for 50+ Years of Marriage
- Published on Friday, 23 May 2008 06:00
- Written by Stanton O. Berg
(Note: Below is a copy of the letter sent to six (6) of June's and my grandchildren and their wedding partners on the eve of their wedding dates. In addition, similar letters were sent to a nephew and to three friends and their marriage partners. A total of ten (10) letters have been sent to the marriage partners of family members and friends. While June is gone, her love and wisdom live on in this and these letters! - The only changes made from the original letter have been to update the number of years since June and I were married in 1952. We were married for 56 years before Alzheimer's took June away on 23 October 2008. I still consider June my wife even though death has come between us...our relationship has not ended. I look at our life savings as June and my savings and try to spend it wisely on events that promote and honor June's life and memory and promote Alzheimer's awareness with a charitable connection to reflect God's love. Our checking account is still in June's and my name jointly.)
When Grandma June and I were married almost 60 years ago, I am sure that neither of us really imagined what a grand life we would have together. We were both only 24 years of age. (Close to your age.) I had just been discharged from the U. S. Army's Counter Intelligence Corps. where I had served for four years. We had our first date on a warm evening in the spring of 1951 at “The Spot” on Chetek Lake Narrows. I was home on leave from the Army at the time. Grandpa Tom made the introductions. I am sure that he had no idea what a gift he presented me with at that moment. Grandma June was a once in a lifetime find. I had been searching for a rose and Grandpa Tom gave me an Orchid. Perhaps it was a “Divine Appointment” and we did not know it at the time. It was just a Little over a year later that we were married on August 16th 1952. This was a few months after starting my first career job with State Farm Insurance Companies. Our marriage was at Bloomington, IL where I was finishing attendance at State Farm's Claim School. **
The Tennessee Waltz was a song popular at that time. It became our song. Now whenever I hear the Tennessee Waltz played, It tends to make me very emotional.
Our first marriage home was in Chisholm, then in Duluth and finally in Fridley.
Because of my Forensic activities we were able to travel all over the United States, Canada and many times to Europe.
Our favorite City became London where we established a friendship with an English couple and literally watched their two children grow up over the years and over a period of 8 visits to their home.
Grandma June loved to dance. We were able to waltz the night away in such exotic and far away places as Moscow and Leningrad. We had a lifetime of adventure.
For two former farm children who grew up in the great depression years, our life seemed to be an incredible adventure.
Grandma June and I would hope that your lifetime together is also one of adventure.
I would doubt that I could ever have visualized or imagined the impact that Grandma June would have on my life from that day in 1952. I would never have guessed that Grandma June would so capture my heart that no matter where I am at, she is the first thing on my mind every morning and the last thing every night. She is both the love and the light of my life.
Our house is no longer a home now that Grandma June is living at the Benedictine. A House is just a house without the heart in it. Although Grandma June is gone in body I find her spirit everywhere about the house. I find Grandma June's invisible presence in every room I enter and in every closet and drawer I open through a hundred poignant little reminders.
I would hope that whatever faults you each have, the other should by this time be aware of them and be ready to overlook them.
For me it was easy. I honestly cannot recall any faults that Grandma June may have had but unfortunately I had and have a number of faults. Grandma June chose to overlook my faults and loved me all the same. I have heard that there are angels among us. At one time I suspected that Grandma June was an Angel but I am sure that angels would not be struck down by Alzheimer's.
Every couple will at some time have some disagreements, or arguments. If you were to ask Grandma June if we had such arguments or disagreements she would always tell you, "No, we did not." I have heard her answer that question many times over the years and she has always said "No" to whoever posed the question. She has said to me many times – “We really get along good don't we Stan?” While there have been very few such incidents over the years, unfortunately there have been some. I know that they have always been my fault. While I know that truly in Grandma's mind there were none, I am sure that like God, Grandma just forgave me and thereafter blotted them from her mind and wiped my slate clean.
Speaking from my own experience, most such situations result from little things that have no real importance or meaning but are the result or foolish pride and stubbornness. I would define “Foolish Pride” as that inner voice that tells us how wonderful we are and that no one should dare to mess up that image.”
I recall one time many years ago when I was upset over something that was of such little real importance that a short time later I could not even remember what it was. But I did remember that my childish attitude was very hurtful to Grandma. I remember her sitting down by me, placing her hand on my arm and looking into my face with such sad eyes. It is just one of the snapshots of my life that makes up my personal memory bank. It is said that the Holy Spirit resides in our bodies. Perhaps our conscience is the Holy Spirit at work and that such snapshots of memory come back to remind us to never do it again. I have many times wished that I could go back and relive that day and others in my history, do it over and do it right. Unfortunately of course as we all know, such things are just not possible.
Our life's memory bank is not a movie or a video. Our life's memories are all made up of a collection of thousands of snapshots made throughout our lifetime. Some of them are happy ones, some are sad ones, some are ones we are proud of and some are ones we are ashamed of. Many of them we treasure and enjoy reliving. I am sure that Grandma June would join with me in wishing that all of your marriage memory snapshots will be happy ones that you will always treasure.
I am sure that you both know by this time whether you really are in love. I hope that you will each tell the other that you love him or her on a frequent basis. This is something Grandma June and I did many times over the years. Now I do it many times daily but I really do not know if Grandma June any longer understands me. Perhaps God places such messages forever on and in her heart.
Grandma June and I had silly happy little things we would say to each other. Most of the sayings Grandma June taught me. One that she always said to me and to our children was:
“I love you little and I love you big, I love you like a little pig.”
We also had another silly little saying that went –
“I love you a bushel and a peck and a hug around the neck and I love you all to heck.”
In the later years I would try to assure Grandma that I would love her forever by telling her –
"I will love you until China Meets Africa.
I will love you until the Salmon sing in the Streets.
I will love you until the Oceans are folded and hung up to dry.
I will love you until the Seven Stars go Squawking like Geese about the sky.
I will love you until the sands of time have ceased their endless trickle"
(W. H. Auden - 1937 - Revised by Stan Berg)
Grandma would laugh and ask me to write it down which of course I would do. Later as Grandma June slipped more deeply into Alzheimer's, it always seemed new to her each time I repeated it. Now Grandma June is so deep in the shadows of Alzheimer's that I no longer know if she understands me when I tell her I love her or how much I love her.
In addition, I would also hope that you will frequently tell each other just how important the other one is in your life. I always wonder how often it was that I really told Grandma how important she was and is to me. Of course I tell her often now but I regret that I really don't know if I told her often enough in our younger years. You two now have the opportunity to avoid that question or mistake.
I assume that you plan to have some children. I remember Pastor Glesne one of our Redeemer Lutheran Pastors saying in a sermon -
“The Greatest Gift a Father can give to his children is to love and respect their Mother.”
I remember thinking – Wow that is an easy one. Unfortunately to many it is apparently not that easy or that simple.
I am far from an expert on the Bible but there is wisdom for husbands and wives in the Book of Ephesians chapter 5. Much is said about the husband and wife relationships. A very heavy responsibility is placed on the husband. I would like to quote a passage from the King James Version.
"Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it."
This passage has been interpreted in various ways but it clearly says that the husband should stand by his wife even if it means his death would result from his thus protecting her. The Bible takes a very serious view of husband and wife love. I have always hoped that I could respond without hesitation in a like manner if called upon to do so. That is not the kind of love that is here today and gone tomorrow.
Grandma June kept a quotation from the bible on the living room coffee table. The quotation is from 1 Corinthians 13:7. (KJV) It defines love.
“Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.”
This quotation also describes Grandma June's love.
I am sure that you are aware that overall our family has not had a good track record of marriages. I hope that you two will improve that record and in doing so, have a wonderful lifetime of mutual peace, love and adventure.
I know that Grandma June in her heart would join with me in wishing both of you the very best as you embark on this great mutual journey of love that can and hopefully will span a lifetime.
** Although neither one of us was aware of it at the time, a double coronation took place the moment we were married. Grandma June became the Queen of my heart and I became the King of her heart!
Photo Notes: - Top photo: This is June and Stan's wedding picture of August 1952. This was in the days before Alzheimer's became a part of our vocabulary. The second down - top photo was taken in December 2003. June was at that time late in the 6th year of her Alzheimer's and the disease was starting to close in on us. In addition to the short term memory loss, we started noting some long term memory loss as well as personality changes. Photo below - "June and Stan during the last two years of June's life." (2007-2008) June was deep in the shadows of Alzheimer's. She did not know me or anyone, did not talk and rarely opened her eyes or ever responded to voice. Our only means of communication was to hold hands. This little wooden cross was June's in the year's 2007-2008. The little wooden cross was hand made and was obtained for June by Chaplain Fran O'Connor. (Fran is the Chaplain at the Benedictine "Holy Spirit" Chapel.) June held the cross tightly through out the day as she would all or any objects placed in her hand, giving it up only when put to bed for the night. It was a replacement for the gold necklace and cross (stolen) that June had worn for most of her life. June was always proud of being a Christian. Although God certainly knew who she was, she no longer remembered God. I know that she would have been proud to know that she was holding God's cross. The little wooden cross remains with June at Lakewood. The stolen necklace and gold cross has been replaced with another that was also a favorite and that too remains with June. The emerald ring on her finger in the photo is also with June as is a Seiko ladies watch that I bought for June for her birthday in 2001 while we were at an IABPA Conference in Tucson, AZ in October. June has/wears my diamond man's ring on one of her fingers and I wear her marriage engagement ring as a necklace. I have instructed my children that when I pass on, the marriage ring that June gave to me is not to be removed from my left hand ring finger. It has not been removed since we were married in 1952 and it is my desire that it never be removed.
(Photo by Jim Gehrz - October 2007.)
Stan's Commentary: While I authored this page, I claim none of the wisdom found on the page. I am only the person who was blessed to be June's husband and the guy who was lucky enough to be able to go along for the ride. It is also my way of saying "thank you" to June who had the heavy oar in our marriage. While I make reference to a quote from our pastor, all of the other comments and the wisdom found on this page came from June or was inspired by June. June on the other hand, a very humble person, would be the first to give all the credit to Jesus and God our heavenly father. I can do little more than agree with much of her assessment. For those readers who are not a part of our family, there is no intention here to suggest that our marriage is superior to anyone else's marriage or that June and I know it all...this page is simply an historical record of a marriage that has stood the test of time (56 years +) and an enumeration of some of the fundamentals of that marriage that were responsible for it's success. Over the years, this letter has been given to 5 grandchildren, 1 nephew and 3 family friends (and their marriage partners) on the eve of their marriage. The first to receive this letter was a Grandson in 2005. At that time, June was deep into the shadows of Alzheimer's (8th year) and had been placed in the care of an Alzheimer's facility. This or these letter's reflecting June's love and wisdom were my efforts to allow June to live on in the lives and memories of our family and friends. June was truly an extraordinary person and a person of the likes of which I do not expect to again meet in my lifetime! ...Stan Berg.
For the complete story of June and Stan's Marriage and their life together, click on the below link:
Dianne Cogar – Springfield,Ohio - (13 June 2012): “What a warm and touching letter. Your friends and family are very fortunate that you and June pioneer the way for others in understanding the essential things required for having a loving and lasting marriage….Your story is a legacy in itself. We can only hope that those you have given this wonderful letter to down through the years will share it with conviction, helping others to understand that it actually takes labors of love, understanding, faith, and respect to have a lasting relationship with a marital partner…a divine gift we are given…Marriage requires a disciplined attitude, respect, a longing, and a need...each partner must have a warm heart to keep the flame burning"....(27 August 2012): What a beautiful heartfelt letter, your family is very lucky that you...share June's formula for a successful marriage. Her legacy is, indeed, a charted path for these children to learn from...it will still require much work for your children's own destiny, as a couple, to follow the footsteps of you and your beloved June, hopefully they will discover...if they were just as blessed as well by the grace of God to have conformable chemistry and mutual respect in their marital union...important aspects of a truly "successful marriage."
Dianne Creel – Concord,North Carolina - (13 June 2012): “Beautiful and lovingly said that goes along with a beautiful and loving bride and her groom. I always enjoy believing that my mother still heard my words of spoken love to her because she still had ears that heard. She felt my love through my daily touch because she still had a heart that beat and I know my Lord would Never take away such precious love that is shared between another. Blessings and love my friend!”
Ursula Zarecki Sypniewski – Toms River, New Jersey - (13 June 2012): “This is one of my favorites! Read it many times! “
Robin Stewart Stone – Charlotte,North Carolina - (13 June 2012): “That's beautiful!, I really love the "Queen and King" of each other's hearts!”
Anthea Young - East London, Eastern Cape, United Kingdom - (26 August 2012): "Thank you for sharing your love stories & formula for a successful marriage with us... I aspire to have a love like yours one day!"
Lynette Richards - Hindhead, United Kingdom - (27 August 2012): "A beautiful account of a blessed marriage."
Debra Brown Leen - Bangor, Maine - (27 August 2012): "Wonderful!!!"
On October 23rd, 2008 June passed away after almost eleven years of an exhausting battle with Alzheimer’s. June's last three years and 8 plus months were in an Alzheimer’s facility of which the final years were at the Alzheimer’s “Villa” of the Benedictine Health Care Center of Innsbruck, New Brighton, MN. See the funeral notice as published in the Minneapolis Star - Tribune. It is located on the top blue navigation strip under the label: “In Memoriam” - or just click on this link: