The secret to 70 years of marriage
By Elsa Wilson
Some ask what my husband and I owe our longevity to. Our answer is, “exercise and drinking a glass of nutritious barley juice daily since 1988.”
Don and I first met in the fall of 1949 and again in 1950. In 1951 we began 70 years of a wonderful happy marriage. In our self-built home, we raised three children, Paul, Peter and Donna. Each has brought great joy into our lives.
Don and I were both born during the Great Depression. In May 1930, Don was born in Goderich to Stanley and Grace Wilson and had two brothers. At twenty-three years of age, his mother died of pneumonia. The boys were then raised by his grandparents who previously had raised nine children of their own.
I was born at home in May 1932 on a farm in Glen Huron which belonged to Roy and Ethel Ferguson. I had five brothers and two sisters there. Early life for me required milking two cows before school, followed by breakfast, then changing clothes and running most of 2 and a half miles to school. There were no snowplows in our area back then but if we were lucky sometimes a farmer, with heavy horses and a huge sleigh, would pick us up. During the war years my dad had a car he parked three miles away. In the winter my older brother needed to take him to the car in our horse and sleigh. Then dad would drive to the shipyards where he worked at building corvettes for the navy. I was 16 when I started earning a living away from home.
Our wedding was at my family’s home on the farm. We three eldest siblings were married in the same year – one in April, one in June and ours in August. In 1951 Mom made our wedding memorable by surprising us all with homemade ice cream completed without electricity. She hand-turned a beater bar for about twenty minutes on that hot day for dinner outdoors – providing a taste not forgotten since. Ice needed to be purchased to keep the ice cream cold. We were off to a great start.
When Don is asked who the most knowledgeable person in his life has been, it is me. But as our 70th wedding anniversary approaches, when I am asked who was the most knowledgeable person in my life, I am most proud to say it can be no other than my dearly loved and greatly missed mother.
Mom dedicated her life to her family. Nothing else mattered but the health and needs of her children. Well ahead of her time, she knew education was a necessity. Dad and her endured many hardships together. She was intelligent, witty, artistic, musical and sweeter in times of difficulty. Mom was a carpenter, gardener, seamstress, tailor, and the most wonderful baker – baking bread, on a wood stove, daily. She was the best hugger ever as well as an attractive woman. Ever-resourceful, nothing was wasted. There was always a pot of soup ready when we came from school. That woman could make a silk purse from a sow’s ear, and often had to! Mom designed, painted and sewed two Orange Lodge parade banners, which deeply pleased lodge members and especially my dad. The sewing machine lid was never down. My siblings and I have often asked ourselves, “how did she accomplish it all?”
Mom had one sibling and wanted a large family of her own. She bore ten children through the Great Depression. I was the fourth one born and two died at birth. Grandchildren and great grandchildren total 58. Totaling 66, each and every one of us just knew they were her favourite and Dad’s too. There was always someone dropping in at the “Pine Tree” to visit Roy & Effie; maybe for a game of checkers or to see Mom’s gardens and have a cup of tea. Both mom and dad were well-respected. In her retirement years Mother started researching, investigating and documenting our family tree. The outcome was outstanding. Almost forty stories and historical accounts of what life and times were like through the generations are included in a book she wrote with accounts dating back to the 1700s. Mom earned herself United Empire Loyalist status as a result of her research. Mom passed away a few months later and we have U.E.L. engraved after her name on the gravestone. For all eternity, this will let others know that our roots are found among the earliest pioneers of Canada. She obtained that history by travelling to distant tombstones and would often come home so happy with confirmed or new information and clues towards more.
Don and I are not travellers; we did winter in Mesa Arizona when we retired in 1990 and have been to Hawaii and Florida. Canada’s four seasons gave us ample opportunity to enjoy a variety of the sports which we loved to participate in and to interact with all the many wonderful people we met. We have been collectors of plates, coins, and dolls to keep us busy as the years flow by. It was only last year we realized our children’s ages were catching up to us “oldies” and that was a startling realization.
Our everlasting sadness in our seventy-year journey stems from the loss of our son Peter and daughter-in law Margie thirty years ago this past April. Both succumbed when a stone wall fell on them at a beach in Cancun, Mexico. Don and I were caring for their 5 and 7 year-old sons at the “Soo” when this devastating tragedy happened.
As I write this, we are in another COVID-19 shutdown and are anxious that we outlive this pandemic and really start to live again. We look forward to receiving recognition from Queen Elizabeth II for our August 11, 2021 platinum anniversary. Being here to enjoy all of our seven grandchildren and six great grandchildren, now into their teens, has been the most special gift of all.
When asked what we owe the longevity of our 70 years of marriage to, our answer is love, including having a supportive close family and enjoying every grandchild and great grandchild while proudly watching them all become our future citizens.
The best times of our life were not about what we had but who we were with. And we’re not done yet.