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52 Stories #6—Parents and Grandparents

Ah, love is in the air this week, and for this week’s assignment I will retell the stories of how my parents and grandparents met and married.

My Parents

My mom and dad, Earl and Joyce, met in college at the University of Wyoming about 1950. Both needed to work to get through school even though my father had money from the GI Bill after his naval service in World War II. He had always liked to wash dishes, and he took a dishwasher job in the women’s dining hall. My mother worked as a server there. Imagine that, a college eatery where they had wait staff instead of a buffet line. Anyway, they met at work.

They dated for several years, even after my mother graduated and moved on to a small Wyoming town to teach high school. It was important to her to get two years’ teaching experience before she got married. During those years, my dad worked odd jobs around Wyoming and Colorado and went to school off and on.

I asked Mom once about his wedding proposal. All she would say is that it happened in a car.

They married in the Lutheran church on December 22, 1952 in Rapid City, South Dakota, where her parents resided. For their honeymoon, they drove to Salt Lake City because they wanted to see a city that was new to both of them. There, in a store window, they saw television for the first time.

Mom and Dad had been married for 47 years when she passed away in 2000.

My Dad’s Parents

Owen Herbert Reed (1896-1935) and Grace Riddle (1896-1976) met when he moved west from Missouri to work on her family’s Nebraska ranch near Hyannis. Herbert’s father, a couple of brothers, and a sister had already moved to the area, so it must have been natural for him to follow them.

Grace’s cousin Henry Evert had previously married Herbert’s sister Bertha. The marriage of Herbert and Grace strengthened the tie between the two families. My grandparents were married by the Grant County Judge on April 18, 1918. I wish I had thought to ask her about her wedding.

Unfortunately, their marriage was not a long one. My grandfather died in a road accident in 1935 after they had been married for seventeen years. Grandma never remarried.

My Mom’s Parents

Bjarne Kaurin Bentsen (1906-1986) and Martha Louise Mattila (1906-1977) met when she left her Minnesota home after finishing college and went to teach at a country school in Montana. Teachers there boarded with the families of their students, and she lived on the Bentsen homestead near the Two Tree School. My grandfather had two younger siblings in her class.

Both Bjarne and Martha grew up in Lutheran families, but for reasons unknown to me, they did not marry in the local Lutheran church. Instead, they went to the nearest bigger town, Plentywood, and married at the Congregational Church on June 2, 1928. Again, I wish I had asked my grandmother why this was. They raised their children as Lutherans.

We always liked to say that theirs was a mixed marriage because he was Norwegian and she was Finnish. Indeed, their marriage was a stormy one that ended in divorce thirty-two years later in 1960, a couple of years after their youngest child had left home.

My grandfather remarried right away, but my grandmother never did. They carefully avoided one another when I was young. We were all surprised when he attended her funeral.


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