Hutchinson couple celebrates 71 years of marriage

If you could sum up 71 years of marriage, John and June Lyman, of Hutchinson probably would choose three words.

Respect. Trust. Humor.

June Lyman and husband John enjoy time together in their Hutchinson senior living apartment as she holds the wedding photo taken of them 71 years ago when they were married on Nov. 14,1947. Photo by Steve Palmer

John Lyman and June Lofgren were married Nov. 14, 1947, which has led to a lifetime partnership of shared memories with each other. But first, John had to take care of the call to duty for his country when he enlisted in the U.S. Navy after his parents signed for him at age 17 during WW II. “I left school early in 1943 before I graduated, but I earned my GED later on,” John said.

He served on a number of vessels but mostly on the aircraft carrier USS John Hancock as a coxswain or third class petty officer until his honorable discharge from the Navy on May 24, 1947. He was awarded the Good Conduct Medal, Navy Unit Commendation, Asiatic Pacific (five stars), Philippine Liberation (two stars) and WWII Victory Medal.

Then it was back to Minnesota where his attention eventually turned to courting June, who he had met a few years earlier while home in Minneapolis on leave. “Another seaman and I had gone to the Forum Cafe in downtown Minneapolis, where my shipmate had met this girl and they were going to see a show. That’s where I met June, who worked there at the counter. I was 19, and she was 15, and we all went to see the show,” he recalled.

Because of her young age, June said her mother told her to be cautious of servicemen that she met at the cafe. So, she decided not to have John take her home after the movie.

“I walked her to the street corner, and she took the streetcar back home,” John noted. “I had her name and address. I lost her name but still had the address.”

“He called me Jolly because he thought I was always happy and that was his nickname for me; he didn’t know me as June, just Jolly,” June fondly remembered. They exchanged letters for the next three years, with June continuing to work at the Forum Cafe as the war ended.

“After I got out of the Navy and came home, my sister Loretta asked me why I wasn’t seeing my girlfriend. I just figured she wasn’t interested in me anymore,” John said. “My sister went to the Forum and talked her into coming home with her but didn’t say why.”

“But when I got to Jack’s house he was completely surprised to see me,” June recalled.

“My sister told me ‘You can’t let this girl go, she’s too good of a person, and you’ve got to stay in contact with her.’ From then on we’ve been together,” John explained.

While they dated, John once walked with June from Lake Calhoun a long distance back to her home in Minneapolis because she didn’t want to get on a streetcar that day.

“Another time I went to see her, but I had to go back to her house to borrow a streetcar token because I didn’t have a dime in my pocket to get home,” John laughed.

June came from a large family of 11 siblings, one of which is her twin sister. “My mother let my older sisters give us our names, and they came up with June Jean for me and Jean June for my twin,” June commented. Meanwhile, John grew up in a big family of nine siblings.

After just six months of serious dating they were married. He was 21. She was 17.

“My mom didn’t want us getting married that young. At that time she had to sign for the marriage license because I was 17. But she was okay with it after meeting John,” she said.

“I think she liked me,” John winked.

Following the wedding, John started working for Dayton’s for about two years. By the time June was 20, she was considered to be a great cook. June worked in food service for Richfield’s school system for eight years, serving 1,000 meals to students every day. By the time she was 20 the couple were proud parents of two children, Steven and Jollyne.

After beginning married life in their hometown of Minneapolis, the Lymans followed John’s new job as a traveling seed corn salesman to the communities of Dassel, Olivia and Hutchinson, where they’ve lived the past 47 years.

While working on the road traveling in sales, John was gone nearly five days a week from home, which meant June spent much of her time raising two children by herself.

“But we’ve had a very good life, no complaints, loving relationship and understanding each other,” June said. “He traveled many years in his work, so every weekend when he was home it was like being on a honeymoon again for us,” she joked. “We went to the movies a lot with the kids.” When he was away, June kept busy making more than 100 different embroidered tablecloths, over 100 framed puzzles, teddy bears and sewing some bedspreads.

June, who affectionately calls her husband by the name of Jack, said, “when you have someone who travels for a living you have to be able to trust each other. I always told him if he found someone else that he thinks is better then me then I will let him go to it,” June grinned. 

“I never found anyone better than June,” John laughed. “Besides, she is an amazing good cook.”

June added “and I never told our children wait until your dad gets home if they misbehaved. Jack always backed up any decision that I made with discipline.” Their son Steven is deceased now at the age of 51, and their daughter, Jollyne, lives in Seattle. They have a granddaughter and two great-grandchildren.

During their time together the Lymans have been fortunate to enjoy traveling around the states in America and numerous European countries, such as Italy, Denmark, France, Ireland, Holland, Germany, Egypt and several trips to Spain.

In later years they have been physically challenged with some health issues but have recovered well. June used a wheelchair for over a year after sustaining a stroke in 2014.

She also had two knees replaced while Jack fell and broke a hip almost two years ago.

As married life has marched on, the Lymans look back and realized they have never celebrated a significant anniversary. “We never had a gathering of any kind, we just never did it,” June commented.

John said he can’t remember what he ate for breakfast, but he does recall a recently discovered love letter he wrote 11 years ago to June on their 60th anniversary.

According to John, the longhand-written letter to June goes something like this:

“You know I love you more then life itself…

There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for you…

We’ve been happy in this marriage…

And one thing we’ve never done is actually buy a present for each other to celebrate.

If we wanted something we just went out and got it…

But with this letter I want you to buy something for yourself that you would like,

Something really special because I’m not the easiest man to live with.

But I’m crazy nuts about you and I want you to stay healthy.”

A gift of words that began 71 years ago.