For Ellwyn and Micki Nohr of Fargo, it all started around 1950. The two both played clarinet and first met in the high school band room in Stanley, North Dakota, a small town between Williston and Minot.

After seeing each other in high school, they then were apart for a lifetime (over 59 years), before reconnecting and, tying the knot, both in their 80s.

Ellwyn, whose family was originally from Stanley, was a senior. Micki was a sophomore. Her family had moved there from Wahpeton, ND, after purchasing a restaurant.

Back then it was kind of an unlikely romance, primarily because Micki was Catholic and Ellwyn was Lutheran. These types of relationships were frowned upon back in the 50’s.  Nevertheless, something sparked in this couple, regardless of their different backgrounds.

About 60 years after they dated in high school, Micki and Ellwyn tied the knot in 2012. Photo by Deb Trygstad

Micki’s life growing up was different than Ellwyn’s as she came from a broken family. Her father left her mother with five girls to raise, for the most part, on her own. Micki’s mom was a survivor and soon learned that she could take care of herself and her family. With the help of her brother, she was able to purchase and run a restaurant, first in Wahpeton and later in Stanley, North Dakota. Due to family obligations and work, Micki did not have a lot of time to date. She had to help her mom run the restaurant. Despite all of this, she fell for Ellwyn. He was the first boy she ever let hold her hand at the movies or kiss her. Ellwyn was full foot higher than Micki.  “The first time I kissed her,’’ he said, “I had to put her up on a step.” The couple dated for 2-3 months until Ellwyn graduated from high school.

In 1951, Ellwyn graduated and his life took on a new turn. He decided to follow in his father’s footprints and go into engineering. At that time his dad worked at Ulteig Engineering, which back then was a very small engineering company in North Dakota. He started out doing surveying. This job took Ellwyn away from Stanley, ND, and Micki.

Micki’s life changed as well. Her family moved back to Wahpeton to run the family restaurant back there.

The couple was not to see each other again, except for one brief visit when Ellwyn was in college in Grand Forks in 1952. He invited Micki to come to a party at UND. Micki went alone on the train and was petrified. She had to take the old milk route which meant a long ride with many stops in all the small towns to pick up milk. Ellwyn and Micki’s lives separated after that, they thought perhaps forever.

Micki remained in Wahpeton throughout her high school years, helping her mother manage a new restaurant that was funded by a farmer who lives outside of Berthel, ND. After high school, she got a job at the health clinic in Wahpeton and without formal schooling, she learned to be a lab technician. The doctors trusted her and this training would be beneficial throughout her entire life.

She married a man named Tony and they had five children together, all girls. But like her own father, Tony left Micki when their youngest daughter was only two months old. Like her mother, Micki found herself a single mother, raising her family alone.

Eventually, she moved to Fargo and worked in healthcare. In Fargo, Micki married again, this time to a guy named Howard . She recalled those years as also tumultuous. They owned and operated several hotels and there was little financial security and lots of work. Interestingly, Micki and Howard did meet up with Ellwyn once on a trip to South Dakota.

Micki and Howard later divorced.

Now for Ellwyn, there was college, the service, and then more college. Finally he ended up with a degree in Civil Engineering from the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks. In 1958, when he was in the service in New Mexico, he met his wife, Colleen, who was from Kimball, South Dakota. The couple returned to South Dakota to get married. Ellwyn was licensed civil engineer and surveyor working for the city of Mitchell for four years and then starting his own business. He opened branches of this business, which was primarily doing surveys throughout South Dakota.  Later in life his son joined him in the business. Ellwyn and Colleen had a good life in South Dakota,  raising five sons.

In 2007, three months before their 50th wedding anniversary, Colleen died suddenly from a heart attack in their home. Later they discovered found that there might have been a genetic disposition for this condition. Ellwyn was in his 70s and on his own for the first time in almost 50 years. To stay busy, Ellwyn remained working.   

In 2011, Ellwyn traveled to San Francisco and then Scottsdale, Arizona to help take care of his brother-in-law, who was ill. The trip was long and he drove all the way back from California to Mitchell, South Dakota, through Scottsdale without stopping. When he arrived home, he was exhausted, and had a massive stroke. Luckily through quick intervention and foresight from his son, they had the doctor in Mitchell give him a shot immediately and there were no permanent damage from the stroke. However, Ellwyn was airlifted to a hospital in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, where he recovered.

At this time, Ellwyn and Micki had a mutual classmate from Stanley whose name was Grace. They had both kept in contact with Grace. Grace was responsible for sending out a prayer chain for Ellwyn’s recovery. Grace got ahold of Micki, who happened to be dubbed, the “Prayer Warrior” and told her about Ellwyn’s condition. She decided to write Ellwyn a long letter about herself and her life up until that point. As soon as he received the letter, Ellwyn called Micki. He said their first conversation on the phone for more than 59 years, lasted two hours, 11 minutes and 2 seconds.

When Ellwyn recovered from his stroke, he decided that he would take a road trip to Fargo, N.D. and see Micki.  At that time he was 79 and Micki was 77. Micki’s daughters still tease Ellwyn and said, “He came and never left.” 

The couple reunited their relationship, reconnected as a coupe and later agreed to marry.

To plan the wedding, they went to a priest. Surprisingly enough, Ellwyn had converted to Catholicism when he married Colleen.  But there was one small problem with getting married in the Catholic Church — Micki had never had her former marriages annulled by the church. When the couple asked how long that would take, they were told almost a year. Ellwyn replied, “We can’t wait that long. How long do you think we are going to live?”

The priest advised them to try a Lutheran wedding and sent them to Hope Lutheran in Fargo. They met the pastor and he told him their whole story. After about 60 years apart, in July, 2012, Micki and Ellwyn were married.