‘He picked me up and asked me to marry him’
Roland and Phyllis were married April 16, 1944, at the German Lutheran Church in Hector. The pastor was the Rev. Heitke, and Roland’s brother, Gene, and sister, Normadine, stood up for Roland and Phyllis. “This was a time when World War II was at its height, and you didn’t have big wedding ceremonies, and there was no honeymoon,” said Phyllis.
They grew up eight miles apart. Phyllis lived in Mallard, Iowa and Rolland lived south of Mallard in a town called Havelock. They first met at a dance at the Ridotto Ballroom in Havelock during Phyllis’s senior year in high school. Phyllis remembered the band’s name was Lynn Kerns.
Phyllis’s maiden name was Stafford, the youngest of three daughters of Benjamin and Blanche Stafford. “Mother was a feisty Irish woman, and dad was a stubborn German,” Phyllis jokingly recalled. Her parents moved to Milwaukee, Wis. and after Phyllis graduated, she moved to Milwaukee to be with them.
Roland, the oldest child of John and Ella, had one sister and two brothers. He loved farming and riding horses. He enlisted in the Navy but was mustered out because he had high blood pressure and was listed as 4F. His parents bought a farm in Hector because, at the time, land was cheaper in Minnesota than in Iowa.
Roland felt an attraction for Phyllis and hopped on a train in Hector and went to Milwaukee to propose to her. “He picked me up and asked me to marry him,” said Phyllis. “We came back together on the train to Hector.” After they got married they moved back to Havelock for a year, and Roland worked on his grandfather’s farm. The next year they moved to the Hector area and rented some land to farm. They shared farm machinery for the first few years with Roland’s dad until they were able to purchase their own. Eventually, they purchased the family farm from Roland’s dad and farmed that land plus some rented land until retirement.
The Johnsons had four children — all boys — and the four boys are all retired. The oldest son, Dennis and his wife, Sharon, have one boy and live in Scottsdale, Ariz. Dennis owned his own computer company in Minneapolis. Galen and his wife, Ann, have two children and live in Naples, Fla. Galen was a controller in the salt division for Cargill for 10 years and then was named the company’s corporate controller. Steven and his wife, Judy, have three children and live in Nicollet, Minn. Steven was a math teacher, activities director and wrestling coach at Nicollet. And the youngest son, Jay, was the activities director, physical education teacher and wrestling coach for the Eden Valley – Watkins school district. Jay and his wife, Doreen, live in Cold Spring, Minn. and have four children.
Over the years, Phyllis worked at the Security Bank in Hector for 12 years, 3M in Hutchinson for eight years and then retired from the Hector Telephone Company when she turned 65. She loves music (playing the piano and singing) and was choir director for the Hector Methodist Church for many years. She also loves spending time with her family and enjoys being the announcer for the Golden Horse Riders as they perform in parades and rodeos.
Roland, besides his love for farming, enjoys being a part of the Golden Horse Rider’s Saddle Club, watching the Vikings, and helping friends and neighbors.
These Johnson and Johnson stories are unique but end on the same note — they have had fun during their 70-year marriages, lived on farms in Hector and truly enjoyed raising their children in rural Minnesota.