By Faith Anderson
Last month, Dick and Alice Stielow of Clinton, Minnesota, celebrated a milestone that few couples reach -- their 75th wedding anniversary.
On Feb. 16, 1948, they were married in Clinton, Minnesota, at the home of the local pastor. Alice wore her aunt’s dress and carried six red roses.
“I’m not even sure where we got those roses, but I do remember they were beautiful,” said Alice, reminiscing about that special day 75 years ago.
“It was 65 degrees that day,” Dick recalled, “and the mud on the country roads was a foot deep.”
Following their ceremony, the couple headed north to Fargo for a short honeymoon. After a bit of searching, and with a winter storm approaching, they were able to find a small room in a downtown hotel that was available for $3 a night. Little did they know that their short honeymoon was about to become a two-week getaway because of the weather. The temperature dropped, and snow fell for hours.
“They had a dining room in the hotel where they fed us, so it worked out okay,” said Dick.
Across the street from the hotel was the Fargo movie theater. “When the storm finally died down a little, someone shoveled a narrow path, and we were able to go see the movie, just for something to do,” Dick said.
There were plenty of other folks in the same predicament, and people just made the best of the situation and stayed where they were safe.
Back then, the task of removing snow and clearing the roads after a big snowstorm was overwhelming for the highway departments and for those who needed to get places. It was days before the Stielows could start for home. When they finally checked out of the hotel, the manager thanked them for coming and said, “Just forget it…no charge!”
“It ended up being a cheap trip for us,” said Dick. “A free hotel room and free movies at the theater, too.”
The couple headed south and made it to Alice’s sister’s home in Elbow Lake, where they stayed for a few days to allow more snow removal to take place on the main highways. When they finally got to Morris, they were told that the Beardsley road was still blocked, so they stayed in Morris for another day or two. Finally, they were informed that the road was open, and they took off to the west. It was smooth sailing until they got within a half-mile of their destination and found a huge drift covering Big Stone County Highway 7 and they couldn’t continue. The newlyweds bundled up and hiked through the snow to Dick’s parents’ place.
They lived with John and May Stielow for several months before they were able to move into the small farmhouse they had purchased just down the road.
Today, Dick and Alice still live in that same farmhouse, but much has changed.
“Dick added on to this place one…two…three…four times!” Alice recalled as she turned and pointed to each addition. “He’s very handy, and mostly did the work himself.”
When asked about his carpentry skills, Dick modestly replied, “Well, I just did the best I could. When I didn’t know something, I asked for advice. Different guys were happy to tell me what to do.”
The couple farmed for years with Dick’s parents and his brother. They owned about 600 acres, and rented some land as well. They grew flax and wheat, and raised beef cattle, hogs, and chickens, along with a few dairy cows to supply milk for their growing family. Dick and Alice had their first child in 1948, and their sixth in 1960; five girls and one boy. Some of their kids went to country school up the road, and eventually to the school in Clinton. The family worked hard, and life was good on their farm, which is located in a picturesque spot overlooking Big Stone Lake in western Minnesota.
As their children grew up and got married, the grandchildren came along.
Alice has the unique privilege of having delivered one of the grandchildren in the back seat of a car. In 1984, daughter Diane and her husband, Larry Hills, were on their way to the Ortonville hospital for the birth of their 5th child when they stopped to pick up Alice. Four miles down the road, Alice delivered her 21st grandchild, a healthy seven-pound baby girl, later named Lacy Krystal. “Everything went good,” explained Alice. “I’m glad I was there!”
In 1968, Alice took a job at the DAC (Developmental Achievement Center) in Clinton, working with those with disabilities and mental illnesses. She enjoyed her time there and retired in 1999 after 31 years. While she was there, she became connected to the Big Stone County Foster Care program. Eventually, she and Dick welcomed over 100 babies, children and teens into their home, some for a weekend and some for several years. “It was hard to say goodbye to those kids,” Alice admitted. “Many of them just needed the comfort of a good home. We were happy to help.”
From time to time, those kids, now grown adults, make their way back to the beloved farm site to say hello to the Stielows and to pass on a heartfelt thank you.
“One day a man came to our door,” said Alice. “He was tall and had a full beard.” As she walked closer and took a good look at him, she recognized those eyes and immediately said his name. The visitor had been one of the foster kids who had spent time with the Stielow family many years prior. “Some people you just don’t forget,” she remarked.
Dick turned 94 in January, and Alice will be 92 this May. Dick has some vision trouble, and Alice’s back bothers her now and then, but for the most part, they are healthy. “We’re in good health,” said Alice. “I’m a good cook!” she added quickly.
So, what’s the secret to a long and successful marriage? “You find a good man, and you hang on to him!” said Alice. “And you never go to bed without a goodnight kiss.”
About 75 years ago, Dick proposed to Alice, after taking her to a movie in Graceville. She still remembers his simple statement. “He looked at me and said, ‘I think we should get married.’”
Dick is known for his straightforward way of stating things and recently shared his basic secret to their long marriage, “You just take it one day at a time.”
The Stielows have six children, 24 grandchildren, and 70 great-grandchildren, many living in the area. When they look back over the past 75 years, Dick and Alice have no regrets. They are proud to have worked hard, raised a fine family, and contributed to society.