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Some romances last decades

Long-married couples share their tales of love

February 12, 2012
By JOE SUTTER, Messenger staff writer , Messenger News

As far as love stories go, Dale and Genevieve Thomason, of Eagle Grove, have a doozy: a Valentine's Day marriage in France 65 years ago.

He was an American G.I. serving in World War II; she was a French girl working with the American Red Cross ambulance corps. They met at dance where he was the bartender; she wouldn't dance with a "stranger," but gave him a chance at the next week's dance.

A year later, she agreed to marry him and Dale got started on the paperwork.

Article Photos

-Messenger photo by Joe Sutter
Russell and Florence Jondle, of Callender, hold a photo from their wedding on Jan. 29, 70 years ago. They said they don’t have any big plans for Valentine’s Day, but are looking forward to spending it with their kids.

"That was a mess," said Dale Thomason. "Everything had to be in six copies. I still have that mess of paper here in a suitcase."

Genevieve Thomason added, "That was quite a deal, getting married to a G.I. We had to go to Paris, and I had to have a perfect record, health-wise and everything."

Dale Thomason said, "I applied for Valentine's Day on the papers, but the Army wouldn't let me have that day, so we got married on the 17th."

The couple had a traditional French wedding in the city of Pouillon.

"We had a big banquet like we do in France. It takes from noon to 5 o'clock. My mother cooked all the food," Genevieve Thomason said.

The war meant that some supplies were limited, and the couple had to be creative.

"Me and a girl friend made 400 roses out of toilet paper," she said. "We decorated the front of the house, and all over. We'd get a knitting needle, run the paper through and push and push, so it would wrinkle; then we'd pull it out and roll it."

The couple's 65th anniversary is this year.

And while they don't necessarily have the secret to a happy marriage, they recall things they've done together that have made the years special: visiting New York when Genevieve first came to America, going to Arizona every year after they retired, and camping in a trailer every year for 45 years.

"We always saw things the same way," Dale Thomason said. "We didn't have too many arguments about anything."

They were never crazy about going out to restaurants, even for Valentines, he said.

But flowers are a different matter.

"She loves flowers, so our place is usually packed with flowers," Dale Thomason said.

Virginia and John Roper

A quiet, but steady, closeness seems to be a trait with long-lasting couples.

Take Virginia and John Roper, of Lohrville, who celebrated their 65th anniversary Saturday.

Virginia Roper recounted a romance without constant gifts or showers of affection.

"The very first box of candy I remember is when we were on our honeymoon in Chicago, he got me a fancy box of chocolates," she said.

Nor was there a heart-stopping proposal.

"We were at Thanksgiving dinner with our friends and family," she said. "He didn't wait for an answer. He just stood up and announced we were getting married."

What makes true love work?

"We must just get along," Virginia Roper said. "It doesn't seem like it's been 65 years. You have parents, and you have children, but the most important thing in my life is him."

She said this year's anniversary celebration would be a relatively small family affair, but five years ago the couple marked their 60th anniversary with a polka Mass at their church.

Florence and Russell Jondle

Seventy. That's how many years of marriage Florence and Russell Jondle, of Callender, celebrated last month.

Of those 70, one of the most romantic moments Florence remembers came when she was in the hospital after the birth of their son, which happened just before their anniversary on Jan. 29.

"We were talking about our husbands, how they did the holidays," she said. "I said I've got the best husband in the world, but I would faint if he sent me a dozen roses right now. I had just got the words out, and the doctor said you better start fainting, because here they are."

Russell Jondle added, "I don't go buying things like that for birthdays or Valentine's Day, but once in a while I like to scare her with something."

Florence Jondle said a key to their long relationship was sharing hobbies together. For instance, they often went for long walks on Sunday afternoons, looking for arrowheads with their eight children.

They also love fishing together, said Russell Jondle.

"This last year was our 30th year fishing at the same spot, in Ontario, Canada. She loves to fish; she never wants to quit. Even after we get the boat running, she's still got her line in the water," he said.

Most important, though, said Florence Jondle, is their large, close-knit family.

"Family," she said, "is everything."

Contact Joe Sutter at (515) 573-2141 or



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