Love that lasts

3 FD area couples have been married for over 65 years

-Messenger photo by Kriss Nelson
Bob and Donna Pearson have been married for over 65 years. They attribute a lot of their success to marriage on being able to laugh together.

It is often said that true love is hard to find. Here we share the stories of three Fort Dodge area couples who found love and haven’t let it go. Each of these couples have been together for at least 65 years.

Bob and Donna Pearson

It’s been a lot of laughter for Bob and Donna Pearson throughout their 65 years of marriage.

“I will tell you what a lot of people have said – when we tell them how long we’ve been married, they look at us both and say ‘how in the world has she put up with you that long,'” said Bob.

“That’s not true. He likes to say that,” said Donna. “We can laugh. We’ve had to.”

Rand and Mary Louse Peterson just celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary earlier this month.

Bob and Donna have lived in Fort Dodge for the majority of their married life – but did not grow up in the area.

“We both grew up in the hills in northeast Iowa,” he said. “I was born in rural Allamakee County in my grandparent’s home. We lived on the farm before we moved to Postville.”

Donna said she is originally from Fayette and was teaching in Monona when she and Bob first met.

The couple met at basketball game when Bob was on leave from the service.

“I asked somebody I was sitting by who that gal was. They told me her name and I wrote her a letter. She made the mistake and answered it,” he said.

Garret and Leola Weiland in 1950.

Bob had previously served in the Navy before enlisting in the Airforce in 1951. When he was discharged on Feb. 5, he came back home and few short weeks later Bob and Donna had their first date.

“We went to the movie Seven Brides for Seven Brothers,” Donna said.

The couple was married that July.

“Everybody said it was a very short courtship,” Bob said. “I was getting old; I had been in the service twice.”

At the time, Bob said he was a barber and he had found a house for sale.

Garret and Leola Weiland

“I bought it and we wanted to get moved in, so we got married and moved in,” he said.

The newlyweds remained in that home until 1957 when they moved to Iowa City. Donna said she taught at Coralville and earned her degree at the University of Iowa while Bob also attended the university utilizing his GI bill – eventually earning a Bachelors of Arts in 1959 and a Masters in 1961.

Soon thereafter, Bob was offered a position as the business education teacher at the Humboldt High School. They moved to Humboldt where they remained for six years before moving to Fort Dodge. He then took a position at Iowa Central Community College where he said he served as department chair in the office education department.

Together, the couple has two children – their daughter, Tracy Walk, a pharmacist from Osage and their son, Dr. Eric Pearson, an oral surgeon in Fort Dodge.

They also have four grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

-Messenger photo by Kriss Nelson
Bob and Donna Pearson reminisce over their 65 year marriage looking at wedding photos recently.

Education is very important to the Pearsons. They are honored both of their children and their grandchildren all have degrees and some with advanced degrees.

“I am pretty darn proud because neither of my parents went to high school,” said Bob. “It all started with us.”

Donna’ s background was different than Bob’s in that aspect, as her father went to Iowa State and her mother was a nurse.

Understanding that each other has come from different backgrounds has helped the Pearsons stand the test of time.

And that is some advice Bob would like newlywed couples to understand.

“In a marriage, individuals come from different families. Different backgrounds,” he said. “It’s just a different situation and you have to realize that you’re not the same and you learn that she is an individual and I’m an individual. We have different likes and dislikes, but dog gone it, you don’t have to hassle about everything. You can’t have everything your own way. It is a give and take situation.”

Together, the couple said they always made it work.

“We have had our ups and downs, but mostly ups,” said Donna. “When things get tough, we just get tougher. It might get worse, but you make it better. My mother taught me that.”

Bob has some more advice to add.

“Try to marry someone like Donna, that would go along what with what I would like to do more than what she would like to do,” he said.

Over the years, the couple has enjoyed traveling.

“We’ve covered an awfully lot of the states,” Bob said. “One summer we spent 45 days in Europe with our children. We have broadened our vision of the world that way and I am very grateful for that. It’s been a good life since we got together.”

Garret and Leola Weiland

Garret Weiland, of Fort Dodge, was in the audience during a school Thanksgiving program directed by his future wife, Leola, in the 1940s.

The program took place at a country school in Madison Township within Butler County.

At that time, Garret spent many of his days farming with Leola’s first cousin. Once done with the work, Garret decided to watch the school program.

“We put on a Thanksgiving program and he gave me a ride home from there,” Leola recalled. “The first thing I said to him was I love to dance and I’m going to teach you how to dance.”

The two practiced in that same country school.

“I taught him how to do a dance,” Leola said. “It was nice.”

The first movie they ever saw as a couple was “June Bride,” a romantic comedy released in 1948. They drove to a theater in Waverly to see it.

The couple married in 1950. And they have done a lot of dancing since that time. Eventually, Garret became a trooper with the Iowa State Patrol. Leola taught for the the Fort Dodge public school system.

They moved to Fort Dodge in 1957.

“We belonged to the dance club,” Leola said. “We went to the Laramar to dance. And we had so many good friends.”

In the early years of their marriage, Leola was teaching on a limited elementary certificate. She eventually earned her teaching degree from Drake University during summer classes.

“He took care of the kids and did things at home,” Leola said. “He worked hard.”

Garret, also a U.S. Navy veteran, joined the Iowa State Patrol after farming proved to be a difficult road to a steady income.

“We did farm for a few years,” Leola said. “We lost so much money. Garret said I need to change jobs and do something different. Troopers from Parkersburg and Hampton said we will help you out, and they did.”

That’s how the couple landed in Fort Dodge. And once here, Garret wanted to stay put.

“He liked it so well he never tried to move,” Leola said. “One time they said to him, ‘Well wouldn’t you like to be a sergeant and go to Davenport?’ And he said, ‘No. My wife wouldn’t get a job. We are just going to stay where we are.’ We liked Fort Dodge. There were always a lot of things to do.”

Garret retired from the Iowa State Patrol after serving 28 years. Leola retired from Fort Dodge Community schools after teaching 33 years.

“Our two children graduated fom Fort Dodge High and had very good teachers and a very good education,” Leola said.

Garrett said whenever there was tension between him and Leola, he would go work in the garage.

“He always said if we had a great difference, he would go out to the garage and work a little while and then we were fine,” Leola said. “Just forgot if we had any disagreement and it was time to get ready and go to bed. He worked in the garage a lot. He didn’t carry on differences very long.”

The couple has two grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

In recent times, the two have kept to themselves.

“He will be 93 in a month and I will be 91 the first of June,” Leola said. “We have stayed in during this COVID. We don’t want to catch that stuff. We wear masks wherever we go. He reads the newspaper with his machine He sits close to the TV.”

Garrett said Leola has been his everything.

“She’s been a great, great wife,” he said.

In May, the two will celebrate their 71st anniversary.

Rand and Mary Louise Peterson

Rand and Mary Louise Peterson were small town kids – he from Harlan; she from Carroll, that met their freshman year during orientation at the University of Iowa 75 years ago.

However, their meeting was no accident.

“I knew him from a distance because he beat us. He was a good basketball player,” Mary Louise said. “I didn’t like him that much.”

Rand recognized her last name.

“He knew the name Anneberg, which was my maiden name because my brother played basketball against him,” she said. “He came and introduced himself and I told him I knew who he was.”

Shortly after becoming acquainted, Rand asked Mary Louise out for a date.

“He asked me out for a Coke date – it was a safe date, ya know? We went to the drugstore. That was our first date,” Mary Louise Peterson.

After that Rand and Mary Louise were practically inseparable, making for good company for one another, being two small town kids at a big university.

“We come from similar cultures. Small town, agricultural background, but yet, large enough to have good high schools, good athletic programs and other programs, so we had those good backgrounds when we got to the university,” said Mary Louise.

The couple was married before the last semester of college.

“He knew he was going to be drafted. So, we were married in between semesters of our senior year,” she said. “That’s why our anniversary is in the middle of winter. No May or June wedding here.”

That Sept. Rand and Mary Louise set off to Oklahoma where Rand attended basic training and Mary Louise worked for the Oklahoma Light and Power Company.

Soon, they were expecting their first daughter and she was born just before Rand left for Korea.

While he was stationed overseas Mary Louise and their daughter moved back home to live with their parents.

“We kept both sets of grandparents happy. She was the only grandchild on both sides,” said Mary Louise . “They were all very supportive.”

Rand wrote regularly and Mary Louise kept all of his letters. Currently the letters are now in the county museum in Harlan.

Although Rand being drafted shortly after their marriage was difficult, it has been smooth sailing for the couple over the last 70 years of their marriage.

“We haven’t had too many struggles,” said Mary Louise Peterson. “We have had it pretty lucky.”

Following his time in the service, Rand started working at banks in Dallas Center, Perry and then Harlan.

The couple was very busy throughout their lifetime. Rand said he served on the Republican Central Committee for several years.

“A good friend of mine was chairman. His name was Bob Ray,” he said. “Bob and I became good friends and I was the chairman of all five of his campaigns.”

Rand also served as president of the Iowa Bankers Association and the Harlan city council.

Mary Louise served on the Board of Regents for 12 years, acting as president of nine.

“She was the only woman to ever be president and the longest president they ever had,” said Rand. “She has a dormitory named for her in Iowa City.”

Mary Louise also took advantage of several other volunteer opportunities.

“I have lots of opportunities and I took advantage of them to learn all I can and to do all I can,” she said.

During those times, Rand and Mary Louise leaned upon each other to help one another and their family.

“The best thing to have happened to our children was that I disappeared and he got acquainted with them and they got acquainted with him,” she said. “The mothers usually did the home and the fathers did the business. So he got well acquainted with our children.”

“We just always got along – no problem,” said Peterson.

Rand’s advice to younger couples is, “you ought to share.”

“We never had secrets from each other. If we had disappointments, if we had joys, if we had concerns, we shared them,” said Mary Louise.


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