The Free Press, Mankato, MN

November 22, 2012

Thankful for the years together - 74 of them

By Brian Ojanpa
Free Press Staff Writer

MAPLETON — Verna and Ervin Kaduce are at their kitchen table, talking turkey about their 74 years of marriage.

“I’m so thankful we’re still in our own home and blessed with good health. We have a lot to be thankful for,” Verna says.

Says Ervin of any big plans their children have for the couple’s 75th anniversary next year, “They’re going to wait to see if we’re still around.”

The smart money says they will be.

Ervin is a retired 94-year-old farmer whose most recent hospitalized surgery was for a gall stone, oh, about 60 years ago.

Verna (”I’m 39. Okay, 91”) had a valve job done on her heart a year-and-a-half ago.  “But I came through it like a breeze— easier than having a baby.”

Speaking of ... she and Ervin had six, three of whom are retired and all of whom worked on the family farm near Beauford.

Verna and Ervin moved off the farm place and into Mapleton 18 years ago. They both still drive a car. They also putt around town in matching motorized scooters.

They say life is good after lives of working good and hard, which was the norm for post-Depression farm couples.

The married in Amboy in 1938, and World War II was under way when they got into farming after being jilted by a car dealer.

Because the war effort demanded so much metal, cars were rationed. The Kaduces were in line for the next new Studebaker to arrive in town. But before they could acquire it the dealer sold it to someone else, so they used that money to buy their first 80 acres.

That meant having to drive their circa 1930 Ford Model A a few more years, but that was all right with Verna.

“It was sporty looking,” she says.   

Like many couples in that frugal era, the Kaduces never charged anything and didn’t buy anything they couldn’t pay cash for.

Ervin tended to the farm and Verna tended to just about everything else. Sewed all the kids’ clothes, helped milk cows, did chores, butchered chickens.

Biggest technological advance in their young lives?  Rural electricity.

Ervin’s biggest act of political activism? Going to Washington, D.C., with other farmers to lobby for wives’ inheritance rights to farms.

In essence, Ervin said, the farmers had to give clueless congressmen a lesson in Farm Life Spousal Work Sharing 101, lest they continue thinking  farm wives didn’t work because they didn’t hold jobs.

Verna says 12-hour work days were on the farm, and the first “paycheck” she ever received was her first Social Security payment.

Early in their retirement the Kaduces took their share of trips, but age and others’ mortality have limited their socializing.

“We used to,” Verna says, “but all our friends are gone.”

The Kaduces say they know of no one who’s been married 74 years, and they sometimes have to convince people that they are.

“A lot of people almost don’t believe me when I say it to them,” Verna says. “But that’s the way it is.”