Year of milestones for inexhaustible pair
It has been a year of milestones for Stewartville couple Orris and Margaret Strum, as they celebrated their 75th wedding anniversary on April 5, Orris' 101st birthday on April 21 and Margaret's 100th birthday on June 9.
Born in 1915 on a farm in Story County, Iowa, Orris was the oldest of six children. He enjoyed playing baseball and basketball throughout high school and went on to play on the small town's team after graduation. Orris's love for baseball soon led him to the love of his life, when Margaret Risdal and her friends came to watch his game.
"I guess we got along and went from there," said Margaret, who had grown up on a farm in a neighboring town.
Orris and Margaret were married in 1941.
After having their three children, Steve, Ken and Sharon, and renting and working on several farms around their hometowns in Iowa, the couple made the move to a farm in Racine in 1959. Sharon, who was 7 at the time, remembers that it took two days to move the farm machinery from one farm to the other, with her father driving a tractor 165 miles to Racine.
"Dad drove the tractor and I was in the car with mom," said Sharon. "She would drive maybe 10 miles, 20 miles or so and then sit and wait. We took back roads, so we would wait until he came there and then we'd drive so much farther and then sit and wait. It was a long drive."
A life's work
The Strum family called their farm in Racine home for over 50 years. Along with working on the farm, Orris also became a custodian at the Mayo Clinic. Sharon said that her father would work all day at the farm and then head to work at the Mayo Clinic around 4:30 p.m., where he would work until 1 a.m.
Besides also working on the farm, Margaret worked multiple jobs. She worked at Stewartville schools the longest, however, as one of the cooks.
"It was plenty to keep us busy," said Margaret.
Orris and Margaret both retired in their mid 60s, about the same time they stopped farming. After spending their lives working, they could finally relax.
Throughout their retirement, Orris and Margaret spent their time discovering and delving into their hobbies. They spent their winters in Arizona, where Orris enjoyed golfing and shuffleboard and Margaret learned to paint. Margaret also enjoyed embroidery, crocheting and needlework.
"In Arizona she took one painting class and she obviously had a natural talent. From then on she was painting all these nice, mostly sceneries," said Sharon. "She was always busy doing something."
Although she doesn't paint anymore, Margaret and Orris, along with many of their family members, have kept many of Margaret's artworks.
For their milestone celebrations this year, many of the couple's children, eight grandchildren and 16 great-grandchildren were in attendance. Spending time together as a family, they spent their day sharing fond memories from the last 75 years.
"We had gotten together a bunch of old pictures," said Sharon.
Fond memories of Orris and Margaret's youth include traveling to Chicago and St. Louis together to attend professional baseball and football games. They would drive all night to the games and sleep in their car. Their son Ken laughed as he remembered hearing about those trips, and how different going to games used to be.
"When they were first married they would just decide, 'Oh, we'll go to the World Series,'" said Ken. "No tickets or anything. They would drive there and they would just show up and buy tickets."
Although Orris no longer watches any sports games on TV, he said that his favorite baseball team was the Chicago Cubs.
Orris and Margaret also loved to travel, and have traveled to almost every state in the U.S. In the 1980s, they also traveled to Norway, where both of their grandparents had immigrated from in the 1800s.
Orris and Margaret also reflected on what has changed over the years. Margaret said that she always was interested in computers, but never learned. Sharon said that it always frustrated Margaret when articles would say, "For more information, visit our website," because she didn't have a computer.
"She never really learned how to use a computer but she always had a lot of questions," said Sharon. "She wanted to learn but she never had the opportunity to."
For Orris, he looks back at the mechanical innovations when it comes to farming. Early on, he said he had to pick acres of corn by hand and use horses for everything, including plowing.
"Horses got tired, you got tired," said Orris. "Things were a lot different in those days."
Orris also remembers having to keep buying shoes because he would wear them out quickly while working on the farm.
"Those were hard days, but we didn't think much about it," said Orris.
Orris and Margaret lived on their farm in Racine until moving to assisted living in Stewartville in 2013. Up until then, they had lived independently well into their 90s. In 2015, the couple moved to Willows & Waters Senior Living, where they spend their days together, and try to stay busy.
"It seems like it usually gets filled up for some reason," said Margaret. "Just ordinary things, your housework and stuff like that. And if you had a project going, you'd work on that."
Spending the majority of their lives together, one can still feel the love between the couple as they sit in their chairs in their new home in Rochester, and hear the admiration in the voices of their children as they talk about their parents' relationship.
When it comes to what makes a marriage last, Ken recalls when his father was asked the question at his 75th wedding anniversary celebration. Orris thought for a moment and then said, "Well I guess you have to choose the right one."