Dale Livgren and Ruth VonSpreckelsen entered this world three days apart in 1926. They grew up on family farms just seven miles from each other in central Clay County.
Even so, they had never met until they ended up together in eighth grade at Clay Center in September 1939. And the little they knew each other then, they didn’t like. all.
“We didn’t get along at all the first year,” Dale said Thursday, turning to his wife sitting next to him in their apartment at Heritage at College View in Hastings. “We just sort of hated each other, didn’t we?” “
Ruth Livgren, formerly known as young Ruth VonSpreckelsen, agreed.
“He thought I was a kid, and I thought he was a kid,” she said. “That’s just how it was.”
“But everything has changed,” said Dale, a twinkle in his eyes.
Dale Livgren celebrated his 95th birthday on Tuesday. Ruth followed suit on Friday. And on Sunday, the couple will celebrate their 75th wedding anniversary, which was celebrated just days after the age of 20.
God willing, and as long as public health restrictions don’t prevent it, they will come together to celebrate these milestones at the end of this month with many members of their extended family, which includes four children, 13 grandchildren. and 33 great-grandchildren.
The Livgren family’s footprint is large, with grandchildren and great-grandchildren living in Utah, North Carolina, and several states in between. They will come together from afar to rejoice that a few classmates from a long time ago put aside their initial antagonism, fell in love, rejoined their lives on August 22, 1946, and have worked together ever since to improve the lives of others. . .
Judith Woods of rural Fairfield, the third of the Livgren’s four children, said her parents were ready to endure quarantine afterward or whatever is needed so they can celebrate with loved ones while still keeping their assisted living community safe from the novel coronavirus disease, COVID-19[FEMININE[FEMININE
“We don’t want to wear them out,” Woods said of Dale and Ruth with a laugh. “We will be around 70 to meet. It’s pretty much immediate family.
Dale grew up on a farm 3.5 miles north and 1.5 miles east of Clay Center. His parents were Albert and Judith Livgren, and he had three older siblings: his brother Arnold, who was 16 years his senior; and sisters Thelma and Eunice. All are now dead.
Ruth’s family lived two miles south of Clay Center. Her parents were Ernest and Betty VonSpreckelsen, and she had twin brothers, Robert and Elbert, who were born just 11 months after her. Elbert now lives in Kearney and Robert is deceased.
While Ruth attended “the town school” at Clay Center from the start, Dale did not come to town for class until the old Price Country School in her neighborhood closed.
It was then that sparks of contempt first leapt between Dale and Ruth, who was one of three girls in their class.
Eventually, hearts and minds changed to the point where Ruth allowed Dale to drive her home after a meeting of the Girl Reserves, a YWCA-affiliated youth organization that later became known as Y Teens.
Afterwards, the old sparks of disdain erupted into the flame of romance – and by their junior and senior years in high school, they were a serious element. Meetings usually consisted of having Dale pick up Ruth in his 1936 two-door Ford for a trip to the Clay Center or to a nearby town – perhaps Harvard or Sutton – to see a movie.
“We went to see a lot of movies,” said Ruth.
The 1930s had been tough years in Clay County, with the Great Depression, drought and dust storms affecting everyone. And Dale and Ruth’s high school years were spent in the cloud of WWII, with rationing of gasoline and other supplies a part of everyday life.
Dale and Ruth graduated from high school in 1944, and Dale started farming with his father and brother. He was admitted to military service, but was turned away due to high blood pressure.
Meanwhile, Dale and Ruth continued their courtship display – not without running into a few obstacles in the way, but never encountering a conflict that they couldn’t overcome.
Woods said family members asked his mother if she and Dale had ever broken up during their years of dating, and the answer is a definite yes.
“Mom said, ‘Oh, yeah, a lot of times – usually right before our birthdays,’” Woods said with a chuckle.
Ironically, Dale and Ruth chose their anniversary week for their wedding in 1946. After the nuptials, they traveled to the Rocky Mountains of Colorado for their honeymoon in the same 1936 Ford they had driven so many. times at the movies. (The brakes didn’t work very well on this car, but they obviously survived.)
One of their most memorable wedding gifts was the kind that continues to be given, especially for a young farm couple.
“We got a cash cow for a wedding present from my father,” said Ruth.
Raise corn, cattle and kids – with a song
Dale and Ruth lived, cultivated, and raised children at Livgren’s place of residence, northeast of Clay Center. Mr. VonSpreckelsen’s short-horned cow was their entry into the milking business, and they continued to operate a Grade A dairy on the farm for several years.
Eventually, their family came to include son Doug, who still lives in the place of origin today; daughter Karin, now Karin VanderHamm of Edmond, Oklahoma; Judith; and her daughter Kristin, now Kristin Dittmer of West Lafayette, Indiana.
Some of Dale and Ruth’s happiest memories relate to their camping and fishing trips with the kids, first with tents and later with a small RV.
The Livgren’s have also taken advantage of countless family day trips to Lovewell Reservoir in Jewell County, Kansas to spend time around the water.
“Starting in the 1960s, we went to the lake almost every Sunday in the summer,” Woods said.
Over the years, Dale and Ruth got better camping gear and ended up with a 26ft trailer. They attended the gatherings of the Good Sams, a club for RV and RV owners.
The couple have also been able to make several great trips over the years, with destinations such as Europe, Alaska, Hawaii, and the northeastern United States.
“We really liked Switzerland,” said Ruth.
Other special memories involve visits with neighbors; square dance; and the music of Dale, which has accompanied him since his childhood (he grew up in a family of musicians) and which still occupies an important place in his life.
“Dad sings and plays with his guitar, still to this day,” said Woods. “It was common when mom finished supper that he sang to her.”
Dale served on the Clay Center Education Board, worked as an auctioneer, and enjoyed rodeos and participating in draft horse pulls.
“We love work horses and we raised them,” said Ruth.
Ruth was a founding member of the Happy Homemakers Extension Club, which was established in 1954 and continued into the 1990s.
Dale and Ruth have been active members of the Clay Center Christian Church.
“We cannot be grateful enough”
In 1986, Dale and Ruth exchanged homes with their son Doug and his family, who lived on a farm near Spring Ranch west of Fairfield. There they watched over the family’s cattle on the pasture while Doug ran the farm.
Years later, they moved to the Clay Center. They moved to Heritage in College View in January 2021.
When asked about the secret to living long, Dale had to admit that he didn’t always take the best care of himself.
Once a pack-a-day smoker, Dale gave up the habit many years ago.
“I decided that if I was going to live to be an old man, I had better stop those doggone cigarettes,” he said.
Ruth said longevity depended on her side of the family, but added that being able to eat well over the years – even when times were tough – has been of benefit to her and her husband.
Although their marriage has been long and happy, she and Dale said they trust their children to make their own life choices and are proud of the families they have raised.
“We never tried to point any of our kids to a particular partner,” Dale said. “They were good at it.”
The years have brought some challenges and have almost missed the way of the Livgren. Despite this, Dale and Ruth marvel at their blessings and the long life they have been privileged to lead.
“It’s a lot of love,” Ruth said of what their diamond anniversary means.
“Being married for 75 years… it’s a long road,” Dale said. “We just can’t be grateful enough to the good Lord to keep us alive that long.”
“And together,” his wife added.