NEW ULM - Arlo and Vernette Johnson got married in a hurry, but they must have done it right. They will be celebrating their 70th wedding anniversary with their family this week at Ridgeway on German, where they have lived the past four years.
Vernette Buckhaus of Mankato met Arlo Johnson of Lake Crystal when they were youngsters in different 4-H clubs. Arlo would come to Mankato to go roller skating at the rink just three blocks from where Vernette lived, and they got to know each other pretty well.
In 1942, Arlo, then 21, was called up to serve in the Navy on Oct. 27. A couple of weeks later he called Vernette and proposed, in a manner of speaking. "He told me, 'I'll be coming home for Thanksgiving in a couple of weeks. If you can arrange things, we can get married.'"
Staff photo by Kevin Sweeney
Arlo and Vernette Johnson pose above with their wedding photo. The Johnsons will mark their 70th wedding anniversary on Nov. 29, and will celebrate with an open house at Ridgeway on German, where they live, from 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 1.
"We had about $110 between us," Vernette recalls. Her folks managed to host as reception, and on Nov. 29, 1942, they were married at the Evangelical United Brethren Church. Vernette was an only child, so they got the pastor's son as one of the witnesses.
"I said I would never marry a farmer or a sailor," Vernette said with a smile this week. "But that's what I did."
Arlo served aboard the USS Sea Dragon, a submarine based in Pearl Harbor during the war. They would go out on patrol for eight weeks at a time. In five patrols, the Sea Dragon sank 52 Japanese ships.
While Arlo was serving in the Navy, Vernette worked at an electrical manufacturing firm in Mankato. She did a little traveling during the war, to New London, Connecticut, and to California when the Sea Dragon came in for repairs, and later Key West, Florida, when Arlo was discharged.
They settled down to family life, renting a farm near Lake Crystal for several years, and having three sons Wayne, Allen and Leslie, in three years. Their two oldest graduated from Lake Crystal High School. When the farm was sold they moved to a farm near Madelia and had two daughters, Jolene and Lynette. Vernette worked at several nursing homes, then got a job at Kraft in New Ulm in 1967 while Arlo also worked for the Watonwan County Highway Department.
Arlo later got a job at Raygo in New Ulm, and the couple built a house along Highway 68. Their two daughters graduated from New Ulm High School, one in 1969, the other in 1971.
The last 70 years have been busy and happy ones, said Vernette. "God has blessed us," Venette said.
They've had some health problems: Arlo has dealt with cancer and a stroke, and Vernette has a pacemaker after her heart stopped one time, but they keep a cheery disposition. "You've got to be positive," Vernette said.
They've traveled a lot, especially to Alaska, where their daughters moved to work for an airline. The oldest, Jolene McJunkin, still lives in Anchorage, while Lynette Edmonson lives in Maricopa, Ariz. Their sons still live in Minnesota, Wayne in Bloomington, Allen in St. Augusta, and Leslie in Madelia.
The Johnsons have 12 grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren, and their children will be hosting an open house at Ridgeway on German in the Grandview Room on Saturday, Dec. 1, from 2 to 4 p.m. They request no gifts.
Do they have any advice for young married couples after 70 years?
"Well, I've discovered that all men are stubborn, so you can't say no to them," Vernette said.
Other than that, she said, "They've got to do their own fighting."