Renewing a life-long commitment
For the first 44 years of her marriage, Linda Zismer of Alexandria probably wouldn't have described her husband, Dan, as a romantic.
But that changed on Valentine's Day 2009, when her husband gave her a gift that honored their long-time marriage in a truly romantic way.
It all started in August of 2008 during a trip to Iowa to visit their daughter. On the way they passed signs for The Little Brown Church in the Vale, located in Nashua, Iowa.
This reminded the couple of the church where they were married, which was also a very small church, ironically located in Nashua, Minnesota.
It was then that Linda shared a thought out loud: "I said to my husband we should have our vows renewed in August 2009 because it would be our 45th wedding anniversary."
The idea was really only a passing fancy. Since the church in Nashua, Minnesota where they were married no longer exists, she didn't even think seriously about the idea.
However, Dan did think about it.
"It just stayed in the back of my mind," he said.
In January 2009, he began to give the idea some serious thought.
"Her mother was very ill, and I wanted to give her something different for Valentine's Day to cheer her up," he said of his wife. So he began constructing his romantic plan.
He contacted the Little Brown Church in Iowa to find out if they could renew their vows, and what dates were available. The couple had been married August 22, and he was hoping to get as close to that date as possible for the renewal ceremony.
"Low and behold, August 22 was available!" he said.
So Dan made the arrangements and anxiously waited for the paperwork to arrive, beating his wife to the mailbox every day for two weeks.
Once it was all set, he began planning how to share the surprise.
"I had it all arranged the first part of January, and then it seemed like an eternity until Valentine's Day!" he recalled.
On Valentine's Day, the couple went out to an area restaurant with their daughter and future son-in-law. Dan asked the waitress to slip a note into his wife's menu.
When Linda opened her menu, she found the note, written by Dan, that read:
"We have been married 44 and one half years and I love you more today than anytime in my life. I cannot imagine a day without us being together and in love.
On this Valentine's Day I am asking if you would renew our wedding vows on the 45th anniversary of our wedding. I have arranged the time and the place so all I need is for you to open this folder and say yes."
Linda did say yes, and on August 22, 2009, the couple traveled to the Little Brown Church in the Vale to renew their vows, joined by a few family members.
"I was very touched and surprised," Linda said. "The ceremony was a wonderful renewal."
Both agree that they were able to enjoy the renewal ceremony more than their original wedding ceremony.
"When you first get married, you are so nervous and busy getting everything ready and making sure it went well," Dan explained. "I don't even hardly remember our wedding, it was so hectic. This time it really meant something."
"We'd recommend it to everybody," Linda agreed.
The couple was so moved by the experience that they plan to do it again. The Little Brown Church holds an annual marriage reunion ceremony the first weekend in August each year. The 58th annual reunion will be held July 31 and August 1.
"A lot of people think what we did is just crazy," Linda said, "but it's definitely one of the best gifts I've ever gotten."
A long-term commitment
Linda grew up in Nashua, Minnesota, and Dan in nearby Tintah. Dan's mother was Linda's 5th grade teacher, and the couple first met at a school square dance.
A relationship wasn't in the cards at that time, however. Linda moved with her family to Alexandria when she was in 9th grade and she and Dan didn't see each other for four years.
Their relationship was later rekindled, again thanks to Dan's mother.
"His mom was a favorite teacher of mine, so I called her one day," Linda explained. "She told me that Dan just happened to be coming home that weekend."
Linda was scheduled to be performing with the Moorhead State University band in Alexandria and Dan asked if he could come see her.
"She said yes and then she stood me up!" he reminisced. "She told me where the band was staying, so I went there and there I sat. She never showed."
He was persistent and finally reconnected with Linda. They've been together ever since.
Dan transferred from St. Cloud State University to Moorhead State University to be closer to Linda. They were later engaged and, on August 22, 1964, were married.
Both were teachers. They lived in a couple different Minnesota communities before settling in Alexandria.
The couple has one son and one daughter, both married, and three grandchildren.
When asked what their secret is to a happy marriage, both agree that patience is a necessity.
"It takes a lot of patience," Linda said. "And tenacity. You have to be willing to work through things. There's been a lot of bumps in the road."
"Patience is definitely important," Dan agreed. "We've lost that at times, but that gets less and less as the years go by."
"You've got to love one another," Linda added.
"That hasn't been a problem," her husband quickly responded with a smile.
The couple also agrees that they are best friends.
"It's grown more that way as we've gotten older," Linda said. "I think we rely on each other a lot more now."
And, as Dan can attest, a little romance once in awhile helps, too!