The first place winners in this year’s Cutest Couple photo contest met through a dating website, ChristianMingle.com.

John Richards, 70, and Diane Jamison-Richards, 71, of Alexandria, garnered 2,088 votes, raising $522 for Someplace Safe. Diane said one of the main reasons for entering the contest was that it was a fundraiser for Someplace Safe.

“We support this worthy cause and thank everyone for donating,” she said. “We especially thank our friends and family.”

The contest raised a total of $1,756.25, which was donated to Someplace Safe of Douglas County. There were 28 couples in this year’s contest, which was sponsored for the third year in a row by the Echo Press, Elden’s Fresh Foods and Willy T’s Tavern.

Diane shared that when she and John first met, they found out they were both twins – he has a twin sister and she has a twin brother. In addition, they both graduated from St. Cloud State and even lived in the same dorm one year, although they didn’t know each other at the time.

Newsletter signup for email alerts

“So, how could we have gone wrong?” she said.

Here is more about John and Diann:

Q: Was it love at first sight?

A: For one of us, it was (John). It took Diane longer, but what won her over was that he was a Christian, had a great sense of humor and loved golf! Our first date was golfing at the Geneva Golf course.

Q: How long did you date before getting married?

A: Four months (Diane had been widowed for 13 years and John was just out there!). I (Diane) told him he could never surprise me (like with a proposal). Well, he pulled off a proposal at a garden party in front of a group of friends and strangers. I was totally surprised! Why did we get married so quickly? We're not getting any younger!

Q: How long have you been married? (Include when and where you got married)

A: Four years and four months – 10/14/16, Alexandria Covenant Church.

John Richards and Diane Jamison-Richards of Alexandria are pictured at their wedding on Oct. 14, 2016. The couple were married at the Alexandria Covenant Church. (Contributed)
John Richards and Diane Jamison-Richards of Alexandria are pictured at their wedding on Oct. 14, 2016. The couple were married at the Alexandria Covenant Church. (Contributed)


Q: What do each of you do for a living?

A: John is a retired health care administrator and Diane is a retired government employee relations specialist.

Q: Do you have any children or grandchildren?

A: Six children and six grandchildren between the two of us.

Q: What is your favorite thing about each other?

A: Diane loves John’s sense of humor and that he makes her feel loved! John’s favorite thing is Diane’s wit, beauty, competitiveness and most of all, her smile.

Q: What advice do you have for newly married couples?

A: Make God the head of your household. Show each other love and respect.

Q: What is the secret to a successful marriage?

A: Always be flexible. Don’t allow little issues to become more important than being thankful for the blessing of each other. Have fun, laugh it up, be good friends and trust each other.

Q: How do you usually celebrate Valentine's Day?

A: Nothing traditional. Being together and loving and appreciating each other is the best gift. Cards, flowers, dinner and/or dessert are sometimes included.

Q: Who submitted your photo to the contest?

A: While reading the paper one evening, I (Diane) saw the Cutest Couple contest and commented, “Maybe we should enter.” John said, “Only if you leave my picture out.” Just before the entry date ended, I submitted the picture and didn’t tell John. After the pictures were in the paper, we were social distancing with a few friends in a garage. The friends made comments about the contest and John thought they were just kidding, only to find out they weren’t!

Celebrating 52 years

The second place winners in the contest are Jerry and Carol Larson, who live by Lake Carlos. They received 924 votes, raising $231 for Someplace Safe.

The couple, who are in their early 70s, met at the old Geneva Lodge in the summer 1967. They dated for the next year and a half while both were in school at St. Cloud State College.

Q: How long did you date before getting married?

A: A year and a half.

Q: How long have you been married? (Include when and where you got married.)

A: We celebrated our 52nd wedding anniversary on Feb 8. We were married in Calvary Lutheran Church with the reception at Colonial Club followed by a dance at the Hillside Club and honeymoon at Lutsen Ski Resort.

Jerry and Carol Larson, shown here at the wedding, celebrated 52 years on Feb. 8. The couple got married at Calvary Lutheran Church in Alexandria. (Contributed)
Jerry and Carol Larson, shown here at the wedding, celebrated 52 years on Feb. 8. The couple got married at Calvary Lutheran Church in Alexandria. (Contributed)


Q: What do each of you do for a living?

A: Jerry had a 20-year career as a pilot in the U.S. Air Force followed by 22 more years as a pilot instructor for Lockheed Corporation. Carol worked in the western industry showing horses and owning her own western store in Sherwood, Arkansas.

Q: Do you have any children or grandchildren?

A: We have two daughters, Andrea living in Virginia and Christina who lives here in Alexandria. We have three grandchildren, Chandler who lives in Tennessee, Griffin who is in the U.S. Air Force stationed at Grand Forks Air Force Base and Emily, here in Alexandria.

Q: What is your favorite thing about each other?

A: Jerry's favorite things about Carol are her kindness, generosity, supporting him for all these years and her creative abilities. Carol's favorite things are his fun-loving support, love of travel and ability to fix and build almost anything.

Q: What advice do you have for newly married couples?

A: Respect each other and their opinions, laugh a lot and be a good listener.

Q: What is the secret to a successful marriage?

A: Be appreciative and respectful of each other. Enjoy doing things together, but give each other space.

The second place winners of the Cutest Couple photo contest are Jerry and Carol Larson. They received 924 votes, raising $231 for Someplace Safe. (Contributed)
The second place winners of the Cutest Couple photo contest are Jerry and Carol Larson. They received 924 votes, raising $231 for Someplace Safe. (Contributed)


Q: How do you usually celebrate Valentine's Day?

A: We enjoy quiet candlelight wine and lobster dinner.

Q: Who submitted your photo to the contest?

A: Thanks to Carol's sister, Kathy Peterson, for secretly submitting the photo and to our family, friends, especially our Pickleball friends, and all the others who support Someplace Safe.