Sept. 3 is a very special day for Dan and Mary Kruse of Alexandria. The couple, who both grew up in the Granite Falls area, will be celebrating their wedding anniversary.
With Dan, who is known to many as “Buster,” turning 102 this past April and his wife, just five years younger, turning 97 in February, the couple will be celebrating 82 years of wedded bliss. Yes, they have been married for more than eight decades. He was 20 when they wed, while she was just 15.
The Echo Press contacted the Minnesota Office of Vital Records to see if they held the record for the longest married couple in Minnesota. However, Neeti Sethi from that office, said the Office of Vital Records only collects statistical data on the marriage certificates filed and licenses issued and that it does not collect data on individuals.
Dan and Mary have four children – David, Jerry, Dennis and Linda – who are all retired. They have at least seven grandchildren and 12 great grandchildren, according to Dan, who said if those numbers weren’t right, they were close enough.
“It’s hard to keep track when you don’t see them often,” he said with a great big grin on his face and a slight chuckle. He asked Mary to double check the list, as he wrote them all down and she said it looked right to her.
The couple live in a townhome on Seven Pines Street on their own and Dan still drives. In fact, he said he loves it and that they try to get out several times a week.
Dan, who has a great sense of humor and is quite the jokester, according to family members, said oftentimes while they are out and about, they end up at one of their favorite restaurants in town – Angelina’s.
“If we drive by there, the car just seems to have a mind of its own and pulls right into the parking lot,” he said.
Although they do go out to eat on a somewhat regular basis, Mary still likes to cook and loves to make hotdishes, she said.
While looking at Dan with a twinkle in her eye, Mary said though that Dan is the one who does the dishes and that she appreciates it.
Dancing the night away
So how did the couple meet? At first, Dan said he didn’t want to share the story, but after looking over at Mary and she flashed him a smile, seemingly giving him the go-ahead, he did.
In their younger days, the two often found themselves at dances in Marshall. Dan said he kind of knew Mary, but hadn’t talked to her before.
Then one night, he saw Mary head for the restroom, which he said was outside. He thought about following her, but decided to wait until she came back in. When she did, he asked her if she would like to dance with him.
Thankfully, she said yes.
“She was a pretty cute girl so I thought I better talk to her,” said Dan, while grinning ear-to-ear at his wife. “We danced a couple of dances, then we had a date.”
And the rest, he said, is basically history as they have been together ever since.
After the couple married, they lived in St. Paul where Dan worked for the Ford Motor Company. He retired from there in 1979. Mary was a housewife, said Dan, although she worked a bit here and there, he said.
“Family was more important than her working,” he said.
After Dan retired, the couple moved to Maple Lake near Forada. They had had a cabin on the lake, but then built a house there, which they lived in for 27 years. The two then moved into Alexandria to their townhome, which they've called home for 14 years.
Although he was retired when they moved to the area, Dan said he helped with “potato picking” for several summers, which he said he enjoyed.
The couple also loved to spend their time together fishing, bowling, golfing, vacationing with family and just going out and having fun. Dan also hunted with family and friends, although Dan said it was just for sport for him as the two of them aren’t fond of eating the rewards of his excursions.
“He keeps busy,” said Mary, smiling at Dan. “That’s what keeps him young.”
When Mary was asked what her secret was for staying young and living a long life, without hesitation, she quipped, “Lefse!”
And then she said that Dan likes lutefisk with his lefse. He didn’t argue.
When Dan was asked if there was anything else he liked, he looked across the table at Mary, twinkle in his eye and asked, “What do I like besides you?”
Mary just laughed and smiled right back at him as he then replied, “I like potato pancakes and bacon.”
Secrets of a long marriage
Dan and Mary, who still like to go out together and have a good time, said their marriage wasn’t perfect but they made it work.
“We had little arguments here and there, but we always worked it out,” Dan said.
Mary chimed in and said, “He’s been a good husband.”
She also said he was a good dancer and a good baseball player. And she loved when they fished together although, while starting to laugh, she said there were times when he was afraid she would outfish him.
He just smiled and shrugged his shoulders and then added, “There were times she was ready to throw me in the lake!”
Dan said his advice for anyone thinking about getting married is to be honest with one another and to make sure to “have a little lovin’ in there.”
He also said to make sure it’s the one you love and to make sure you’re in love with that person.
When asked why he asked Mary to marry him, Dan just lovingly looked at his wife and said, “That’s the only way I’d get to keep her. I loved her and she made me happy.”
Once upon a time, Dan was quite the musician – he played banjo and sang and was in a band with his family. Dan said he used to sing to Mary, which she said she loved.
And although it took a few minutes, Dan started serenading his beloved bride.
“Come lay by my side little darlin’, come lay your cool hand on my brow. Promise me that you will always be nobody’s darlin’ but mine.”