Love potion stays strongAs Valentine’s Day approaches each year, the Journal seeks a local couple who has recently celebrated a big anniversary and may be willing to share their story as well their secrets to relationship success.
By: Debbie Griffin, River Falls Journal
As Valentine’s Day approaches each year, the Journal seeks a local couple who has recently celebrated a big anniversary and may be willing to share their story as well their secrets to relationship success.
Karen and LeRoy Larson celebrated 50 years of marriage Friday, Feb. 3. They declined offers for a big party and instead enjoyed several different celebrations.
LeRoy said they started getting texts the night before and enjoyed many messages throughout their anniversary weekend.
In good humor, he says he’s heard too many people ask him how Karen has managed to put up with him all this time.
The couple takes pride and joy in having their three sons, six of seven grandkids, one great grandchild and another on the way, all her brothers and sisters, all his brothers and sisters, plus LeRoy’s 90-year-old mom -- living near them in River Falls.
Karen said they loved hosting 27 people at Christmas 2011. The two say they like to babysit, too, but have the kind of family where it’s OK to say no if they’re busy.
Karen and LeRoy both lived in River Falls all their lives. They grew up on different dairy farms.
LeRoy explains they knew each other for a while before going out: “I was in school with Karen’s brother and used to work for Karen’s dad,” he said.
“And on June 6 of 1957, she finally said she’d go out with me.”
He recalls the first time he saw her -- when he had a flat tire and had walked to their house to use the phone.
Karen, whose maiden name is Peterson, stood behind her mom who had answered the door.
As far as the Larsons remember, they were out roller skating with Jerry and Donna Wilkens the night LeRoy proposed.
They dated for about five years before marrying in a small ceremony at Rush River Lutheran Church.
LeRoy served in the National Guard during 1962. Asked if the two took a honeymoon trip, he said, “I took my bride to Washington (state),” where he was stationed for service.
After a short while in the northwest, the couple returned to River Falls.
Karen said she worked a total of almost 17 years, though not consecutively, as a UW-River Falls program assistant for central stores.
LeRoy managed the Sears store downtown for several years. He and Karen were in real estate for a while, and he worked for 3M two different times -- once in the 1960s and again in the 1980s.
He also volunteered for the local Fire and Ambulance Departments.
Karen says it seems like they hardly saw each other when they were raising their sons. Sometimes they were on opposite work shifts, other times they were busy.
She said that’s changed now that they’re both retired, “The last 10 years have been nice as far as doing things together.”
Karen and LeRoy describe their family as close and very “huggy, kissy,” so their potion includes liberal amounts of affection.
Asked what kinds of things they do or did together as a couple and family, they say: Snowmobiling until they sold them a few years ago and riding four wheelers.
Karen said, “We still do that.”
LeRoy said he only took his wife fishing one time, for which she brought a book. He fished and fished with rotten luck, finally telling Karen he’d tried nearly everything in his tackle box.
She told him if she’d known he was going to pack an eight-hour box, she probably wouldn’t have come. Karen doesn’t advocate fishing together but does advise going on boat trips whenever possible.
The Larsons enjoyed all kinds of dancing and wish there were more held now. They like getting together with friends and family, playing cards and going to different cabins “up north.”
The two share the common green-n-yellow bond of being Packer fans.
They have also volunteered for Meals on Wheels together for about 10 years.
Though they never played publicly except for LeRoy’s Elvis impressions, both Larsons like music as a hobby.
He says, “Happiness to me is sitting in my rocking chair and listening to her play the organ.”
She says, “And he plays the guitar and sings.”
Asked if they ever argue and how, they say sure -- they butt heads occasionally but try to do it constructively.
Karen says after an argument, they usually just don’t talk for a while then pick up the discussion again later.
He jokes, “We don’t get in many fights as long as I stay out of the kitchen.”
He says his unspoken territories are the den and garage. She oversees the rest of the house as well as serving as chief fashion consultant.
He says he walked out to leave for work one day only to have Karen emit a gasp and an, “Oh my.” After that, she planned his wardrobe.
Asked why they think so many couples split, the Larsons says it is too easy to get divorced, that people don’t seem willing to work hard at it, often fleeing at the first minor sign of trouble.
What advice would the ‘golden couple’ give to others hoping to make a long-term go of it?
They say remember to communicate and talk to each other -- to smile and enjoy things.
The Larsons say humor is hugely important and advocate laughing together a lot.
While LeRoy jokes that it helps to marry a good cook, the Larsons seriously attribute some of their success to the blessing and luck of having lots of loved ones who are nearby and healthy.