BioA: Olsen, John/Gladys – 75th
Wedding Anniversary (2022)
Contact: Dolores (Mohr) Kenyon
Surnames: Olsen, Fenner, Smith, Joyce
----Source: Clark County Press (Neillsville, Clark Co., WI) 8/10/2022
75 Years Strong: Olsens Celebrate Wedding Anniversary (2022)
Married August 16, 1947, John and Gladys (Fenner) Olsen have enjoyed many happy years together.
By Valorie Brecht
In a throwaway world, John and Gladys Olsen’s marriage has stood the test of time. The longtime Loyal residents will be married 75 years on Tuesday.
The Olsens, who now live in Marshfield, have learned what it means to commit to someone and share many joys journeying through life together.
John was born April 6, 1926, and grew up on a farm outside of Loyal. Gladys was born almost two years to the day later, on April 5, 1928, and grew up in town. The two went to school together and it didn’t take long for their paths to cross.
“It all started when I came out of church on April 4, 1943. There stood that good-looking boy that I had my eye on in band. What was he doing here? I thought, ‘Oh no! He’s coming towards me. What do I say?’” Gladys recalled.
“He asked me if I wanted a ride home and of course I was thrilled to have him take me home and said ‘yes.’ When we got to my house, he then asked me if I would like to go to the show. There were two shows every night, so we could just make the second show. Mom said yes and the rest of it was history,” said Gladys.
John and Gladys went to see “A Yank at Eaton” starring one of Gladys’ favorite actors, Mickey Rooney. A romance quickly budded and blossomed over the next four years. John later wrote that the day he met Gladys was the biggest day of his life and he never wanted to forget it.
John was drafted into the Army in January 1946 during World War II and served in the Philippines from October 1946 to May 1947. Despite the distance, the Olsens kept their relationship strong. They wrote to each other every day, with 677 letters exchanged.
John returned home in June and proposed to Gladys in July at the Greenwood park.
“It was decided that next year would be too long to wait to get married, but there wasn’t much time before I had to go back to work as a secretary at school. It was decided that a simple wedding could be managed in a month’s time,” Gladys wrote in a family history.
On Aug. 4, the couple went to get a marriage license, wedding attire and rings for the big day.
“When we were getting the marriage license, I forgot to take the checkbook, so she had to pay,” John said, smiling at the memory.
The pair got all the necessary items and soon the wedding day rolled around. John and Gladys were married Aug. 16, 1947, at the Methodist Church in Loyal with the Rev. Lee Holmes officiating. Attendants were Floyd Olsen and LaVonne (Smith) Joyce. The couple went on a honeymoon to northern Wisconsin, Duluth and St. Paul.
Upon returning home, John and Gladys lived with John’s parents while John worked on building their new home. Gladys said that first year was a challenge.
“We started out with nothing when John got out of the service. There was not much for jobs when he got out of the service, because the ones that came back before him had taken all the jobs,” she said.
After that first year, John went into a partnership with his dad on the farm. He did that for nine years and ultimately decided not to buy the farm. In 1957, he and Gladys moved into town. John then worked at Noeldner Implement for six years. He got injured while working there and was looking for a less physically demanding job. Around the same time, he was on the school board and heard about an open janitor position. He quit the school board and decided to take the janitor position, which he held for 24 years.
Gladys worked as a school secretary. When she and John had kids, she was a stay-at-home mom. She came back to her secretary job for one year, 1956-57, to fill in for someone, but other than that she was at home.
In 1971, Gladys had back surgery to have a crushed disc removed. Around that time, she decided to go to college in Marshfield to major in music. She had been teaching piano lessons already. She took all the classes she could in Marshfield before going to Stevens Point. She then lived in a house near the UW-Stevens Point campus for one year while taking classes. At that point her kids were all grown, other than one who was a teenager.
Gladys graduated in 1976 at age 48 with a degree in music and a minor in organ. After graduating, there were no jobs in the music field in the area, so she substitute taught, helped with summer school and worked in the library for one year. She decided to go back to school to obtain her librarian certification. She started at the Loyal School District in 1978 as a librarian and audio/visual specialist. She retired in 1993.
In retirement, Gladys and John continued to stay involved in the community. Gladys served as president of the Loyal Public Library Board and volunteered many hours at the Loyal Public Library. She also served as president of the county library board and was on the Wisconsin Valley Library Service Board of Trustees. She received the Trustee of the Year Award from the Wisconsin Library Association.
John was president of his church council for a few years. He also served as secretary-treasurer for the Loyal Fire Department, and represented his township on the fire department back when they lived in the country.
In their retirement years, John and Gladys loved going camping. They also enjoyed traveling, fishing and doing crafts. For about 20 years, they went to Arizona every winter.
“We traveled shore to shore as well. Our son used to live in Seattle, so we went out there many times,” said Gladys.
They also each maintained their own hobbies. John has done a lot of woodworking and carving. Gladys likes to crochet and knit, and research the family genealogy.
The Olsens have been through their share of ups and downs in marriage, but their biggest challenge came in 2015 when John was diagnosed with Stage 4 non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Thankfully, the chemotherapy treatment helped, and John made it through.
“About a year ago, the oncologist told him, ‘I don’t think you need me anymore. You’re cured.’ And before they had told him that there was no chance of curing it. So I feel fortunate that he’s still around,” said Gladys. “It was a big challenge, but our faith carried us through.”
John still has some health struggles, including dementia, and Gladys has some mobility issues, so about a year ago they moved into Stoney River Assisted Living in Marshfield. Before that, they had lived in an apartment in Marshfield.
They are just happy to be together.
“We’ve had a good life... We feel fortunate. We have a wonderful family and a good home,” said Gladys.
John and Gladys have four kids: Sue (late Herb) Olsen of Duluth, MN; Carl (Becky) Olsen of Avon, MN; David (Debbie) Olsen of Barren; and Jean (Mick) Braun of Phillips. They have eight grandchildren, five step grandchildren, 16 great-grandchildren and two step great-grandchildren.
When it comes to building a legacy of love over a lifetime, it’s the little things that make a difference, Gladys said. She offered several tips from “The Art of Marriage” poem by Wilferd A. Peterson.
“Never go to sleep angry with each other. Say ‘I love you’ at least once a day. Speak words of appreciation to your spouse, especially if they do something specific to help you. Have the capacity to forgive and forget,” said Gladys.
“When you go into marriage, you have to remember that it’s no longer ‘me’ but ‘us.’ You have to stand together as a team to confront challenges,” she continued. “And we’ve always included God’s teachings in our lives.”
A couple of the Olsens’ children and Gladys’ sister plan to visit for an anniversary celebration Tuesday.
Gladys and John Olsen will celebrate 75 years of marriage on Aug. 16. The two lived in Loyal for many years and both worked at the Loyal School District. Valorie Brecht/Clark County Press
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