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Seventy-one years spent with the ‘love of his life’

By Staff | Sep 21, 2009

Harry Steckelberg, recuperating from a knee replacement, is visited by his son, Melvin. Harry recalls the “good old days” when he and his wife, Vidella were dating and got married at the Rice Lake Church 71 years ago on Sept. 15, 1938. Following their marriage, they honeymooned in South Dakota and saw Lawrence Welk perform at the Corn Palace.

Harry Steckelberg has advice for anyone contemplating marriage…

“Give and take! Give and take! Give and take!” he advises.

He should know, as he and his wife, Vidella (Passer) Steckelberg, have been married for 71 years.

The young couple first met in the 1930s while they were attending the Rice Lake Church.

“There was a side-show in Bricelyn I wanted to see,” says Steckelberg, “but I didn’t want to go alone, so I asked Vidella if she would go with me.”

On that first date, Steckelberg recalls paying 25 cents for a candy box he gave to his date.

There was another guy interested in her at the time, says Steckelberg, but Vidella was not interested. To make a long story short, the couple dated for the next two years.

“I was cleaning the church after the Christmas Eve program, when I offered to give her a ride home,” he says. “While we were sitting in the car, I gave her a little black box. Her eyes lit up when she opened it.”

Inside, of course, was an engagement ring Harry had purchased for $89 from the Wells jewelry store.

“I told Vidella to pick-out the date, her dress and flowers,” he recalls. The couple were married on Sept. 15, 1938, at the Rice Lake Church where they had met.

Their marriage took place at 4 p.m. Steckelberg recalls it was followed by a very noisy shivaree. Since the couple had no place to stay their wedding night, Steckelberg says they slept at her parents before leaving for their honeymoon the next day.

“We went on our honeymoon to Mitchell, S.D., and saw Lawrence Welk perform at the CornPalace,” he says.

The newlyweds lived in his parents house for about a year before he got a house built.

The couple farmed their 160 acres with horses until 1950 when Harry purchased their first tractor.

“We raised every type of livestock imaginable too,” says Steckelberg. “My wife took care of about 500 chickens and gardened, in addition to doing the sewing and crocheting she enjoyed.”

Harry says Vidella would save the money she earned from selling eggs to buy Christmas candy for the family.

Recalling these times, he says, “those were the good old days.”

When Harry got a knee replacement in 1988, his doctor advised him to take some time-off from farming and go to Florida.

It was all the encouragement he needed.

“She followed me too,” adds a grinning Steckelberg of the love of his life.

“We left the farm in the hands of our son, Melvin,” says Steckelberg. “The first year we went to St. Petersburg we couldn’t find a place to stay.” But they eventually did and returned to Florida for a total of 24 years. Each year’s stay got a little longer, until they were wintering there for three months.

For the past four years, Vidella has been living in the Parkview Care Center in Wells. Earlier this month, after again having a knee replaced, Harry is recuperating at St. Luke’s in Blue Earth. He hopes to be able to return to his home in a few weeks and visit Vidella more frequently.

A highlight of their marriage, he says, was probably flying to Hawaii in the mid-1960s.

But he says he and his wife have had a lot of good times throughout their 71 years of marriage.

“We’ve never had a fight,” he says, “but one must give and take, give and take and give and take!”