One look, a lifetime of love
While some folks don’t believe in the old saying of “love at first sight,” don’t tell that to Gladys Frette, a resident at St. Luke’s Lutheran Care Center.
“I knew I was going to marry my husband the first time I ever saw him,” Frette says of her late husband, Ernest “Ernie” Frette. “Of course, he didn’t know it until quite a bit later.”
It wasn’t such an easy task, Gladys Frette says, and how that eventual wedding between a girl from Long Island, New York, and a farm boy from Elmore, Minnesota, ever happened is really quite a story.
It was in 1941. World War II was underway.
Ernie Frette had just graduated from Elmore High School in June, and he joined the U.S. Navy four days later. He took the place of his older brother, who had been drafted but was needed to stay home and work on the farm, Gladys Frette says.
He became a gunner on a merchant ship and was stationed in Brooklyn, New York.
“I had a girl friend, Georgetta, who had a Navy man as her boyfriend,” Gladys recalls. “And her boyfriend had a friend who was his shipmate and they wanted me to double date with them on a blind date.”
The two sailors showed up at Gladys’ house in Jamaica, New York, in 1942, to pick up the two girls and so her parents could meet them.
After all, Gladys Frette was just 15 years old at the time.
“I came into the room and Ernie was kind of bent over, taking off his Navy Peacoat, and when he stood back up, I looked into his eyes and I knew, I knew right then I was going to marry this guy,” she says. “He had the most amazing beautiful eyes.”
There were several obstacles to overcome before any wedding was ever going to happen. One major one was that Ernie had a steady girlfriend back home in Elmore.
The two couples spent that first double date touring around New York City, mostly walking but sometimes riding a double-decker tour bus.
But then, it was off to sea for Ernie, and back to school for Gladys.
“I had asked him if it was all right if I wrote to him once in while,” Gladys says. “He said sure, they all love to get mail.”
So she wrote to him constantly over the next four years.
“Ernie went all over the world on that ship,” Gladys says. “He was in the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans he went through the Panama Canal at least three times, maybe more. He was in both the European and Pacific Theaters of War.”
Ernie saw a lot of the world, from Europe to Africa, from South America to Asia and the Pacific islands in between.
And, everywhere he went, he kept getting letters from Gladys.
But, then, one of Ernie’s return letters back to her had some shocking news.
“He had been home on leave to Elmore,” Gladys says. “And he had become engaged.”
But, even that announcement didn’t deter Gladys from believing she was still going to marry this “guy with the pretty eyes.”
“He broke off the engagement eventually,” Gladys says. “He found out from his family that she wasn’t exactly faithful and was running around.”
Ernie got out of the Navy in early 1946. But instead of Elmore, he headed to New York.
“We became engaged on March 17, 1946, on St. Patrick’s Day,” Gladys says. “He came to New York and gave me a ring.”
After that, Gladys made her first-ever trip to Minnesota, to meet his family and friends. She had never been anywhere other than New York and New Jersey.
“I took the train to Mankato and he picked me up there,” Gladys says. “It was an awful lot of fields of corn and beans on our ride to Elmore.”
Ernie had told her there were still Indians in Minnesota, but she told him she didn’t see any on the ride to Elmore, and he jokingly said they were all hiding.
“That is how naive I was,” she says. “I didn’t know anything about Minnesota and not a thing about farming. His family could not believe I wanted to be a farm wife and they did a bit of laughing at me, because I knew so little.”
Of course, her own family was also concerned because she was so young and was going to marry a farmer, someone they thought of as being poor and dirty and who could never amount to much.
But, later that year, on Oct. 26, 1946, the Long Island girl and the Elmore boy with the beautiful eyes were married.
“The wedding was in the Methodist church in Springfield Gardens, New York,” Gladys says. “It was very nice.”
Only Ernie’s sister, Mert, was able to make the trip out east to attend the service. His mother was going to come but had injured her back and could not make the trip.
However, the happy couple was soon back in Minnesota.
“Our first home was on 80 acres by Pilot Grove,” Gladys recalls. “And Pilot Grove consisted of a church and a lumberyard. That was a lot different than what I was used to growing up.”
She quickly tried to learn how to be a good farm wife, doing everything from learning how to run a pump from the well to helping with the chores.
Eventually she got the hang of it.
The couple had three children: Joanne, Linda and Michael. Michael is now farming on the home place.
Over the years, Gladys made several trips back to Long Island to visit her family. And several times, her parents and family came to Minnesota to see her.
Ernie, who had already seen most of the world, opted to stay home and farm and was happy doing it.
“I never had any regrets (about marrying Ernie and moving to Minnesota),” Gladys says. “Ernie was a wonderful, loving husband. My parents realized he was a nice guy, too. I loved him dearly. I must have, to have left home and moved so far away.”
She says she realizes now how it must have looked to her family.
“I was so young, and I didn’t know beans, and it (moving away) maybe was dumb,” she says. “But, I was brave, and I was in love.”
Eventually, Ernie became sick with cancer and heart issues, Gladys says, and he became a resident of St. Luke’s for six years before he passed away on March 26, 2010.
Gladys had moved into Southview Estates, because she didn’t want to be by herself, and in order to be near her beloved Ernie. Now, due to some health issues of her own, she has moved into St. Luke’s Care Center.
She misses her husband, Ernie, tremendously, and keeps the picture of him in his Navy uniform close by, where she can look at it all the time.
And gaze upon those amazingly beautiful eyes once again.