A new beginning
It is not the story of the Brady Bunch. No, Don Amundson and Mavis Stenzel had each raised their families prior to getting married to each other. It is, however, the story of a man and a woman who lost their spouses after long, happy marriages and decided to marry again.
Amundson had been married for 61 years to Virginia, or “Ginny,” as he called her. Ginny passed away in August of 2016 after battling a blood disease for eight years. They had raised two daughters, Wendy and Debbie.
Stenzel had enjoyed 58 years of marriage with her husband Myrl before he died in January of 2015. Three boys were born to the Stenzels, Tim, Tom and Troy.
So between Amundson and Stenzel, they had experienced 119 years of happily married life. And the happiness they each had experienced in marriage helped them decide to marry each other on Aug. 4, of this year.
“I think if you’ve had a good marriage it is easier to consider getting married again,” Stenzel says.
And both Amundson and Stenzel will tell you they had good marriages.
“I had been in the Air Force and got out in 1959,” Amundson comments. “We came home to Frost and I worked for the Rural Electric Cooperative (REC) and then Frost Benco. We moved to Mankato in 1977 and eventually ended up in the Pacific Northwest where I worked for different
companies. I retired as the Chief Financial Officer for an electric company in 1998 and Ginny and I decided to return to Faribault County, eventually settling in rural Blue Earth.
Along the way Don and Ginny enjoyed traveling, including trips to Bangladesh in 1987 and Indonesia in 1991.
Stenzel lived her early years in Dell, which is north of Frost, then her family moved across the border to Iowa before Mavis came back across the border to Minnesota when she married Myrl.
“I was a farm girl and I enjoyed working with Myrl while we raised our family,” Stenzel shares.
In July of 2017, John Stewart, a mutual friend of Amundson and Stenzel, invited Amundson to go to the Diamond Jo Casino in Northwood, Iowa.
“I told John I wasn’t much of a gambler,” Amundson explains. “He told me Mavis was going to be there, so I asked, does she know I am coming? And he said yes she knows and is okay with it.”
Amundson and Stenzel discovered they had many common interests and as they continued to get to know each other they discovered they had both been baptized by the same minister.
Stenzel had invited Amundson to go south with her to Arizona in December of 2017 to spend some time in a warmer climate.
“But Don had a heart attack on the trip and was hospitalized in Mesa, Arizona,” Stenzel says.
Eventually Don was able to make it back to Minnesota.
“I stayed that winter, from January through April, with Wendy (his daughter),” Amundson comments, “I had to wear a vest which could restart my heart if necessary and I was not supposed to be alone. Wendy had retired so she could watch me.”
Stenzel invited Amundson to go south again this past winter. They left in January and came back in April. They also took time to visit Amundson’s daughter Debbie, who lives in California.
“And then one day I asked Mavis to marry me,” Amundson shares. “She made me wait two days before she gave me her answer, but she did say yes.”
Marriage is something which is very important to the couple.
“A lot of people said, ‘Why not just live together?” Stenzel says.
“But neither one of us were comfortable with that idea,” Amundson adds.
Stenzel explains their feelings further.
“We want to set a good example for our grandchildren,” Stenzel states.
Next, the couple had to decide where to get married.
“I belong to United Lutheran in Frost and Mavis is a member at Shiloh Lutheran in Elmore,” Amundson comments. “So we decided to get married at the church at the Faribault County Fairgrounds.”
As for their family members, their children were very supportive.
“I think it might have been a little more difficult for the grandchildren,” Stenzel shares, “They do not realize what it is like to be alone after 58 years.”
Stenzel’s son Tom is friends with a retired pastor from Sioux Falls who was more than happy to perform the ceremony.
“He would not take any money for conducting the ceremony and said to donate it to our favorite charity,” Amundson remarks. “So we made a donation to the American Legion Legacy Fund.”
The wedding was attended by family and close friends numbering 77 people.
“We had all of our children and their spouses stand up for us,” Stenzel says.
In fact there were only two family members who were unable to attend.
“I have a granddaughter in New Jersey who was eight months pregnant and a granddaughter in California who were unable to attend,” Amundson explains.
The newly married couple held their reception at the Minn-Iowa Golf Course and now make their home southeast of Elmore, on Stenzel’s farm.
They stay busy traveling to watch their grandchildren and great-grandchildren participate in events such as soccer, dance and horse-jumping.
“Now there is someone else to consider in making decisions,” Amundson comments.
Both like to travel and are looking forward to spending more time exploring different places.
Perhaps Stenzel’s remarks to the guests at their wedding reception sums up their feelings the best.
“We don’t know what God’s plan is for us,” she told the crowd, “But we are going to enjoy the time we have together.”