The glint in their eyes tells a story of love and humor that has carried them through almost 65 years of life together as man and wife.
“We met in 1947 when we were both 21 years old,” said Ernest Herald of how the journey with his wife, Rowena, began. “We got married when we were both 22.”
Rowena smiles as she points out she is the oldest of the two by six weeks.
“Yeah,” Ernest agrees with a slight chuckle, “but I’m more mature.”
She will be 87 in March and Rowena points out Ernest will “catch up with her” when he turns 87 in May. However, he reiterates with a grin, “she’s still older than I am.”
The two met through a mutual friend.
“A boy I knew from Hooker, Mirt Rowley, went to work with her at the railroad,” said Ernest, who himself is a lifelong Hooker resident. “It was a happenstance deal - I just happened to run into them in Liberal. She was a Liberal girl.”
At the time, Rowena was working as the secretary to the chief clerk of the Liberal railroad office. A job that would not last long once their paths had crossed.
“I had a better offer,” she said with a smile, referring to her marriage to Ernest.
A couple of days after they met, Ernest called her up for their first date - a football game in Liberal.
It would not take long before the couple only had eyes for each other.
“I guess you could say I was kind of stung… We met in September and were already considering getting married around Christmas,” Ernest explained. “We had talked about eloping to Clayton, New Mexico, but we had no place to together yet so we had some more organizing to do before we could get married. It wasn’t the logical thing to do so we waited until May. “
As for Rowena, she, too, must have been “stung” - by their second date she said she knew he was the one for her as well.
“I was pretty impressed with him,” she said. “He was pleasant, generous and he joked around. He was ornery and still is - I couldn’t do without that. I was impressed with his graciousness. He has a sense of humor that won’t quit.”
Their instincts about each other have proven right over the years.
“He is a wonderful father to our kids and a good provider,” Rowena said. “He has an easy going nature. He is loyal and quite the breakfast cook.”
Rowena adds “she tells him what to do and when to do it,” to which Ernest chuckles. “She doesn’t use anything in her hair - no bleach or anything. I get credit for it (the gray).”
They will celebrate their 65th wedding anniversary May 30 and the years have taught them what is important and makes a marriage last.
“You have to make sure you’re going to be married forever - no excuses. And the only acceptable excuse to get out of marriage is adultery,” Rowena says. “Don’t give up on your marriage just because things aren’t going smoothly. I also think it’s our strong belief in the Lord. That is one thing I was looking for was a guy who already had his religion established. And coincidentally, I found out that where he was going to church was where I had originally worshipped. I think we think alike in a lot of things. I think a good church attendance and a christian approach to problems - a give and take approach - is important.”
She added with a humorous quip, “…but if you don’t win them he has a beating coming. I wanted to keep him in his place. The hardest part of being married is convincing him that everything you say is right.”
Ernest agrees marriage is about give and take.
“We have had some disagreements, but they don’t come to fights,” he said, adding with a chuckle, “When we had been married 60 years, she said she thought about murder a few times but didn’t think of getting a divorce. But, she makes more noise than she really bites. I willingly stayed in my place (where she put me).
We work things out - you have to,” he continued. “I feel a lot of people don’t take marriage quite serious enough and you have to. Marriage is real life. You’re not going to win them all (disagreements) and they don’t all come out even. It’s a give and take thing - you shouldn’t expect to win them all. I don’t think we ever let the sun go down on our anger. We’ve had a good 65 years.”
Ernest also believes faith in the Lord is an important part of a good relationship.
The couple have three living children: Dan Herald and his wife, Marva; and Mary DeSelms and her husband, Shane, all of Hooker; and daughter Debbie Wilkins and her husband, Bill, of Houston. They have eight grandchildren, nine great grandchildren and one great-grandchild on the way. And again, faith is a big part of their family.
“I don’t have to worry about my kids,” Rowena said. “I’m sure if there is a church nearby they are going.”
Their son, Jimmy, died when Rowena was nine months pregnant.
“I had miscarried a couple of other pregnancies that didn’t go to full term,” she said adding that her mother had lost some children as well, “I didn’t get to keep him (Jimmy) but I fully believe that when we reach eternity I will meet a nice young man there that will look a lot like Dan. I bet we will have a lot to talk about…”
Their most romantic Valentine’s Day they said was when she got her wedding rings.
“When the ‘48 Ford came out I was wanting a pickup,” Ernest said. “At the time they were having a drawing at the Ford place in Hooker. They called one day and said I had won a chance to purchase a pickup at retail price.”
Ernest didn’t want the 1/2 ton pickup he had the chance to win, but a salesman convinced him to go ahead and get it.
“I wanted a 3/4 ton,” he said. “I bought the 1/2 ton and told him I was going to put it in the garage because I really wanted the other one. When the 3/4 ton came in he wouldn’t give me what I paid for the other one so I sold it to someone else and made $485 over what I had paid. I used that to buy her ring.”
Automobiles have had a part in their relationship from the start. Rowena said at the time they met, her father was working for a Hudson dealer.
“I had a new car,” she said with a smile, “But when Ernest came along he gave me a better deal, so I left the car and let my dad have it. I wouldn’t trade Ernest in even if I could. I couldn’t find another like him.”
To which Ernest said with a chuckle, “I think my trade in value has gone down.”
Both agree that marriage is harder today than when they first started out.
“There is so many things involved any more and life’s not getting simpler,” Ernest said. “I think a lot of people don’t work hard enough to make it work. It’s not an isolated problem either - it’s pretty universal. We told our kids to make sure that’s what you want to do before you marry and be careful who you want to marry. Out here in the country i think the farther people get from big city thoughts the better off they are.”
“Divorce is too easy to come by and so well accepted any more,” Rowena chimes in, “People don’t take it as serious as they used to. If something comes up there’s too many who choose divorce right away - working it out isn’t a priority with them.”
The two were married on Memorial Day almost 65 years ago and their lives together have indeed been memorable.
“We hit it off pretty good - she wasn’t a problem,” Ernest said with a laugh. To which Rowena adds, “We sure did and he wasn’t a problem either. I keep him around to keep my stories straight.”
- By Nancy Kletecka
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