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Published May 26, 2014, 03:15 PM

Lifelong love: Couples celebrating 70 years or more together share keys to long-lasting marriages

FARGO - When asked what makes a marriage last, man-of-few-words Tony Knoll, 91, quickly replies: “Family.”

By: Meredith Holt, INFORUM

FARGO – When asked what makes a marriage last, man-of-few-words Tony Knoll, 91, quickly replies: “Family.”

Love, of course, is a main ingredient, adds his wife, Martha, but they agree their family’s most important.

In a few weeks, friends and family (about 100 came to their 60th) will gather to celebrate the Fargo couple’s 70th wedding anniversary.

After meeting at Hudson Hall in Mandan, 19-year-old Martha Stamaris married 21-year-old Anton Knoll on June 5, 1944, at St. Joseph’s Church, also in Mandan.

Martha’s biggest concern on her wedding day was the rain and mud.

“It rained and rained for two days before the wedding, and we were on a street where there was no roadwork. All it was was a muddy road, and here I am with my long gown,” she says.

Luckily, Tony’s oldest brother, George, described as a “big guy,” was there to give her a lift – literally.

“He lifted me up and carried me out, gown and all,” says Martha, 89.

Making a promise

For Marie Dalzell, who’ll celebrate her 76th wedding anniversary with husband Vernon on Sunday, lasting marriage is all about the promise.

“When we were married, we made a promise, and when I make a promise, I try to keep it, and I think maybe he does the same,” the 94-year-old Walhalla, N.D., woman says of her husband.

Vernon, 95, adds: “Yeah, pretty much.”

“What else would we do?” Marie says.

Marie Bailly and Vernon Dalzell, who grew up outside of Leroy, N.D., met through church.

“I think he kind of eyed me a little,” she says; she thought he was “a cute little guy.”

They clicked after a first date in Grand Forks (“What a big deal!” Vernon says jokingly), and married on June 1, 1938, in Walhalla.

“We kind of got used to each other, I guess, and finally thought it was time to get married,” Marie says.

Setting an example

The Knolls have been through some hard times, most notably losing a son to cancer, but when they reflect on their 70 years of marriage, they talk about the good times with their many friends and family.

They have four surviving children, 11 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren.

Among their favorite times are picnics at Fort McKeen and playing cards at their lake cabin.

“Every weekend, we had a keg of beer, and 10-12 couples would come together and have a steak fry,” Tony says of their picnics.

Tony and Martha have passed on their love of the lakes, as well as their card-playing skills (though neither’s willing to admit who’s the better player), but that’s not all they’ve taught their kids and grandkids.

Mary Lou Wetzel says her “young-at-heart” parents set an example for the rest of the family.

“I call them precious cargo,” she says. “I was in the military for 24 years, and I swore I’d never come back. And I’m back here, because of Mom and Dad.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Meredith Holt at (701) 241-5590