Albert Lea couple celebrating 75 years of marriage

Published 7:00 am Friday, July 7, 2023

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, life expectancy was just over 76 years in 2021. That makes Don and Darlene Kenison’s marriage more remarkable, as the couple celebrate 75 years Friday.

Their relationship started with a snowball.

“We were just playing in the park in Manly, Iowa,” Darlene said. “[Don] was sitting in a car, and I threw a snowball at one of my friends and he ducked, went in the car and hit him.”

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So Don, 15 at the time and with other friends, got out of the car and approached Darlene, then 14, and her friends, demanding to know who threw the snowball.

“I figured the one that hit me I better know,” Don said.

Darlene noted Don, after washing her with snow, wanted to take her back to her house, but her friend wouldn’t let her go with a stranger. Don decided to follow, and he returned to her house the next night.

The two then spent four years dating and married when Darlene was 18 after graduating from school in Manly. Don was 19. Getting married at that age was something Darlene described as common at the time.

The couple lived in Manly, where Don worked for the Rock Island railroad. The couple then moved to Albert Lea in 1963 before moving to Inver Grove Heights in 1975 before retiring in Albert Lea.

Their secret to a long and successful marriage was getting along.

“We never go to sleep mad,” Darlene said. “Make up before you go to sleep.”

At the same time, the couple admitted they were lucky, and Darlene had practical advice for others: Don’t get mad over little things.

“We have to take each life as it comes,” she said. “We don’t like it that he has to be in the nursing home, and I’m in the apartments and we’re not together anymore, but that’s how old we are, and we’ve taken each part of life as it comes to us. And this is where we’re at right now.”

Don’s advice: Take things as they come.

Currently, Darlene lives in the Knutson building apartments, while Don is at St. John’s Lutheran Community nursing home.

“We still get together all the time,” she said.

Long marriages aren’t uncommon in the family either, as Don’s aunt and uncle, Annie and Lloyd Mowers, were married 75 years. Darlene’s parents, Palma and Irving Jones, were together 59 years.

Three of their four sons have been married for at least 50 years, with their oldest, Dennis, for almost 53 years, their second-oldest Douglas, for 51 years, Daniel for almost 50 years, and their youngest Donavon for over 40.

Besides their sons, the couple has 12 grandchildren, 30 great-grandchildren and six great-great-grandchildren.

To mark the occasion, the Kenison’s will celebrate with family on Sunday.

“We’re doing fellowship at [First Presbyterian Church] … and then just family for lunch,” Darlene said.