BAXTER — When Will Westphal proposed to his wife Mary after dating for eight years, he was surprised she said yes.
And after nearly 68 years of marriage, Mary said she would say yes again.
The Westphals, both age 93, have raised three sons, have nine grandchildren and six great grandchildren and have led a long, full life that shows no signs of ebbing.
As the couple sat side-by-side on their comfy couch in their living room in Baxter, they held hands smiling at each as they talked about how they will celebrate their 68th wedding anniversary on Easter Sunday, March 31.
So what is the couple’s secret to a long, happy marriage?
“You need to know who’s boss,” Will said with a sly grin as he watched Mary’s reaction to his answer. Mary gave her jovial husband a light love tap on his leg and said, “That is not true.”
Mary said, “Every night since we were married we say the Lord’s prayer and we never miss it before we go to sleep ... And we love each other. We always say I love you.”
Will said, “If we have a problem we talk it out in the open and we don’t get mad at each other.”
The happy couple met each other in their high school days in Howard Lake. Mary had a date with Will’s brother and Will would tag along when they were about 16.
“Will was just a nut,” said Mary. “We had such a good time together that Will’s brother said ‘That’s it, you can have her.’
“Will was very bashful. Eventually he got braver and said let’s go out and celebrate.”
Will said he actually said, “Let’s get drunk and she said I don’t drink ... It sounded like a good idea because I didn’t approach a girl then unless I was drunk.”
Will said in school he was the class clown and he was scared of girls. Mary said that it took Will a long time before he kissed her.
The couple had to spend time apart when Will spent three years, nine months and one day in the army in World War II. At war, Will said he was on kitchen duty, communications, infantry and was an artillery observer.
Mary said she waited for Will to come back from war and when he did they got married in 1945. Will said he would have proposed before he headed off to war but he didn’t want to in case he lost an arm or a leg.
“I know that was stupid thinking,” he said, “but that was the way it was.”
Mary was a teacher, did volunteer work and stayed home with the boys when they were growing up. Will was a fireman at the airport in Minneapolis and then a fire chief at the Grand Forks Air Force Base for 33 years.
The Westphals lived in Grand Forks, N.D., for 40 years and retired in 1997 and moved to Baxter. Through the years, Mary said she was a Sunday School teacher for 25 years and she and Will delivered Meals on Wheels for senior citizens for about 15 years.
One activity the Westphals enjoyed doing over their decades of marriage is square dancing. They went out dancing once a week and did so through the years up until they both broke their hips.
Mary said in the beginning, “He wasn’t going to take dance lessons because it was on bowling night.”
“But I finally gave in and compromised and I ended up loving it,” said Will.
Today the couple enjoys time with their family and visiting with friends. They said for the past nine years the family has spent a week away at a resort in Nisswa.