Vern and Charlotte Lutterman celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary on October 6. Photo submitted
By Tara Lindquist
In the fall of 1947 at a dance at Fox Lake in Sibley Iowa, a young man spotted the young lady that sent butterflies fluttering in his stomach, made his palms sweaty and put his dancing skills to shame. He'd seen her around the dances before but was always too shy to talk to her, until one night, he walked up to her and asked simply, "Care to have this dance?" She said she didn't hesitate for a moment.
Less than a year later, on September 29, 1948, that young man, Vernon Lutterman stood with butterflies in stomach and sweaty palms again and watched his future wife walk up the church aisle towards him. As he watched his Charlotte approach, all he could think was, "I am one lucky man." Today, sixty-five years later, Vern's face still lights up when talking about his bride and he admits, he is still one lucky man. "I think that's a good indication of a happy marriage, if he can still say that all these years later," Charlotte said.
Vernon and Charlotte, describe their life together as a blessing. A marriage that is rich in faith and love for one another and their children. "Faith is number one in our marriage," Charlotte explained. "Faith takes you through the bad times, gives you hope - strength to get through anything."
They've had, a life together full of happiness but it didn't always come without some struggles along the way.
Vernon and Charlotte, had similar upbringings, they were both raised on a farm, by parents who didn't have a lot of money but knew the value of a family and hard work.
The couple started their life together on a rented farm outside of Sherburn, Minnesota. The high price of farm land around that area forced them to look elsewhere. They eventually planted their roots on a farm they could call their own, 160 acres of farmland just a few miles south of Dodge Center.
In the early days, Vernon did all of the farm work on his own. Working the land, caring for the animals and milking cows. "He never asked me to help in the field," Charlotte said. "The tractors were different back then," Vernon said. "One wrong move and you could get really hurt."
Charlotte cared for the children a "job" that delighted her and the number of children continued to grow over the years. She cooked and cared for the home, they treated each other as equals no job was more important than the other.
Their struggles began shortly after starting their life in Dodge Center, with low crop prices and not a lot of money coming in. Charlotte made sure to only buy the necessities at the grocery store, there was no money for luxury items. She planted a garden each year, to ensure her family had enough vegetables to can and freeze to get them through the winter. She spent a lot of time, baking because it was cheaper than buying products at the store.
"My father really, planted the gardening seed in me at an early age," Charlotte explained. "He was a market grower, I loved to garden and grow flowers."
As time went on and more children were lovingly welcomed into the family, Vernon knew he had to find another source of income, other than the farm. "We had to have something coming in every week. We had a child, Melanie, that was born with a hole in her heart, she needed surgery."
Vernon was one of the first employees at IBM, he dedicated almost thirty years of his life to the company that he said saved his family. "We finally had a paycheck coming in every week and health insurance, Melanie was able to have her heart surgery because of the benefits they offered," Charlotte said.
They both vividly recalled Melanie's early years in school when she was "half asleep" walking down the driveway after school because her heart condition drained a lot of her energy. "After her surgery, she was a different girl," Charlotte said. "She was keeping right up with her sister, they were both pepper pots when they were younger, but had and still do have such beautiful personalities."
As the years went on the family began to prosper, Vernon continued farming and working at IBM, the couple worked hard saved money and taught their children the value of a dollar and a day of honest work. Saturday's were reserved for cleaning the house for the girls while the boys went outside to help Vernon with farm work and chores. "Each girl and I would sit down and write our lists on a note card, dividing up the chores equally and making sure everything got done," Charlotte explained.
There was always a lot to do. Looking back, Charlotte still doesn't know how they kept up other than every kid helped, even the young ones had their little jobs.
A family of ten, two parents and eight children doesn't work without a lot of hard work, organization and a lot of love. "We have six girls and two boys," Vernon said. "We have Kathy, Melanie, Mary, Joseph, Bill, Beth, Lynn and Annie," Charlotte said. "We have quite the bunch and are so proud of each one of them."
"Each one of them is a true blessing from God," Vernon said.
While their kids were growing up, they always made a point of not fighting in front of them. "We learned from our parents how to compromise in a marriage and to look at each other as a blessing in each others lives, but we had our struggles," Charlotte said. "But we never fought in front of the kids, that was a rule."
As the years went by, they enjoyed watching their kids grow up but their leaving home was never easy for Vernon or Charlotte. The kids, eventually moved to different parts of the U.S., but Vernon is proud that he was able to instill good values and good work ethic in his kids. "They all still love the farm," Charlotte said. "I guess when you're raised on a farm it just gets in your bones and it's home, no matter where you live."
After Vernon retired and they quit farming they sold their farmland and spent time traveling together, going to places they never imagined seeing. They saw parts of the U.S., visiting their kids and took the trip of a lifetime to Israel. "We still talk about that trip, all the time," Vernon said. The couple was re-baptized together in the River of Jordan, they rode a camel through the desert and felt their faith in the Lord grow stronger during that trip. "It was an amazing trip," Charlotte said. "We saw the Holy Land and boy is it something to see."
Today, the couple still has their struggles, but they're different now. Vernon can't get around the best any more and has some lung issues, Charlotte doesn't mind helping him, she prefers it this way. It's getting harder for Charlotte to keep the house up, the way she used to. They consider themselves even more blessed to have their kids that still come and help when needed and the ability to hire help to care for the yard and clean, so they can stay in their home, right where they belong. "Together," Charlotte said. "We belong together, so I'll continue to take care of Vernon as long as the Lord lets me, he's the love of my life I wouldn't have it any other way." Charlotte said it's important to them to stay on the farm, it's where they built their life, it's home.
I asked Vernon and Charlotte what their secret was to having such a happy marriage for 65 years. They have a short list, we'll call it-
Vernon and Charlotte's
Recipe for Happiness
Charlotte: "Say I love you daily"
Vernon: "And boy, you better say it back, and mean it."
Charlotte: "Show your feelings in love."
Vern: "Talk to each other"
Charlotte: "Have a strong faith"
Vernon: "And practice it, daily."
Charlotte: "Each day, ask God what you can do to bless Him that day."
Vernon: "And then do it."
On October 6, Vernon and Charlotte celebrated their 65th Wedding Anniversary with their friends and family, which included their eight children, their children's spouses, twenty-nine grandchildren, twenty-five great grandchildren and one great-great grandchild.
All because, many years ago, a young man, with butterflies in his stomach and sweaty palms asked a young lady, "Care to have this dance?" Sixty-five years later she still says, "Yes."