With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, I thought I’d tell everyone about a delightful northeast Iowa couple who are great role models for the rest of us.
Harvey and Goldie Mae (Wangsness) knew each other all their life. Their families were both members of the Calmar Lutheran Church and the two went to school together. But it wasn’t until high school that they took much notice of each other. In June they will be married for 63 wonderful years.
Harvey worked up the nerve to ask Goldie Mae to the 1948 homecoming dance at the Calmar Public School (South Winneshiek). Being a handsome football player probably helped his chances, because she too, turned heads as later in 1950, she was crowned the Centennial Queen and even was kissed by Governor Beardsly. Harvey graduated from high school in ’49, her in ’51 after some coaxing to continue her education.
To put life in 1950 into perspective: The cost of a gallon of gas was 16 cents to pick up your sweetheart for the sock hop, and if your father let you use his new car- the average cost was $1,250.00. A loaf of bread was 14 cents, a pound of hamburger was 45 cents, a teen magazine was 20 cents, and taking your lady to the movie would cost you 60 cents per ticket. Getting a full time average job after you’re done with schooling would have given you a yearly wage of $2,950.00. Oh, and let’s not forget about Elvis Presley, the heartthrob of the 1950’s was soon to be on the scene with his records on every jukebox in every soda shop around!
Soon after Goldie graduated from high school, the couple married on June 3, 1951. Harvey proposed the summer before with a wedding ring he picked out and bought in Dubuque after seeing his brother Glenn in Chicago. After talking it over with Glen, they both agreed Goldie Mae was a keeper, and it was time to declare his love. He was also practical enough to know that they would work well together farming on his 180 acre farm by Conover that his great grandfather homesteaded in 1850.
On a beautiful June day, Goldie Mae took Harvey’s hand in marriage at an evening wedding at Calmar Lutheran Church with a reception following at church. They had two bridesmaids/groomsmen, one junior bridesmaid/junior groomsmen, and one flower girl/ring bearer who are all still alive today. She carried her bouquet of flowers which included various flowers combined orchids from Decorah Greenhouse in Decorah. The beautiful flowers adorned the altar were home grown by Goldie Mae’s friend, Lena Sandager. After the wedding, they honeymooned at Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri.
Until 1972, they milked cows, raised hogs and crop farmed four miles northwest of Calmar, not far from Conover, on his great grandfather’s homesteaded farm. There, they raised their three children, James, Barbara (Drew), Michael (deceased). Later they were blessed with five grandchildren: Jarett & John Hillesland (Jim’s), Kaia McConnel & Blake Humpal (Barb’s), and Kirby Jipp (Mike’s). They also are enjoying their three great grandchildren: Jordan, Kaylia Rommes and Jack Hillesland.
They bought Calmar Oil Gas Station in July 1972 and ran it for 20 years. Also at that time they moved into one of the first new homes that Area One (NICC) built. Last year they sold their home and moved to Decorah to a senior apartment living complex.
On their 50th wedding anniversary, someone asked them what is their recipe for staying married, “We agreed that I would make all the big decisions and she the small ones. We never had any big decisions,” Harvey joked.
With a serious answer, Goldie Mae had this advice to the younger generations, “If you want respect, show respect.”
Like other long term partners, they have probably worked their way through many disagreements, illnesses, problems, kids' issues, and much more. They survived because they understand that they are a team, and they work to find ways to come together, whether in a crisis or in good times. And lastly, a sense of humor can go a long way, as the Hillesland’s delighted us with their banter while being interviewed.
The couple renewed their vows on their 60th wedding anniversary at, of course, Calmar Lutheran Church with Pastor Norm Bauer. Harvey and Goldie Mae has shown us by example of what the wedding vows truly means, “I will love you and honor you all the days of my life.”