According to the U.S. Census Bureau, couples who make it to 70 years of marriage represent just one-tenth of one percent of all marriages. Couples who make it to 75 years are so rare, there aren’t even statistics for it.
That means Saint Therese of New Hope residents Ken and Alice Houchins, who just celebrated their 76th wedding anniversary on Oct. 3, are in very, very rarified air!
It begs the question, what’s their secret? In different ways, both Ken and Alice alluded to their comfortable companionship and enjoying being in each other’s company. But, Alice said, “we give each other space.”
Alice said Ken is “easy to live” with and they did a lot together in their 76 years. Ken said they don’t fight over things and what attracted him to her in the beginning was that she’d do what he wanted to do. “I told her, I’ll go to dances with you if you’ll go to baseball games with me.”
They first met when Alice was in high school in Little Falls, Minn., and Ken (a few years older than her) went back to high school to brush up on some math and science courses for the U.S. Navy. Both were from small towns in Morrison County (Alice from Pierz and Ken from Randall).
They stayed in touch while Ken became a pilot in the Navy where he stayed for 2-1/2 years. When he returned home Alice was training to become a teacher at Normal Teacher’s School in Little Falls. (The purpose of these “normal” schools was to educate and prepare teachers for teaching in the Common Schools of the State.) She eventually worked for two years in a one-room schoolhouse in a town north of Pierz where she taught all subjects for students grades 1-8.
Ken was getting his degree in Aeronautical Engineering at the University of Minnesota, and he would come up to visit her. They married on October 3, 1946 and eventually moved down to the Twin Cities.
Unfortunately, after the war there weren’t jobs in the aeronautical engineering industry (he had hoped to get a job at Boeing in Seattle), so he began working for Follett Bookstore, a used book company that sold textbooks to students. He stayed there for 17 years as manager of the Textbook department. From there he worked a variety of jobs with B. Dalton’s, Montgomery Wards, and St. Gerard’s Catholic Church.
Alice was a stay at home mom for their three kids. She said she regrets not teaching again, but family came first. For a time, she worked at a catering company as a cook and then for an employer’s overload business.
When they retired, they traveled the U.S. “All through our marriage, our goal when we retired was to get a RV and travel,” said Alice.
And travel they did, visiting every state including Alaska and Hawaii. They put down stakes in Arizona, living in a park model home in Apache Junction. They spent ten fun-filled years there with other transplanted Minnesotans but decided to move back home to be closer to their kids and their doctors.
While it seems clear that they inherited some mighty good genes (Alice turned 95 on Oct. 2 and Ken turns 99 on Oct. 27), their long lives have also likely been helped by staying active. Ken said he liked to hunt but along the way he found he enjoyed, and was proficient at, embroidery and crocheting. So much so that it became profitable for them, and they sold their wares at craft sales. Alice did embroidery as well, but she also sewed a lot and for a more functional purpose as she sewed clothes for her kids and Ken.
In 2016 the couple moved into Saint Therese of New Hope and Alice said, “there was never any question where we would go.” They had friends who lived here and easily became a part of the community.
Their active lives continue – they eat breakfast every morning with a group of friends, play cribbage and 500, and partake in all manner of events, as well as observing Mass on the TV in their apartment.
The Houchins will celebrate their 76 years together with family and friends on October 16.
A very happy anniversary!