by Caleb Sebora
LESTER PRAIRIE, MN What does it take to stay married 50 years? If you were to ask Charlotte Ehrke of Lester Prairie, she could easily rattle off three different answers.
“You have to have God first,” said Ehrke, who, with her husband, Stan, celebrated her 50th wedding anniversary Aug. 6.
And, it didn’t take long for her to share this answer (or any of her other ones). When she picked up the phone to talk about her 50 years with Stan, she started out the conversation by saying, “I’m going to just give you a little summary of what I think,” and then she was rolling. Clearly, there seems to be some definite answers for the Ehrkes.
“Having God first is the most important,” she said. “You also need to do things with your family,” Ehrke continued, stating the importance of children and how they can influence a family positively. “You need to stay connected with your family.”
Her third answer deals with something everyone has had experience with, married or not money.
“You have to have your own checkbook,” she said. “You know, it’s something that a lot of people fight about, money. It can create a lot of problems.”
Ehrke went on to explain how she and Stan have had separate checking accounts throughout their marriage.
“Stan had his own checking account, and I had mine. It’s better to just have control of your own money.”
It’s as simple as that.
No matter how many interesting stories a couple of 50 years has to tell, perhaps the one that people always want to know is how they met.
“Well, Stan and I met in high school,” said Charlotte. “We graduated together.”
The two graduated from Lester Prairie High School in Spring 1963. Interestingly enough, though, the couple never dated in high school they didn’t even start dating right after they graduated. It wasn’t until over two years later that the two started dating.
“Stan went to the Navy, I went to beauty school, and we just connected after that,” recalled Ehrke, matter-of-factly. “We found each other for life’s journey.”
The two started dating in October 1965 and became engaged at Christmas the same year.
Perhaps the best part of their story is how they got engaged.
“Stan just gave me a ring,” said Charlotte. That’s it he just gave her a ring. No words, just gave it to her. But Charlotte wanted to confirm this story with Stan, who was not near the phone during the interview.
“Stan how did we get engaged?” Charlotte asked on the other side of the phone. And in the background, Stan said, telling it exactly like Charlotte, “I just gave you a ring.”
Just like that.
“The ring spoke for itself,” Stan added. And so, with that gift of the ring, along came the promise of being together for at least 50 years.
What is the highlight of their 50 years of marriage?
“Our son Sheldon is the biggest highlight,” Charlotte said matter-of-factly. “What would you say our biggest highlight is?” she said, calling out to Stan again.
And again, calling out from the other side of the phone, Stan said “that we had a boy.”
Together, the couple owns a 50-acre hobby farm just south of Lester Prairie (although they still live at their house in town), and have spent their lives dedicated to service and having fun. Stan has been involved in city government, Charlotte owned her own beauty salon in downtown Lester Prairie. Charlotte is somewhat the unofficial town historian, if a person were to ask around; and both have been involved with their church.
Stan still works part time at Water’s Edge Transportation in Waconia, transporting people to and from their doctor’s appointments, and Charlotte still operates her beauty Salon (Charlotte’s Beauty Salon) one day a week.
Charlotte and Stan are big fans of county fairs, and have travelled to many fairs across Minnesota. They are also dedicated fans of the Minnesota State fair.
After 50 years, Charlotte’s last piece of advice is simple “Make sure you have fun.”
True to her word, at the end of the conversation, Charlotte mentioned that she and Stan were going to Sturgis, SD, for a trip to go motorcycling in the Black Hills. It’s all about fun.