PEQUOT LAKES-It was love at first sight for 96-year-old Don Hyland of Pequot Lakes.
When he met his wife Ada decades ago, he knew, "She's for me."
After a blessed life of raising five children and becoming grandparents and great-grandparents, the Hylands celebrate their 75th wedding anniversary today. They were married Sept. 13, 1941. Don was 20 and Ada was 22.
Being married for more than seven decades is not an easy feat, or one that is common. According to a Washington Post story earlier this year, the couple has beaten the odds of death and divorce: Of all current U.S. marriages, only 7 percent have reached the 50-year mark, according to the National Center for Family and Marriage Research at Bowling Green State University.
The Hylands, who recently sat next to each other holding hands in their apartment at Senior Class Care in Pequot Lakes, shared their love story. Ada did most of the talking as Don has dementia. However, when asked how Don knew Ada was the woman for him, he said: "She was a dancer and entertainer and I wanted to be entertained."
One of Hyland's daughter's Annette Veschio added, "It has been a blessing that he still knows who we are."
Ada has macular degeneration and difficulty hearing. She also has milder dementia, "but does pretty darn good for 98 years old," Veschio said.
Ada said she met Don at her sister's boyfriend's house in Minneapolis. She said she and Don were helping trim the Christmas tree. She said she was up on the ladder putting decorations up when Don said, "She's for me."
Ada said she thought Don was handsome and agreed to go out with him.
Ada grew up in Frazee and had one older sister. Her mother died when she was 13. Ada took guitar lessons and she and her sister sang on the radio and entertained at various establishments. Ada became a model at age 20 and met Don. Don was born in Minneapolis and was the baby of nine children.
Ada said they dated for about a year and-a-half and she liked to go dancing. Don didn't do much dancing but he liked to do the waltz. She said she is not sure how he proposed, but said his family had to take him to the license bureau to get a marriage license because he was not yet 20 years old.
The couple lived and raised their children in Richfield. Don worked at Coca-Cola for 33 years, while Ada stayed home with the children. She worked at the Canteen Company and at Tom Thumb, which the couple partially owned. They also partially owned a SuperValu Store in Motley. They retired and then moved to the Brainerd lakes area more than three decades ago. They lived on the Whitefish Chain for 12 years, then in Breezy Point for 19 years and then around four years ago they moved to Pequot Lakes to the care center.
Ada said they did a lot of traveling and they owned a condo in South Padre, Texas, where they spend their winters.
What Ada believes has kept her and Don together for so many years is their strong faith; they never got mad at each other; and they always did things together as a couple or with friends. They also had a lot of fun over the years with their friends as they all played jokes on each other.
"One time we were in San Diego and we were going to bed and our bed was gone," Ada said. "Well, it turned out our friends took our bed as a joke."
They had their ups and downs, like most couples do. Ada said it was tough when Don was on the road a lot for his work when their children were young, but they made it through.
The couple has had a happy marriage for 75 years and have more years to look forward, too.
8 Tips to a Successful Marriage (Source: Men's Health magazine)
• Make marriage your top priority: "The marriage is number one, the children are number two, and work is number three. If you make marriage number one, your children will do better and you won't have to spend that much time managing them-and you'll be more productive at work. But if you reverse those priorities, nothing works. Make it first. Make it top."-Harville Hendrix, Ph.D., coauthor (with his wife, Helen LaKelly Hunt) of "Making Marriage Simple," married 32 years.
• Reassess your needs. "The 7-year itch is real. The problem is whatever you needed at year one, you don't need any more, primarily because the other person's done a good job at filling that hole. When your needs change, ask each other what three things you could be doing differently. It's not 30 things-it's three things, and they are concrete ... Like, I want you to help out with the kids more. And then I'm going to work on your three things and you're going to work on mine."-Robert Taibbi, author of "Doing Couple Therapy: Craft and Creativity in Work with Intimate Partners," married 8 years.
• Play with your partner: "See your relationship as an adventure that's constantly unfolding, rather than something you've achieved. It's something you continue to invest in over time. Lasting couples often have rituals, things they do on repeat, sometimes on a weekly or yearly basis that remind them of the importance of their relationship ...-James Furrow, professor of marital and family therapy at Fuller Theological Seminary, married 32 years.
• But don't keep score: "People often evaluate their relationships with a bookkeeping or justice model, and that really says, 'I don't need to do something for my partner unless my partner is doing stuff for me.' Well, it turns out this works just fine as long as nobody makes a mistake. I try to use a grace model: I want to give my partner grace or mercy when they make a mistake, and I don't want to keep score; I want to bless my partner regardless. Those blessings come back-not in a reciprocal way, but just because you've created an environment where both people are out to really elevate the other person."-Everett Worthington, professor of psychology at Virginia Commonwealth University, married 44 years.
• And don't zip your lips: "What's done is done. Talking about it isn't going to change what happened, but it can relieve the person of some of the suffering. By expressing it, it's not being withheld and turning into some kind of physical or somatic problem."-Charlie Bloom, coauthor (with his wife, Linda Bloom) of "101 Things I Wish I Knew When I Got Married," married 42 years.
• Forget ifs and buts: "You have to be tolerant and you have to be accepting. People have expectations of who they want their partner to be rather than allowing them to be themselves. To accept them for who they are is to love them for who they are. You can't have conditions under which you will love your partner."-Allan Pleaner, married 26 years.
• Cash in compliments: "My wife and I often tell each other how thankful we are for the things we do for one another, and when you're appreciated and acknowledged for things, it only makes you want to do it more. That's sustained our relationship, even when there are rough times. Every couple goes through rough times, and you have to have emotional money in the bank to get through them."-John W. Jacobs, author of "All You Need is Love and Other Lies about Marriage," married 30 years.