May 9, 2014 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

The smell of freshly baked rye bread and German chocolate cake swirled in the air. The warmth enveloping the home of Norman and Vernita Kruse was enough to make anyone forget the cold, rainy day outside. Arm-in-arm, these two sat down, excited to share about their recent 70th wedding anniversary.

Norman reached for a photograph in a brown frame and displayed it on the table.
“That was when we met in 1942,” he says. “We were about 19 and 20 there. That was 70 years ago. If you don’t recognize me, it’s because I’m older now.”

Vernita chuckles. Norman’s dry humor still tickles after 70 years of marriage.

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It may be rare to find the same sense of humor so enjoyable after nearly three-quarters of a century. What is even more rare, though, is the Kruses’ platinum wedding anniversary. Indeed, studies suggest that only one in 10,000 couples make it that far together.

The photo Norman held revealed a brunette girl in a turtleneck sweater sitting on the lap of a young farmer. The couple posed in front of their brick high school.

Norman continues: “I don’t know where I had been that evening, but I stopped into the drug store because she was working there. She made me the best malted milk—and I never forgot her. Ever since that day, we have always been together. It’s a pretty simple story.

“The soda fountain at the drug store was the place where all the young people hung out,” Vernita explains. “It was wartime and our brothers were fighting in the South Pacific. There was gas rationing and sugar rationing, and we had to be careful about how much we drove.”
Apparently the gas and sugar rationing wasn’t enough to keep Norman from driving to the soda fountain to spend time with Vernita. The two were married soon afterwards, and lived in a small home without water, electricity, or even an indoor bathroom.

“The reason we don’t like camping anymore is because we spent the first year of our life together in what was practically a tent,” Vernita says, laughing.

The couple reminisced about their favorite years together. On warm Saturday nights they would dance the night away to Lawrence Welk at Peony Park’s Royal Grove in “West Omaha.” Norman and Vernita acknowledge their marriage hasn’t been without trials, but agreed that they got through them with a lot of faith, love, and some good friends with whom they have played cards for
the past 60 years.

The couple shared about their individual passions in life. Norman has designed floor plans for two of their homes and enjoys going to car shows. Vernita spends her free time sewing quilts for hospitals, for the homeless, and for those in shelters for battered women. Vernita says that in the past year she has made 280 quilts to give away. “That would cover two acres of ground!” Norman
shares with pride.

When asked what kept their marriage alive, their answers were classic.

“It is important to keep your faith,” Vernita shares, “and to enjoy each other’s family. You’ve got to try in marriage—and a date night a week is just lovely.”

“I always let her have her way.” Norman adds with a chuckle. “But in all honesty, our church was a big thing that kept us together, and we enjoy the simple things in life.”