Jason Hommes | Writer
When it comes to marriage anniversary milestones, making it to 50 years is always considered a pretty significant accomplishment, and it’s a milestone a lot of couples don’t reach. Making it to 60 years is even more rare. Making it to 70 years? That’s practically unheard of. But one Rock Rapids couple reached that milestone on Thursday, June 29, and they credit their shared faith and ability to work together as the reasons why they’ve been able to successfully navigate through 70 years together as a couple.
Lloyd and Gloria Nitzschke both grew up near Remsen, Iowa, but have called Rock Rapids home the last several decades. Gloria explained she and Lloyd knew each other for several years before they were married, in large part due to the small size of Remsen as well as the fact that both families went to the same church.
“We’d known each other for many years because we both went to the same Sunday school, and I went to high school in Remsen, and they (Lloyd’s family) lived in Remsen as well,” explained Gloria. However, it wasn’t love at first sight. “He’s a little older than I am and at first I didn’t want anything to do with him really,” laughed Gloria.
In the years before he was married, Lloyd spent some time working in a grocery store, and then he was drafted and left for Europe to serve in World War II. “I’m a World War II veteran,” said Lloyd proudly. He said he almost never made it to active duty, explaining that after his last medical examination prior to going off to war, they wanted to send him home. “But I said, ‘You’re not sending this guy home. I got a call from Uncle Sam, and I said my country was calling me and that I wasn’t going to refuse that call’.”
Lloyd’s persistence paid off and he was cleared to be a typist. He ended up serving at a hospital pretty close to the front lines. He recalled two specific instances that, had things happened a little differently, would have meant zero years of marriage instead of 70. During the Battle of the Bulge, a German bomb went off near the building where Lloyd was resting, and a large plate glass window crashed to the ground near him.
His second close call happened when he and a friend ducked inside a nearby building just moments before a German shell exploded about 10 feet away from where they’d been standing. “I guess the good Lord was with me,” said Lloyd. “I’m proud that I served.”
After the war, Lloyd worked as a bookkeeper for a while and dated a few different women, but finally he told his brother that he was ready to settle down. “I told him that I wanted to find a good wife and I chose Gloria because I didn’t think she’d walk out on me, and I guess I made a good choice because here we are 70 years later and she’s still here.”
Gloria said she thought Lloyd saw her as more of a grownup after he came back from the war, and that was when they started dating. They married at the end of June in 1948 and moved to Rock Rapids a few years later to raise their family. They both joked that they increased the population of Rock Rapids when they moved here, due to the fact they had six children.
“I really enjoyed having a big family because I’ve always loved children,” said Gloria. “We really had to work together to manage everything because a lot of times I would have to work at night. We had little ones in the house and I was gone at night. At first I worked almost every night, so it wasn’t easy. It was a challenge, certainly. But we had a really nice lady who came in and finally helped babysit all the children.”
Gloria spent many years working as a registered nurse at the then-new Merrill Pioneer Community Hospital in town. Her good friend, Naomi Ide, was the administrator and Gloria worked as the director of nursing. In 1969 she went to work for the Sheldon hospital where her primary role involved teaching nurse aides.
While work and raising a family kept them busy throughout the years, Lloyd and Gloria said they were always able to count on each other. “You’re going to have arguments from time to time, but that’s natural. There’s no such thing as a perfect marriage with no disagreements,” said Lloyd. “Consequently, if you can iron those out without too much difficulty, then you’re going to make it.”
“For me, being together for 70 years means an awful lot,” added Gloria. “I’ve just been blessed to have a good husband and a good family. They know the Word of God and it’s just wonderful to look at them and think what a blessing they’ve been to me. A strong faith and a good family — what else can you ask for?”
The couple said they are also still blessed by frequent interaction with their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. “Our kids and their families still visit us quite often. And with the help of modern technology we get to see our grandchildren and great-grandchildren a lot even if they can’t always be here to visit us.
“We had six kids and now we also have 15 grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren. Our family is so very important to us and this 70th anniversary means an awful lot to us,” said Gloria.