WESTLOCK – On Sept. 18, 1946, Richard and Nellie (Jayes) Rasmussen were married in a little café on Highway 44 a short distance north of Fawcett.
The café and service station were owned and operated by Nellie’s older sister Gladys and her husband, Johnnie Rasmussen, Richard’s uncle, with Rev. N. Gloeckler from Flatbush officiating. On their 75th wedding anniversary Sept. 18, Richard, 97, and Nellie, 99, joined with family members for a quiet dinner celebration at the Westlock Inn.
“We were both were born west of Red Deer at a little place called Condor,” Nellie related the day following their anniversary.
Both knew each other as children, of course, but Richard’s family moved from the area following hail storms that wiped out his father’s crops in 1931 and 1932.
Richard said his dad, Ray, arrived at the Flatbush rail siding with a carload of animals on Christmas night of 1934 at 40-below. His dad had ridden in the boxcar along with the animals, which, according to a story written by his older brother Bjorn in the Flatbush and surround districts history book, “Where Friends and Rivers Meet” included four horses, six cows, pigs, chickens and sheep.
“A team of horses, a cow, and a little bit of machinery; I forget what all it was,” Richard recalled, adding he came later with his mom in January.
His dad had come to the area to check out land his brother-in-law, Joe and Bertha Key, who had moved to east of Fawcett, told him was available. After having a look, he filed on the NE-25-65-1-W5, which is four miles east and a mile south of the Flatbush cemetery next to Highway 44. There were no buildings on the land at the time, and Richard said the family rented a house from Jack Carkener on his homestead nearly a mile away. The Rasmussen family lived there until they established their own home, while his dad organized the people of the neighbourhood to get a school, which became Blue Hill.
In 1944, when Highway 44 was being built, Richard recalled his uncle Johnnie and his wife Gladys sold their farm in the Condor area and built the service station north of Fawcett, bringing their family and Nellie with them. And that’s where the couple got to know each other again, now as young adults. Richard said he helped with building the service station and worked there a bit afterward. Nellie worked in the café, which was known as “Eat with Ma and gas with Pa.”
“And that lasted a couple of years, and the September after that (Sept 18, 1946), we got married,” Richard said. “They shut the café down and we were married there.”
“So that’s the story of our life!” Nellie added, matter of fact. “Seventy-five years is a long time.”
The couple don’t recall any special highlights in their lifetime together, other than the arrival of their children, Lee in 1956 and Janine in 1959.
In their first year, Nellie worked as a cook in a lumber camp operated by Merle Frehr, Richard recalled.
They also had a farm in the Blue Hill district, and worked out other winters in logging camps. “Flatbush was all timber when we first came up here,” Richard recalled.
He remembers roads, such as they were, were difficult at the best of times. He hauled lumber with a single axle truck, often badly overloaded. And some pretty scary trips.
The Rasmussen family moved to Westlock in late 1974, but continued to farm the land for a year, then rented and later sold the land. Richard continued to operate both gravel and fuel trucks and later began working with Harry Stieger, the White–Hesston dealer in Clyde, then for Dave Klassen who took over the dealership.
Nellie, meanwhile, began working at Pembina Lodge at the beginning of December, 1974 until she retired in 1987. “And now it’s home,” she said.
The couple moved from their home in Westlock into an apartment in the new wing at Pembina Lodge a few years ago, where they continue to enjoy life.
“Is there a better place that are people that are no good anymore” Richard laughed. “There’s everything here. They do everything for you. The room is clean, Nellie does no cooking anymore. We go down for our meals.”
Nellie said she doesn’t miss cooking. “If Richard wants to move where the stove is, he could do the cooking. And that won’t last very long,” she commented.
Is Richard not a good cook? “He’s not the best, she said.” Richard added, “Well I never done much of it. Well, why would I, when I had a good one.”
Overall, though, they feel it has been a pretty good life. “I never imagined making 75 years,” Nellie said. “As far as we know, there’s no other Rasmussen’s that have lived this long and been married to the same person. We just happened to make it,” Richard added.
An interesting aside is that both still have a valid driver’s licence.
“I’m going to give mine up next year,” Nellie said.