Two couples celebrating 70 years of marriage in Moose Jaw, Sask., persevered through tough economic times, the loss of children, and a changing world but maintain it was all made easier by facing life side-by-side.
Frank and Regina Tress, 94 and 88
The first time Regina met her future husband, Frank, she was just eight years old. She spent a year living with her grandparents near Spring Valley, Sask. southeast of Moose Jaw and attended the same one-room school as Frank.
Frank was six years older than Regina and liked to pester the freckle-faced first-grader.
“I thought he was kind of a handsome-looking man — but he was mean to me. He called me a thumb-sucker,” Regina said with a laugh, noting that she did indeed suck her thumb.
‘You got to learn to give and take. Take and give. You can’t keep grudges.’ – Regina Tress, married 70 years
Fast forward nearly a decade, Frank returned home from the Second World War and walked into a dance in Spring Valley.
The young veteran didn’t recognize Regina, but quickly asked her to foxtrot.
From then on, and much to Regina’s surprise, Frank would come calling to her house every month.
“I didn’t think I was good enough for a boy. I was a very shy girl — a very shy farm girl — and didn’t get out very much,” Regina said.
They were married on October 14, 1947 and the early years were trying. The couple lived in a small country shack with no running water or electricity for nearly a decade.
Their first child, a daughter named Sharon, died of pneumonia just a month after being born.
The couple went on to have seven more children and lived a simple life focused on farming, church, and the local 4-H club. The Tresses could nearly sustain themselves by butchering cows, pigs and chickens and preserving vegetables from Regina’s large garden.
Their son, Tim, describes the couple as humble and loyal.
A few years ago, Frank got sick and was admitted into a Moose Jaw care home. Regina moved into an apartment a block away so she could walk over to visit him nearly every day.
Frank doesn’t think he holds the secret to a long and happy marriage, but advises other husbands to avoid temptations.
“Stay away from booze and smokes,” he barks.
Regina dishes out her own advice: “You got to learn to give and take. Take and give. You can’t keep grudges. You can’t lose patience.”
Burton and Clara Bodie, 91 and 88
In the 1940s, Burton Bodie was a farm boy and his future bride, Clara, was a “town girl” — the daughter of a Pool elevator agent — who had never touched a cow or a tractor.
‘I said to myself, ‘I’m going to marry that girl, if she’ll have me.’ – Burton Bodie, married 70 years
They attended the same one-room school in Palmer, southwest of Moose Jaw, but Burton says he never paid too much attention to Clara because she was three years younger.
As teenagers, they went on a couple dates but nothing serious.
Then, one night, everything changed.
Burton calls it his “famous story about the little black dress.”
Burton and some buddies attended a Friday night dance in Coderre, Sask.
The hall doors opened, and Burton said: “Here she is, in a little black dress with white lace trim and the most gorgeous hair you’ve ever seen. Dark auburn. Beautiful, big, brown eyes. I said to myself, ‘I’m going to marry that girl, if she’ll have me.'”
After their wedding on Nov. 3, 1947, just three days after Clara’s 18th birthday, Clara moved onto the farm and learned how to milk cows and churn butter. In the evenings, they would squeeze into the same rocking chair and listen to country music on the radio.
“You never caught us very far apart,” Clara said, with a chuckle.
A few years into their marriage, an early frost wiped out their entire harvest. The couple scraped by selling cream.
“When there were tough years, my husband took any job that was around,” Clara remembers. “He’d get up every morning around 3 o’clock, I’d give him breakfast, and he’d head to work. There was always a way.”
“We could go all winter on a hundred bucks,” Burton said.
But no matter how difficult the times — a harsh winter storm, crop loss, or the death of their son from a heart attack at age 37 — the Bodies insist they persisted together.
“I don’t know. It was just so easy,” Burton said. “Never had a fight, and that is the truth.”
“A difference of opinion,” Clara interjected, “but it never amounted to anything.”
Burton’s advice is to never go to bed angry, give each other 100 per cent and keep the romance alive.
On their 70th anniversary, he plans to woo his bride with a candlelight dinner.