To have someone special by your side for 75 years is a treasure. For John and Harriet Henkemeyer, the love story continues!
GETTING TO KNOW YOU
John and Harriet knew each other as children attending St. Mary’s parochial school in St. Augusta. It appears their paths crossed several times throughout the years. But their first separation happened in third grade when John moved to Sauk Rapids and Harriet continued at St. Augusta. As Harriet recalls her favorite teacher, she is quick to name Sr. Adeline. That was her teacher from grade three to grade six. Interestingly, when John reminisced about his school years, he was honest to say he disliked school and his least favorite teacher was Sr. Adeline! Yet, John’s school years were filled with good friends and baseball. One of his best friends was Harriet’s brother, Ralph. They had a mutual passion for baseball, and it was also shared with Harriet.
A time came when Harriet’s family moved to Cannon Falls, MN. It was there that her father owned and operated a bakery. Harriet gained experience assisting with the bakery, but mostly by age 13, Harriet was responsible for the family of nine. She had eleven siblings; however, two sisters had died before their move. Harriet became chief cook, cleaner, and launderer during their time in Cannon Falls. Because of this situation, Harriet was unable to continue to high school. Yet, because of their mutual connection with Ralph, by age 16 a friendship began their eventual courtship. During this time, they enjoyed baseball and dances held in St. Augusta.
John continued to attend school and eventually graduated from St. Cloud Technical High School. As with many of the “Greatest Generation,” he was called to duty and served in the Navy and sent to war in the Pacific. A long-distance relationship began from age 18 to 21 and each wrote daily throughout the separation. There were several tense moments when letters were delayed due to battles and campaigns and had them praying hard for each other daily. With great relief, John returned from the war and they planned to marry a month later and decided on August first.
It was customary for friends, neighbors, and family to be involved in the wedding preparations. Food is a big part of the day especially since all three meals were served for the full-day event.
Flowers came from the gardens of friends and neighbors. The wedding dress Harriet was able to find was, fortunately, her size and a reasonable cost. Formal wear was not easily available during and after the war.
Weddings in St Augusta were a full day affair and not allowed to be held on a Saturday. Therefore, a 9:00 am ceremony on a Wednesday was set and breakfast followed. The officiant was Harriet’s cousin, Fr. Maurice Hurley. It was a warm and happy day filled with food, friends, and family. A celebration continued into the night with dancing at Scheel’s Hall. The music was provided by John’s talented father.
Soon it was time for John to complete his obligation to the Navy and they moved to Jacksonville, Florida. John and Harriet remember Florida as insufferably hot and humid. They were pleased when John was discharged from the Navy and they could return to Minnesota and enjoy the seasons.
John worked for a short time with Harriet’s brother but soon found a career as a grocer, eventually becoming a produce manager for Coborn’s. During their early marriage dancing and baseball continued with good friends. Fun memories were made at the Riverside Coliseum, Crystal Ballroom, or Scheel’s Hall. This is also where they gathered to play cards and John recalls Mrs. Scheel appearing during intermission with sandwiches for a nickel. They were delicious!
John was also fortunate to win a prize one evening, the cutest cow creamer that is now placed in their glass curio.
A FAMILY BEGINS
Harriet had beauty school training before her marriage, however, she happily chose to stay at home and manage their house and growing family in St. Cloud. Eventually, five boys and one daughter were successfully raised. John and Harriet feel blessed their children were respectful, studied hard, and enjoyed family time together including fishing, occasional visits to Duluth, and, of course, baseball! John and Harriet spent 45 years in their St. Cloud home. They remark that even though their house was probably the smallest among their acquaintances, it also consistently held the most company.
Their faith and circle of family and friends held them up when their loving son, James, died at age 22. Like many that experience grief, the hurt, and loss is forever felt. They continue to look to their faith for thoughts of comfort and the knowledge of unbroken love.
A TIME TO TRAVEL
Once the children were on their own, it was time for John and Harriet to get out and see America. They had several memorable bus trips including Tennessee and New Orleans. A trip with their son in a motorhome took them to Branson, Missouri. This allowed them to connect with a Navy buddy and enjoy a much-needed visit. They continued to connect on several occasions. The motorhome also took them to Las Vegas and California.
Harriet happily recalls Christmas as a child. Her father was likely up all night setting up and decorating the Christmas tree. Gifts were in place, shiny tinsel on the tree reflected the candles he lit. At that moment he blew a horn then everyone scampered to see the tree. They enjoyed it for a short while before the candles were blown out! Mass was at 5 am and the feasting began!
John’s best memories center on Sunday baseball and Harriet’s cooking. A favorite treat was her caramel dumplings with whipped cream. He also enjoyed chocolate rice and chicken dumpling soup.
A TIME FOR CHANGE
The 45 years spent in their home were immensely happy, yet the burden of maintenance and responsibility increased, and they looked to simplify their situation. The Henkemeyer’s moved to an apartment at St. Ben’s. As their situation changed, it was important to be together in a care facility. That is when they moved to the Good Shepherd Community in March 2019. Their suite is roomy, homey, and filled with reminders of their happy years together. When asked what is the best part of your current situation they answer, “We are together. We have wonderful help and we live in a friendly community.”
Much love and many blessings to you, John and Harriet. Also, to your wonderful family. We have much to learn from your example of faith, family, and friends.
Good Shepherd is honored to be a part of your 75th wedding anniversary celebration and the place you call home!