Chatfield residents Orville and Helen Tangen will be celebrating their 70th wedding anniversary on Wednesday. They've leaned on each other for seven decades and were friends before they fell in love.
Chatfield residents Orville and Helen Tangen will be celebrating their 70th wedding anniversary on Wednesday. They've leaned on each other for seven decades and were friends before they fell in love.
"Look at us, after all these years together, look at us, after all that we've been through, look at us, still leaning on each other, and if you want to see how true love should be, they'll just look at us..." ~ "Look at Us" by Vince Gill

"She's put up with me for 70 years. I don't know why, but she has," said Chatfield resident Orville Tangen, speaking of his wife, Helen, as the couple approaches their anniversary on April 17. They've leaned on one another for seven decades, but they were across-the-road friends for years before that, before true love was even a thought. Their love endures as they reside together at the Chosen Valley Care Center's independent living apartments.

Helen recalled, "My dad had a farm northeast of Fountain, and Orville lived across the road. He's five years older than me."

Fred and Leda (Rain) Strom's daughter was born on Nov. 18, 1921, and grew up attending the Baarness School until eighth grade. She kept house for her father on the farm since her mother passed away at 29 years of age, when Helen was only 8 and her younger brother not able to assist with farm work.

The boy across the road, Orville Tangen, was born Oct. 9, 1916, to Theodore and Alma (Asleson) Tangen, and attended the Rice Creek School.

"My dad rented a farm, then he bought the home place, which has been in the family for 156 years since my grandfather emigrated from Norway," Orville explained.

Five years' difference in age meant that Orville didn't see the neighbor girl as a sweetheart until he'd grown up and been to Iowa to pick corn for a living.

"He went out working different jobs, picked corn in Iowa. He got back from working out, and I was older then," Helen explained. "That's when we started noticing each other. He was a good guy."

"Noticing each other" soon turned to "dinner and movies" and "dinner and movies" eventually became Orville's "engagement" to the girl he thought was "good-looking and absolutely a great cook."

However, Orville had voluntarily enlisted in the Army in 1941 and was a part of the Fifth Armored Division, stationed in New York and other bases and ultimately shipped overseas to Europe, where he was part of the Battle of the Bulge and lost his brother to the carnage at Normandy, where they both served.

Helen said, "I didn't have a mother to help me with a wedding, and Orville was on three days' leave, so his brother came up from Camp Rucker, Ala., to be his best man, and we were married at McMinnville, Tenn."

The boy across the road married the neighbor girl on April 17, 1943, thankful that his company's commander, the chaplain and accompanying ladies were generous enough to arrange a small ceremony at McMinnville's Presbyterian Church chapel.

After the wedding, they traveled to Chattanooga with Orville's brother, whom they would never see again, and enjoyed a little time together, "enough time to get married and get someplace."

Helen had visited Orville while he was at Pine Camp, N.Y., but when he was sent to Europe, she returned home to the farm to be of use to her father, awaiting news from the war front, as Orville was assigned to advance on Berlin and to be involved with other very dangerous maneuvers.

The couple farmed after Orville was discharged from the service in October of 1944, and the first of their children, Dianne, was born in 1946, followed by Sharon in 1948, Marlene in 1952, and Robert in 1954.

The family farmed, gardened strawberries and raspberries, attended church at Root Prairie Lutheran Church, went to outdoor movies and fishing the lakes and streams and did their best to make ends meet.

As the children grew up and moved away, Orville and Helen managed the farm. Orville had back surgery in March 1967 and again in July 1969. He recounted that during his second back surgery, he wanted to stay out of bed long enough to watch the "guy go to the moon," but he had to get back in bed because he wasn't feeling well, a feeling that lingered and prompted him to give up farming and become a field tester for the Preston creamery for the next 10 years.

Helen related that after that, "We moved into town and bought a house, lived there for 14 years, and we felt the need to move into something easier, so we've lived here almost eight years."

Before moving to the Chosen Valley Care Center's independent living apartments, they went out dancing, playing cards and going out for dinner..."always had something to do," and are still members of Root Prairie.

Orville has been a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion for nearly 67 years, as well as a part of the color guard, and Helen is a card-holding auxiliary member.

Now, they like the different things in the care center that the can go to and experience. Orville likes visiting people in all three wings of the care center and listening to books on tape, and Helen "used to sew" her own dresses, but now reads books, takes long walks through the halls and participates in care center activities.

The couple has five grandchildren, numerous great-grandchildren too hard to keep track of, and even a great-great-grandchild to call their own.

Seven decades of marriage and the Tangens still believe in forever. That means they have commitment in their voices when they speak of one another.

"I never dreamt that we'd make it that long. I never dreamt that I would live to 96 and that she would be 91," Orville stated. "We count our blessings that we're still around...and gee whiz, we wouldn't have stuck together all these years if we didn't like each other. She's put up with me that long. There's a lot of things connected in marriage - many things. If she needs help, I help her, and if I need help, she helps me."

Helen added, "We still love each other...we'll keep each other until who knows when."