Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Celebrating an enduring love of 50 years July 30, 2014

THE PHOTO FROM FIFTY YEARS ago is priceless. Six cousins, all nieces of the groom, step ladder lined up on the steep steps of Rock Dell Lutheran Church, rural Belview, Minnesota.

I'm third from the top.

I’m third from the top in this 50-year-old image tucked into a photo album.

I wish I remembered that moment when newlyweds, Merlin and Iylene Kletscher, descended the stairs. But I was only eight then, snugged between cousins, on that beautiful early November day in 1964. Or at least I assume the weather was unseasonably pleasant as we’re dressed like it’s summer.

Historic Odeon Hall in Belview.

Historic Odeon Hall in Belview.

Fast forward fifty years and I’m back in Belview, this time at Odeon Hall, an historic 1901 community center next to city hall and the fire department and within a block of my aunt and uncle’s home. They recently moved back to Iylene’s hometown.

The crowd dwindles as the 50th anniversary party comes to a close.

The crowd dwindles as the 50th anniversary party comes to a close. The honored couple are to the left front.

I am there with my husband and hundreds of others celebrating the couple’s 50th wedding anniversary several months early.

Merlin and Iylene's wedding photo served as a table decoration.

Merlin and Iylene’s wedding photo served as a table decoration.

And I wonder, as I reconnect with cousins and other aunts and uncles, how fifty years have passed.

Dyed bridesmaid's shoes from the November 7, 1964, wedding.

Dyed bridesmaid’s shoes from the November 7, 1964, wedding.

It seems only yesterday I was an 8-year-old wearing cat eye glasses, hair pulled back with a barrette, dressed in my Sunday best button back green corduroy jumper and white blouse perched on those steps in my shiny black patent leather shoes.

Iylene's wedding dress (which she sewed) and veil and Merlin's suit.

Iylene’s wedding dress (which she sewed) and veil and Merlin’s suit.


Cake to celebrate 50 years of marriage.

Cake to celebrate 50 years of marriage.

But yesterday was fifty years ago, when high school sweethearts Merlin, 19, and Iylene, 20, pledged their love to one another before family and friends in a small country church. Within six years, they had four children.

Merlin and Iylene today.

Merlin and Iylene today.

What a blessing to have a half century together.

A little lunch was served at the anniversary party.

A little lunch was served at the anniversary party.

Fifty years are worth celebrating.

Guests linger as the party ends.

Guests linger as the party ends.

And I was delighted to be there, as I was on November 7, 1964, to congratulate my aunt and uncle, this time fully appreciating the depth of their love for one another.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


Celebrating 50 years of marriage at a Minnesota barn dance September 24, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 6:55 AM
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THIS IS LOVE, after 50 years:

A recent family photo of Arnie and Jeanne, rural Northfield, with their children and their spouses and their grandchildren.

A golden anniversary photo display of Jeanne and Arnie on their wedding day, October 10, 1962, and a more current photo on the left. And that’s their farm, near the Hazelwood church, in the upper left corner. Farming, faith and family have centered the couple’s life together for 50 years.

THIS IS A CELEBRATION of love after 50 years:

Family and friends celebrate Jeanne and Arnie’s 50 years of marriage at a good old-fashioned barn dance.

The kids served popcorn in the haymow dance/reception site.

The Revival Band played “Woolly Bully” by Sam the Sham & the Pharoahs and a guest (matador) swished a red shirt (cape) while others guests (bulls) charged. (This was a barn dance, emphasis on barn.)

Family and friends, some in cowboy hats, visited and danced, or just sat and observed the celebration.

The  rustic rural atmosphere and decor were perfect for the farm couple married 50 years.

THIS IS LOVE 50 years ago:

Jeanne’s wedding dress and shoes (to left of dress on shelf) and a bridesmaid’s teal dress with crown.

A napkin saved from Jeanne and Arnie’s wedding day on October 10, 1962.

THIS IS LOVE, yesterday and today.

A display in the old barn celebrating 50 years of marriage for Arnie and Jeanne.

The cake topper from Jeanne and Arnie’s wedding with golden anniversary wishes 50 years later.

I ATTENDED MY FIRST EVER barn dance a year ago in this very same barn. Jeanne and Arnie’s daughter, Debbie, and her husband, John, friends of my husband and me, hosted the dance. To view photos from that first dance, click here. And then click here to see more photos.

This year we didn’t arrive at the dance until after dark, so my photo opportunities were much more limited since I don’t shoot with flash. But the time for dancing was not.

Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


The bride wore a white silk organza gown August 17, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 9:01 AM
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A newspaper account of my aunt and uncle’s wedding 50 years ago is tacked onto a tree at their recent anniversary party.

The bride was escorted to the altar by her father. Her gown of white silk organza with chapel train had a row of satin bows down one side of the skirt. Her veil was attached to a small pearl crown and she carried a bouquet of white roses, pompons and a large aster with ivy.

Her attendants were attired in green faille dresses with attached overskirts and carried cascade arrangements of yellow pompons.

Fifty years have passed since that description from my godmother’s wedding published in The Redwood Falls Gazette. Lovely, isn’t it? Silk and satin and cascading bouquets.

A bridal party photo from Aunt Rae and Uncle Bob’s August 18, 1962, wedding. I’m the flower girl.

I wish I remembered that day, even a moment of it. But I don’t. I was only five, almost six, when my Aunt Rachel married Robert, who would become my Uncle Bob. A black-and-white photograph from August 18, 1962, clearly shows me in my short, pouffy flower girl dress, positioned in front of the groomsmen. I stood all prim and proper, and I assume well-behaved, in my shiny white patent leather shoes and lace-trimmed anklets. My white-gloved hands clench a starched, be-ribboned crocheted lace basket of fresh flowers.

If only I remembered the bespectacled girl who a year earlier wore a patch across her wandering lazy eye and later underwent surgery to correct her vision. But I don’t. Not even the flower girl dress, which my mom saved for 50 years, evokes any memories.

My flower girl dress, minus the petticoats, was hung in the screened porch during the anniversary party.

All of that aside, I thought my Aunt Rae would appreciate seeing the flower girl dress at a recent gathering in south Minneapolis to celebrate her and Uncle Bob’s 50th wedding anniversary. She did, barely believing I still had the dress. Surely she knows her oldest sister, my mom, saves everything, doesn’t she?

But did my aunt save her beautiful white silk organza bridal gown? Much to my dismay and that of a young woman whose middle name is Rachel, no. Rae gave her wedding dress to charity before moving from Minneapolis to her retirement home in Arkansas. I won’t explain the reasons, but suffice to say they are legitimate.

That leads me to wonder, how many of you married women out there still have your wedding dresses? My $80 off-the-rack dress hangs in the back of my bedroom closet. I possess no illusions that either of my daughters will ever want to wear it and that’s just fine by me.

Justin (my cousin) and Amy’s daughter Alison passed around chocolates during the anniversary celebration.

But give it another 20-plus years, and perhaps a family member will read this description of my bridal gown and ask, “Do you still have your wedding dress?”

The bride’s gown was of old fashioned style with stand-up collar, lace ruffling forming a V front neckline, long sheer sleeves and flounce skirt with lace trim. Her veil was held in place by a laurel wreath headpiece of yellow sweetheart roses and baby’s breath.

My beloved Aunt Rachel visits with guests.

Family and friends of Rae and Bob gathered in their daughter’s south Minneapolis backyard on a recent steamy Sunday for a picnic dinner to celebrate 50 years of marriage.

That’s my Uncle Bob, in the middle in the dark shirt, visiting with friends.

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling