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75 years of marriage and counting


Benchmark — For Rey and Mebs Retzlaff of Astor House, the key to marriage lies in passivity

Rey and Mebs Retzlaff first met at a dance pavilion in a North Dakota farm town. While that in itself may not be cause for celebration, the fact that they have stuck together since that summer day in 1935 surely is.

On Sept. 10, the Retzlaffs will celebrate their 75th wedding anniversary, a milestone few couples ever come close to reaching.Photo Credit: NICO HAMACHER - Diamond and gold -- Newberg residents Rey and Mebs Retzlaff will celebrate their 75th wedding anniversary Sept. 10.

The key to their marital success? “Don’t argue,” Rey said. “We had very few (arguments) … everybody’s entitled to their own feelings and so on and you have to settle those peacefully.”

Born in 1917 the two grew up in North Dakota farming communities 40 miles apart. When they were 18 they met each other during a summer dance. “We were both dancers and we met at a pavilion dance hall on a lake, halfway between us,” Mebs recalled.

Four years later, in 1939, the two were married at a nearby church in a small ceremony that consisted of the people in the surrounding farming community. Back than “it was much simpler,” Rey said. “It didn’t cost a lot to get married.”

After moving into a farmhouse together the two began farming grain and raising livestock. They worked together through many tough times including the end of the Great Depression and a widespread drought soon after.

“We went through a storm in 1940,” Rey said. “We lost the barn and we were raising turkeys at the time and we lost some of them.”

The couple had three children, Bonnie, Dianne and their youngest, Greg.

After their daughters moved out they moved with Greg to Oregon in 1965 and lived here for two years before continuing down to Scotts Valley, Calif.

There they teamed up with a partner and developed a 250-unit housing development that consisted of pre-made homes, most of which included carports and other amenities.

Named Montevalle, the development opened in 1971. It was the first development in California where people could purchase the lot they lived on and collectively owned all of the amenities.

The Retzlaffs spent nearly 45 years living at the development and became known as the go-to people of the place. Mebs played a large role in many of the activities organized for the development’s residents. Rey kept the buildings in prime condition, including constructing new additions like a lodge-style recreation house complete with a working waterwheel.

In 2010, the couple reached out to Greg and Bonnie with thoughts of moving to Oregon to be closer to them. They did so soon after and decided to move to the Newberg area where they have lived ever since.

Asked if they could name any major special moments in their 75-year marriage, they both thought for a minute. “Every time we had a chance to see each other was a highlight, I guess,” Rey said.

The two plan to celebrate their special anniversary over a couple nights. While at 97 both have outlived their siblings, their three children, eight grandchildren and 17 great-grandchildren will make the celebration memorable. The children have also invited past friends from North Dakota and Scotts Valley to attend the celebration.