In the 1940s, dating for Harold and Marian Berkeland consisted of roller skating, bicycling, and taking trips to the movie theater.
After meeting her as a junior in high school and growing up together in Fenton, Iowa, Harold knew in his heart that she was a keeper.
“I did,” said Harold when asked who fell in love first. “I just loved who she was.”
Now, four children, 11 grandchildren, 15 great grandchildren and two great, great grandchildren later, the Canyon Country couple celebrated their 75th wedding anniversary on Saturday surrounded by their extended family in their suburban home with a bird’s eye view of the Santa Clarita suburbs and Newhall mountain ranges.
Harold, 93, and Marian, 92, have lived in Canyon Country for about 10 years now, but zigzagged across the country living in Iowa, California, Washington, Minnesota and New Jersey before settling in the Santa Clarita Valley.
Their marriage happened spontaneously when the Iowa couple crossed the state border into Jackson, Minnesota. According to Harold, they just “went out for a ride one day and decided to get married.”
“It was such a happy time,” said Marian about her wedding day.
Harold said he left his farm in Iowa and came to California with Marian when he was 25 years old. Harold worked as the sports equipment manager at Mount San Antonio College in San Bernardino for 25 years and Marian worked in the reservations department for Western Airlines, now known as Delta Airlines.
“People actually used to call the airlines to reserve plane tickets,” said their youngest son Kirk.
When Harold turned 50, he retired from working at Mount SAC and they moved to Whidbey Island in Seattle, Washington, where he worked as a building manager for a condominium.
After 20 years in Seattle, the couple moved to Minnesota where they dedicated their lives to volunteering for 10 years. Along with volunteering at their local hospital, Harold said they helped build homes as part of Habitat for Humanity, a nonprofit organization that helps people in their community and around the world build or improve their homes.
Due to their commitment to community volunteering, Harold and Marian were recipients of the Jefferson Award for Public Service in 2007.
“There’s so many people that need our help,” Marian said. “And if we’re able to help, why not help them.”
Joel Berkeland, 74, is the oldest of their four children and said his parents have been through many challenges throughout their lives, but what kept them motivated is the love they had for their family.
“We moved frequently because of money and so on, but we always stuck together,” Joel said. “We ate dinner at the table as a family every night. They just love their family. They would do anything for their family and people just gravitate to them.”
Joel’s son, Dan, 49, said his grandparents are his idols. He said he strives to be as right-minded as them, but they never had to try to be a good person. It came naturally.
Dan, now married with four children living in San Luis Obispo, said his grandparents taught him to appreciate what you have, rather than everything you don’t have.
“If I want some coffee, my grandpa may very well take the coffee from yesterday, reheat it in the microwave, and give it to me. But it’s like the best coffee in the world,” Dan said. “It’s all those little things. Sometimes I take life so seriously and think why can’t I be like that? Why can’t I microwave my leftover coffee, drink it and be perfectly happy? There’s just a million examples of that with them.”
A 75th diamond wedding anniversary is rare, with just 6% of couples passing their golden (50th) wedding anniversary, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Couples who make it to 70 years represent just one-tenth of 1% of all marriages and those who make it to 75 years are so rare, statistics are not kept for it.
According to Harold and Marian, the secret to a long, successful marriage is to do your best to agree with one another and find what makes you both happy so you can embrace the pleasures and challenges of life together.
“Just enjoy life,” Harold said.