Love that lasts: Couple works together over 70-year marriage
[May 21, 2021: Elizabeth Kelsey]
For Virginia and Joe Simon, it’s hard to explain the secret to their 70-year marriage.
“Everything just came naturally,” Joe said with a shrug.
The Farley couple, who celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary last year, met at a dance in Worthington, Iowa, in 1947. Joe was from Cascade, while Virginia was from Farley.
As it would for the rest of their marriage, things seemed to simply fall into place. They danced together, made a connection, dated for a few years and were married at St. Martin’s Catholic Church in Cascade on Aug. 10, 1950.
The newlyweds returned to live with Joe’s father in Farley on the family farm, where they grew corn and hay as well as raised dairy cows and pigs.
“I had a team of horses and used that before the tractors came out,” Joe said.
In addition to his farm work, Joe also supported the family by driving a truck on a milk route and working as caretaker of the St. Joseph’s Catholic Church cemetery just across the road from the farm.
Prior to getting married, Virginia taught in a one-room schoolhouse between Farley and Placid, Iowa. After the couple married, she became a stay-at-home wife and mother to their ten children: Dave Simon, Gerald Simon, Patrick Simon, Tom Simon, Joanne Rauen, Joe Simon Jr., Kathy Demmer, Jeff Simon, Rick Simon and Julie Dougherty.
Demmer, the couple’s seventh child, described her childhood as happy and full.
“Mom always made sure we had a nice birthday cake for our birthdays,” she said.
Now married with seven children of her own, Demmer said one of the most valuable lessons she learned from her parents was to work together as they do.
“Even though Dad was a farmer, he’d come into the kitchen and he’d be washing dishes while (Mom) would be cooking at the stove,” she said. “They complemented each other. It’s little things like that — he was helping out in the home and not just taking a seat. Things like that, I could see.”
All ten of the Simons’ children participated in 4-H, showing beef cattle, dairy cows and pigs, and Joe served as a 4-H leader for fifteen years. In August 2020, he was inducted into the Iowa 4-H Hall of Fame.
Jeff Simon, one of the couple’s children, said though he and his siblings “weren’t very good” when they first began showing at the fair, their father was instrumental in helping them improve.
“He understood what we needed to do to get better and be more successful in 4-H,” said Jeff, who now serves as mayor of Farley. “I always admired the advice and the help he would give to us and other 4-H members who weren’t in our family.”
Virginia and Joe also pursued their own interests, including bowling and traveling.
“We went to different states — Florida, Arizona,” Virginia said.
The Simons were also able to travel thanks to Joe’s success raising registered Holstein cattle, which earned him a spot as a delegate to the National Holstein Convention for many years.
“It gave Mom and Dad a chance to visit with other farmers and wives while seeing other parts of the country,” Jeff said.
Joe, now 93, and Virginia, 94, still reside on the family farm, where nine of their ten children live within a ten-minute drive.
Jeff said his parents’ devotion to each other has never wavered from their wedding day until now.
“After 70 years, they still enjoy each other’s company and look out for each other,” he said. “That might mean Dad checking to see if Mom needs a heating pad or the heat needs to be turned up … and when (their children) bring meals, Mom will let us know if we’re not giving Dad an adequate portion or if we’re not quick enough in producing his favorite dessert.”
Virginia described compromise as one of the most important qualities for a successful marriage.
“If I wanted to go somewhere or do something, (Joe) was always ready to go or do it,” she said. “He was ready to go with me.”
Joe agreed that a sense of “give and take” is essential to avoid prolonging disagreements.
For him, this was easy.
“I don’t know what mad is,” he said. “I always went to bed happy, because I had a good partner.”
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