Contentment is something we all could learn from Al and Darlene Sondergard of Ramona. Both are 89 years old, both were born at Ramona, and they have lived in the same house in Ramona for almost all of the 70 years of their married life. Al served two years in the U.S. Navy, during which time Darlene lived with her parents.
They were married on Sept. 6, 1942. They celebrated their anniversary Saturday with about 30 members of their family.
Al and Darlene attended Ramona High School together. Al was quiet and shy, and Darlene had a lively disposition.
“I didn’t really like Al,” Darlene said, “but he took me to a movie I wanted to see. I guess he grew on me.”
They were married one year after graduating from high school.
Al learned the mechanics trade from his father, who was a mechanic at the Ford agency in Ramona for many years and eventually had his own garage. Al took over the mechanic business from his father and operated it until he retired in 1987 and sold the garage. Darlene worked alongside of him, getting parts and keeping the books. For 20 years, Al had a contract with the Centre school district to service its buses. Darlene said she sometimes helped him pull disabled buses.
In their younger years, the Sondergards were avid square-dancers and belonged to bowling leagues. Al served on Ramona City Council. They had three daughters who often accompanied their mother to get parts. Daughter Karen is married to Bob Ehrlich of Marion and operates the Down on the Corner shop in Marion. Daughter Marilyn is married to Jim Peterson. They live in rural Burdick, and she is a dental assistant for Herington dentist Dick Mosier. Daughter Kaye lives in Tecumseh, Okla.
The Sondergards have experienced some sad times. In 1951, Darlene’s brother, her only sibling, was killed in North Korea. In 2002, their grandson, Brian Pagenkopf, died in a freak accident at Lincolnville.
Darlene is diabetic and takes insulin every day. Al is hard of hearing. Other than that, they are in good health.
“We both have good bone density,” Darlene said.
They don’t believe in eating diet food — low fat, non-fat, or artificial sweeteners.
“We use whole milk and real butter,” Darlene said.
They follow a familiar schedule every day: up at 7:30, breakfast at 8, lunch at noon, dinner at 5:30, and to bed by 11. They spend time every day taking care of their home and yard. Al runs the sweeper and does any heavy work needed in the house.
“We have lots of people in our neighborhood who look after us,” Darlene said. “If something needs attention, they are always ready to help.”
The couple also enjoys watching game shows and the History Channel.
When asked how their marriage has endured for 70 years, Darlene said, “It was a commitment, and it hasn’t been hard. For one thing, it takes two to argue, and he wouldn’t argue.”
The Sondergards also credit their faith and family for providing support all these years. They remain active in St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Herington. The family includes seven grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren. They are scattered, but they all make a point of coming together during holidays.
“Dr. Hodson told us that we could live to 100,” Darlene said. “That would be great!”
It also would mean that they likely will celebrate more anniversaries in the future.