Adventure to last a lifetime
For some of us, it feels as if it were just yesterday; where time seems to stand still in the magic moments just before “I do,” as two individuals make the commitment to become one and spend their lives in service to one another.
You can remember it, can’t you? The delightful moment of fitting into the dress of your dreams; the anxious worry about who has the rings, while guests pile into the pews to watch you embark on what will be one of the most foundational moments of your life. There’s soft music; everything is bathed in a soft wash of understated white and color, while flusters of excitement stir quietly behind closed doors.
And then, in one quick moment, you see each other for the first time, looking like a dream. She looks more beautiful than you could ever imagine her being; him a pillar of strength, as he waits to guide you into tomorrow.
And now, some 60 years later, you sit beside one another in the conclusion of yet another day. Scattered along the walls are the testaments of life around you; photographs of an ever-growing legacy began by two people making a decision in the midst of friends and family, and staying true to that vision. There have been difficulties encapsulated by trial, but the truth of your love has stood in the test of time and weathered all the storms. You now walk through life as it comes, guiding with wisdom and strength.
And looking back, you wouldn’t have had it any other way.
Dave and Jody Sehlin can say the same thing.
Whether you have been married for five years or 50, you have embarked on one of the most difficult, scariest, and fulfilling journeys life may ever present. Marriage is no small feat for any person, and as we’ve been told by many generations before us, it requires great trust, sacrifice, and loyalty. And, while being one of the more challenging endeavors a couple could vow to make, it is also promised to be one of the most beautiful.
Dave and Jody Sehlin knew that right from the moment they met each other.
It’s cold outside when you’re ushered into their quaint home in Buffalo, where you are promptly introduced to George, the pair’s lovable dog -- or, as they call him, their “late-life baby.” It takes a minute to get George to settle down before you’re welcomed to the table, which is set with pumpkin bars and a tasty spread awaiting.
Jody offers to make some of her famous Russian tea, which “will cure just about everything.” Moments of life are evidenced everywhere around the house, with classic pictures decorating the walls amidst the family snapshots. The house is warm and smells of baked goods and cinnamon, and you can hear George sniffing out newcomers near the front door.
With tea and snacks served, Jody and Dave begin to share a bit of their life together; moments amidst a novel of life already lived, their meeting being the foundational moment that would put the rest in motion.
Dave and Jody are high school sweethearts, married in the ‘50s. It didn’t take long for them to realize that they were meant to be, even as young highschoolers just getting a taste of responsibility and the world outside their front door. Then again, Jody and Dave had both seen a lot of life by the time they’d crossed paths, and would continue to find more of what it offered, as their life together would unfold.
Dave and Jody met in high school when Jody moved to Minnesota from Kansas City, after having been born and raised in Little Rock, Arkansas. Dave grew up in Edina, while a number of his extended family members resided in the Isle, Minnesota area.
Being worlds – and cultures – apart during the Depression era, Jody and Dave never imagined they’d live the “wild ride” of a life they have. And, what a wild ride is has been, as the Sehlin’s celebrated 60 years of marriage in 2018, having been married in 1958. Their 61st wedding anniversary will be August 22 of this year.
The two are exactly eight days apart in age, with Jody being the “senior” of the relationship. Jokingly, Dave commented that he “fell for and married an older woman,” and that he didn’t regret it one minute.
In 1952, Jody moved to Minnesota, as her father traveled with his job. It was shortly after enrolling in the local high school that she met Dave, and “that was it.” The two connected, and would continue seeing one another all through college, marrying in 1958. They’re the picturesque high school romance, as Dave was the football captain, and Jody was voted the homecoming queen in her upperclassman year.
“I really just chased him until he caught me,” she said with a laugh.
After high school, the two held onto one another through a long-distance relationship: him studying in Michigan, while Jody pursued a two-year degree in merchandising in Missouri. From a lasting long-distance relationship, the couple learned trust, and the importance of communication.
“In those days, you wrote longhand on that thin onion-skin paper like you see in the movies. No one could afford long-distance phone calls, so we wrote all the time,” Jody stated.
Dave interjected, “I did make trips down south to see her, as long as they were.”
The two would become engaged at Christmastime of their last year of college, and began their life together with two new degrees to match. Dave would go on to become a civil engineer, while Jody primarily was a homemaker with their three daughters, all born 15 months apart.
Children came “nine months after they were married,” as Jody said with mock seriousness. The Sehlins raised their daughters in Minnesota, until they decided to venture down to Florida, to follow Dave’s work. Now grown, their daughters all reside rather close in Minnesota: Rockford, Minnetonka, and Brainerd. With six grandchildren and five great-grandchildren to boast about, life is always colorful for them both.
“Work took me down to Florida to work on designing and engineering bridges,” Dave stated. “We didn’t retire down there or anything. There was work to be done.”
Dave and Jody would stay in Florida for sixteen years; six of them in the Fort Lauderdale area, and 10 in Clermont at 150 ft. elevation, which was a big difference for a Minnesota boy and a southern gal. Also in Florida, the couple would weather seven hurricanes, including Hurricane Andrew, which happens to be one of the most powerful storms on meteorological records.
While Florida was absolutely beautiful, Jody and Dave never really settled there. It “wasn’t home,” as Dave had put it, and while they had made friends, living there wasn’t anything like Minnesota.
“You really can’t take Minnesota out of people,” Jody shared. “It becomes a part of who you are. People live here in these challenging climates because it grows on them, and they love it; there’s not anything like it anywhere else.”
Living in Florida was difficult. Together, the couple survived seven hurricanes and other tropical storms. Thankfully, they were never too drastically affected, but they watched neighbors and friends lose everything around them, all while living without electricity and fighting the receding water.
They tell a story, over pumpkin bars, that they had been one of those couples “standing in line to buy supplies” with the news of a hurricane having already been established across the state. Dave remembers people scrambling for groceries and gear, all waiting for the inevitable power-outages that come in the wake of such natural disasters. Generators were a must-have, as were flashlights and emergency radios and dehydrated food.
“There was one time,” Dave commented, “that we were fortunate enough not to get too much damage to our home, but our other friends lost everything. Of course, we’d stocked up on supplies, and had over-abundance, so we went around to make sure people had everything they needed, just to help. We really had to band together as a community, during those times.”
“You have to,” Jody continued. “You have to band together during things like [hurricane] Andrew, because it can be the most dangerous and difficult times these families face. You hate to see others go through something. I couldn’t imagine having to do it alone; or sitting by watching it happen to people I know.”
If hurricanes weren’t enough, Jody also endured the beginning effects of a stroke, while in the Clermont area. She remembers it clearly, retelling the day without missing a beat, stating that she’d went to bed feeling “unusual,” and that in the middle of the night, she’d felt her face get tingly. After Dave had reassured her she was fine, she’d looked in the mirror and saw the sagging of the left side of her face – and she’d known something was really wrong.
They’d caught the stroke early, according to their doctors. Regardless, Jody stayed in the hospital for a few days and would continue to be monitored, even today.
When asked what such an event does to a marriage, Dave just simply replies, “You get scared, and come together. There’s nothing really more than that. It’s scary, and you learn to be more aware of that person than ever before – you think how things will affect them, and so on.”
Home to Minnesota
After such an event, the two decided it was time to move back to Minnesota, and be near family. That put their daughters and extended family on the hunt for a place to move their parents to and the requirements were anything outside of the cities, but with medical facilities nearby, and a place that was also decently close to family.
Buffalo was at the top of Jody and Dave’s interest. Jody remembers Buffalo being a small “spit in the road” when she was young, specifically with a train stop, in the back of her mind. With the request to check out the area, Buffalo would make the top of the list, prompting Jody and Dave to pack up. With that, the kids bought a house in town, and Jody and Dave were welcomed home with open arms.
No Place Like Home
After sixteen years in Florida, they were back in Minnesota, where they are now. Florida wasn’t even the most adventurous the couple had been. Dave’s job took him all around the nation, including Alaska, where he worked near the Alaskan pipeline and designed bridges for an area outside of Fairbanks. Also, Dave spent 2.5 years in California, where he and a small crew worked on replacing suspension cable on the Golden Gate Bridge in the 1970s, and that is really just scraping the surface of their life together.
Now, Jody and Dave reside in Buffalo, and look forward to seeing their family and spending time together. With Jody’s recent diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease, they are busy with many medical appointments, but that hasn’t stopped them from smiling and enjoying the company that Buffalo has to offer. They are both involved with Michael J. Fox’s organization for Parkinson’s, which has a large branch in the Metro, off of I-394 and Louisiana Avenue.
“It’s been an adventure,” Jody recalls. “Life together certainly hasn’t been boring. But that’s what you want when you get married to someone; you want life to be interesting and full of moments that grow you as people.”
Jody and Dave both shared that the biggest thing being married for 60 years has taught them is that a couple shouldn’t ever “go to bed angry,” because there are too many regrets to be had. Communication, trust, love, and loyalty has kept them together for so long, and will keep them in each other’s company in the future.
“She isn’t going anywhere,” Dave said with a chuckle. “And neither am I.”
“We’re high school sweethearts,” Jody inserted. “Just simply meant to be.”
The couple will be celebrating their 60th Valentine’s Day, on Feb. 14, with just as much love, affection, and passion as any couple following in their footsteps.
And for them, each day promises a new adventure, just as it did in 1958 when they said “I do.”