Marilyn Monroe film leads to 60 years of marriage for Columbia couple

Marilyn Monroe film leads to 60 years of marriage for Columbia couple

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - It started out as an outing to see Gentlemen Prefer Blondes for two groups of high school kids in Clintonville, Wisconsin. Six decades later, they're still together.

"Betty and her female friends were sitting in one row and I came in with my friends and we decided to sit in the row right behind," said Ray Olsen. "Before the movie was over we had been talking quite a bit and I brought her out to eat that night and 60 years later we're still together."

Not even Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell could distract Olsen from his future wife, Betty. On December 18th, the couple celebrates their 60th wedding anniversary.

"We just like doing the same things together," Betty said. "We like to travel together. The only time we've been separated was when he was in the Navy."

But that separation was difficult for a young couple, and difficult for a young mother raising four kids.

"It was somewhat sad to me when I would be coming on home and my children would be a little bit shy of me," Ray said. "If they fell down and got hurt, the first two (kids) wouldn't come to me. They'd go around me to get to her. I'll never forget the first time she fell down (their third child) and came to me. It was a wonderful, wonderful experience for me."

Through the separation of Ray's Navy service, he and Betty still are making up for lost time.

"When I came on home then I had missed so much of my children growing up and what have you, we're making up for a lot of that now."

"I just was not used to having him around," Betty said.

When Ray was on active duty, they wrote letters daily. When he was on board a ship for as long as nine months at a time, HAM radio operators would help them communicate.

In addition to the separation was the constant relocation familiar to military families. The Olsen family lived in Michigan, California, Wisconsin, Massachusetts, Mississippi, California, Washington and South Carolina.

They were married just two weeks when Ray left for boot camp. A year later, their first child was born.

"It was difficult because you have your first child, you're saying, 'I don't have a book telling me what to do. What do I do now?'" Betty said. "It worked out fine."

"So she would be raising my family where she was also then 2,000 miles away from her folks," Ray said. "So she -- she had to put up with a lot."

"It is hard when you're by yourself," she said. "But think of your children and how you want them raised. You do want a father for them even if he isn't there all the time. He will be there."

So what's the secret to surviving a marriage tested by separation?

"It's very important to stay together and have a happy life and have a good time with your children," Betty said. "There are problems. We always have problems. Everybody has problems. But you can work them out and stay together."

"It makes a lot of difference that I really do love my wife," Ray said.

Later this month, most of the Olsen's four children, 15 grandchildren and 18 great-grandchildren will be at their Columbia home to celebrate Christmas and their milestone anniversary.

"It's been 60 interesting years," Betty said.

Copyright 2014 WIS. All rights reserved.