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Kenmore couple celebrates 75th wedding anniversary
It was the 1930s during the Great Depression in the small town of South Bend, Wash. that Carsten Johnsen arrived at the home of a pretty girl named Louise. He had only $1 in his pocket to take her on their first date.
"I was nervous, but I had a fun night planned for us," said Carsten, 94. "I was going to make that $1 count."
Carsten and Louise took a bus to a city nearby to dance.
"After the dance some friends of ours invited us to get a coke and we had to decide if we wanted to spend our $1 on a coke or on a bus ride home," Louise said. "We decided on the coke and walked five miles back to our town."
It was this mutual idea of fun that has kept Louise and Carsten together ever since that first date. The couple will celebrate their 75th wedding anniversary March 31 by having brunch at Inglewood Golf Club with family.
"I don't know what I'd do without him," said Louise, 92. "I've spent almost my whole life with him. If I had to do it over, I'd marry him again."
The couple moved to Kenmore 55 years ago when Carsten got a job offer.
"Back then it was still Bothell," Louise recalled. "We had three kids at that time and wanted to put them in the Northshore School District, as we felt it was the best school district around."
Carsten said their active lifestyle fit in well with the area.
"There's great places to walk, golf, hike; there's so many things we like to do just available to us in our city," Carsten said.
Carsten started a lumber business with a friend, from which he retired several years ago. The couple says they came a long way from their humble beginnings.
"When we were first together, it was such a terrible time for people," Louise said. "Barely anyone could find work, but I remember one thing that really impressed me about Carsten was that he was always working somewhere, he never just gave up."
Carsten got his first job in 1937 picking oysters at night.
"I was always worried he was going to freeze to death," Louise said.
Louise's father worked at the town post office, one of the only businesses doing well at the time.
"So, I decided to date her for the money," Carsten joked.
Louise said Carsten always tells that joke.
"I just let him tell people that," she said, laughing. "But really, I had a lot going for me, so I know he's full of it."
Carsten impressed Louise's father with his work ethic and landed a job at the post office.
"We felt rich because we had a steady pay check coming in," Louise said. "At that time, that meant you were wealthy."
World War II came and Carsten enlisted in the Air Force.
"Before the war, women did not work, especially married women," Louise said. "He left after our first baby was born. I was tired, stressed and I was lonely. I thought, 'to heck with it, I am going to use this time to make money for us.'"
Louise got a job as a typist for officers at a base in her hometown.
"I was the mamma in the office," she said. "I was the oldest and took care of them all."
Carsten returned home on a furlough and was told he would have to move to a few different states throughout the year for the Air Force.
"I didn't want to leave her again so I asked her if she wanted to come with me and she said she did," he said, smiling. "She packed up our things and followed me for over a year on only $75 a month."
Carsten and Louise spent time in New Mexico, Las Vegas and Texas.
"What I remember most is that they treated officers like princes," Louise said. "If we were out walking in public he couldn't carry a package or our baby, I had to do it. Officers were gentlemen, they were very respected at that time. I honestly thought it was a little ridiculous."
Louise said she noticed a difference in the role of a wife and the reason behind marriage after the war.
"Women use to be raised to find a good husband and the war changed that," she said. "Women working during the war showed we were capable of doing what men could do."
Louise recalled she originally married Carsten because it was the normal transition for women after high school.
"I love him dearly, of course," she said. "But also, it was the fact that we had been dating for awhile and so it was expected we'd get married. That's what you did in those days."
Carsten said the reason they've had such a happy 75 years together was because they were always focused on being healthy and having fun together. The couple still take a walk together every morning. They golfed and danced together for many years.
"They always golfed with me and my siblings and our children," said Stephen Johnsen, Louise and Carsten's son. "They came to every single one of my daughter's golf games, they walked 18 holes next to her, cheering her on. Everyone knew them at those tournaments, so much so that they received the 'best spectators' award at the end of the season one year."
Stephen said his parents have been a great example to him and inspired him in his own relationships.
"It was great to grow up with parents that love each other," he said. "This carried over to my life. This summer, my wife and I will be celebrating our 40th wedding anniversary."
Louise said she is surprised that people think staying married for 75 years is a big deal.
"We came from an era where divorce was not an option," Louise said. "For one, the economy was terrible but also you got married knowing this was the person you were going to be with. We didn't believe in just leaving when times were rough; you stayed together and figured it out. And that's what we did."