50 years of 'I do'
By Senior Airman Cortney Paxton, 341st Missile Wing Public Affairs
/ Published February 22, 2013
MALMSTROM AIR FORCE BASE, Mont. --
Most Fridays bring soft mutters of 'Thank goodness it's Friday' or plans for the weekend, but for one couple, this past Friday brought tears of joy and memories of the past as they held hands together and celebrated 50 years of a happy and healthy marriage.
Jacque and Dennis Ellingson relived the day they were married at the very place they said 'I do' - here at the Malmstrom Air Force Base Chapel. Their vow renewal at the since-transformed chapel was held Feb. 8 - the exact day they were married 50 years prior. While it was definitely a time to remember their wedding, it was also a time to remember some of their favorite memories.
"We met in San Francisco, in China Town," Dennis said. "A few of my friends and I went over there just goofing around - we were 18 years old - and I saw her and she winked at me. So, I started following her and her family around and soon I went up to her father - her stepfather at the time - and I said, 'Sir, may I talk to your daughter?' He said, 'No sir, you may not' and just turned around and left. I just stood there with my mouth open. But she snuck around and gave me her address."
"He was riding on this little carousel that had zoo animals on it when I saw him," Jacque added with a laugh. "Oh, I fell in love with him right away."
As an airman 1st class working as a civil engineer, Malmstrom was Dennis' first assignment in the Air Force. Although he served for only a short couple of years before separating, his bond with Jacque is one he started during his service and continued for longer than he ever thought. Their wedding at the base was just the beginning of their long journey together.
"I didn't open my eyes the entire time," Jacque said, recalling her wedding 50 years ago. "I thought we were still praying. I never heard the pastor say 'Amen' so I kept my eyes closed almost to the end. [Dennis] thought I was going to bolt or something."
While her eyes were open during the entire vow renewal, they were filled with tears of joy. The couple planned a trip up here to the northwest, but their stop to Great Falls for this event was one that Dennis kept a surprise to his wife.
After making their way to Butte, Mont., Dennis talked his wife into heading to Great Falls to relive some of the memories they had while being stationed at Malmstrom.
"She didn't have a choice, but I tried to give her a choice," Dennis said. "When we did get up here, the guys at the gate almost blew it because I've been in contact with everybody. The one guy goes, 'You're not supposed to be here until the 7th.' And I quickly said, 'Shhh!' So they gave us a temporary pass to go to the museum."
After visiting the museum on base, the couple went to the top of Gore Hill where Jacque flew in 50 years ago and then to dinner. During their dinner, three of the couple's five children interrupted them as a surprise to their mom. Army Capt. Edward Ellingson flew in from his station in Korea, and Eric Ellingson and Alena Ward both flew in from California for the vow renewal ceremony. Wess Ellingson and Calli Huber, their other two children, were unable to make it but were definitely there in spirit.
After the surprise went as smoothly as possible, the couple was soon in the base chapel holding hands just as they did 50 years ago - Dennis in a suit and Jacque in a white dress. Following the renewal of their vows, Dennis had a gift for his wife and children at the ceremony. Each family member got a silver dollar that Dennis had plated in 24-karat gold to signify "This golden wedding anniversary," he said.
"This was all for her," Dennis said.
"We have our moments, but he's the best guy in the world," Jacque said. "I've loved him for 52 years and sometimes it feels longer. I never thought it would come, but I'm sure glad it did."
Being married for 50 years is something not every couple has the opportunity to experience, but Jacque and Dennis agreed that there's no secret to keeping a marriage successful. However, when it comes to advice for the younger couples married now, they did have one thing to say.
"It's too easy to get a divorce," Jacque said. "Argue it out and get it over with."
"You have to want it," Dennis added. "That's the bottom line."