by marlys good
It was Oct. 12, 1940 when Marcella Johnson and Dan Herrin entered St. Vincent’s Catholic Church in St. Paul, Minn., clasped hands and vowed: “…for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, to love, honor, and cherish; from this day forward until death do us part.”
After weathering 72 years of “better, worse, richer, poorer, sickness, health,” Marcella and Dan are as committed to each other as they were as newlyweds.
Dan and Marcella were both 18 years old when they began dating, and 22 years old when they exchanged vows.
As teenagers, what drew them together?
“There was a group of young girls and young boys, and Dan and I were both the oldest,” Marcella said, bright eyes flashing. “He was very intelligent, good-natured, a real gentleman.”
Dan said Marcella was his first and only girlfriend. “She was good-looking, pretty. I just liked her looks,” he said.
Dan worked “in a hamburger joint,” he laughed, putting in 10 hours a day, seven days a week, for a hefty $19 paycheck. Marcella worked 40 hours a week at a union-run printing plant and earned $14 per week. Their first home was an unfurnished four-room “upper duplex” they rented for $17 a month.
Times were lean, but it was a happy time, both recall. “We didn’t think about it. Things (like that) didn’t bother people back then,” Marcella said. “Nine months and 10 days from the day we were married Julie Ann was born,” Dan said.
Dan joined the Marine Corps when Julie was 3 years old. He was stationed in California and Marcella wanted to see him again before he shipped out to Pearl Harbor (and eventually Okinawa) so with 3-year-old Julie in tow, pregnant with their second child, Marcella boarded a train and set out.
It was wartime and “the train was so crowded. People were standing up; but I didn’t have to,” she laughed. Dan and Marcella spent a couple of days together before he left and she returned home.
He was overseas for 15 months. When he returned Dan recalled taking a cab to his home, opening his arms to be welcomed by Marcella and Julie, and Ellen, just learning to walk, shyly looking on in the background, not realizing it was her “Daddy.”
Dan went to work as a federal meat inspector and life returned to normal. An avid hunter and lover of the outdoors, Dan had been hunting in Wyoming, and always wanted to come back to live. The opportunity came when a small meat-packing plant in Casper went federal. Dan jumped at the job opening and in the early ‘60s and they moved to Casper. By this time the family had grown to include sons Charles (now deceased) and Daniel.
Marcella had never been to Wyoming but came “because Dan wanted me to. That’s the way it was; it’s always been that way.”
Although life has had its ups and downs, the couple said they have never argued very much. Marcella said Dan has always been a hardworking, dependable man, “always understanding and respectable.” She said it’s important that “you marry someone you LIKE. That is as important as loving them. And it is important to have a sense of humor. Dan has a better one than I have,” she admitted.
Dan said the couple’s successful marriage “just evolved that way. We were attracted to each other and we love each other.”
Summing it up, Marcella said simply, “It is just like we were supposed to be together.”
Lifelong Catholics, their faith is and has always been an integral part of their marriage. They renewed their wedding vows on their 50th anniversary.
Father Tom Ogg of St. Mary Magdalene and Sacred Heart Catholic churches in Worland and Greybull, representing Worldwide Marriage Encounter, the original faith-based marriage enrichment program in the United States, sponsored by the Catholic Church, presented Dan and Marcella with a framed parchment certificate for being “the Longest Married Couple in Wyoming.”
Father Ogg said, “It is such a joy and blessing to recognize fidelity and permanence in marriages these days.”
Worldwide Marriage Encounters was conceived to focus positive attention on marriage and to honor those who had been married the longest in the world, the United States, and each individual state.
Nominations were open to all couples, regardless of religion and WWME received hundreds of nominations from family, friends, neighbors, pastors, church secretaries and from the couples themselves. Nominations were sent via email, phone calls and letters that were compiled into an Excel spreadsheet and sorted by state and length of marriage.