Couple celebrates 70 years as Valentine sweethearts
by Mary Le Arneal
Melvin and Elizabeth “Betty” Marian celebrated their 70th anniversary Dec. 18, 2016. This will be their 70th Valentine’s Day together.
Theirs is a story of unusual circumstance, a love that got a start with help from the Omaha World-Herald and cemented in North Bend.
Betty and her older brothers Adolph Jr., Fred, Gus and Herbert moved to North Bend with their parents, Adolph and Henrietta Wesch, in the winter of 1934, settling on a farm 2.5 miles west of North Bend. Betty graduated from North Bend High School in 1939. She attended college in Seward to obtain her teaching certificate. Her first job, as reported in the North Bend Eagle in September 1942, was at a parochial school near Battle Creek.
At some point she met and married Leonard Wilke from Leigh. They had a daughter, Mary Jane, in 1944. He was in the Army, serving in the Pacific Theater, where he died during the battle on Okinawa April 22, 1945.
While her husband was overseas, Elizabeth had returned to North Bend to live with her parents on the family farm west of town.
The Jan. 9, 2017, edition of the Omaha World-Herald told the story of how Betty met her husband of 70 years, Melvin Marian.
Marian had lost a brother in the battle of Okinawa in April 1945, and he was buried there. In August of that same year, Marian was able to visit his brother’s grave. He wrote his mother in Hastings telling about his visit. His mother shared the letter in the Omaha paper’s “Letters Home” section, thinking it might bring comfort to others who had lost young men overseas.
Betty Wilke read the letter and was so touched that she wrote to Mrs. Marian. The two women developed a friendship and Betty went to visit her, meeting Melvin, who had just returned from the Army. A relationship developed and the two were married Dec. 18, 1946, at St. Peter Lutheran Church in North Bend.
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