LAKE CITY — What's the secret to a lasting marriage?
"Just give and take, I guess," said Margaret Rabe.
She ought to know. Margaret and her groom, Clifford Rabe, have been married more than 79 years, the longest marriage in Minnesota, according to Worldwide Marriage Encounter Longest Married Couple Project, which honors the longest married couple in each state.
A celebration held Monday in and around the Rabes' driveway included family and friends participating in an old-fashioned shiveree – a loud mock-wedding serenade that featured the banging of pots and pans. The Rabes watched it all, seated in their garage, smiling behind their masks.
Daughter Jan Hein, 77, who lives in Millville, said she wasn't surprised her parents' marriage set the mark for Minnesota. In fact, she's looking forward to the next big date, July 10, 2021.
"I'm looking forward more to their 80th (anniversary) next year," Hein said.
Not everyone believed in Clifford and Margaret when they tied the knot on July 10, 1941. Hein said an aunt commented that the couple was too young – Margaret was about a month short of her 19th birthday, Clifford would turn 19 that December, shortly after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor – and predicted the marriage would not last.
But the numbers don't lie.
Two daughters. Six grandchildren. Fifteen great-grandchildren. And 21 great-great-grandchildren with another two on the way, Margaret said.
The Rabes' minister, the Rev. Dan Reich of Trinity Lutheran "Lincoln" Church, read proclamations honoring the long union from Worldwide Marriage Encounter and the U.S. House of Representatives.
Reich said the couple are a great example of what it takes to make marriage survive the long haul.
"If you put the work in early, later on it's no longer work," the pastor said. "It's a habit."
The Rabes, he said, put in the work early. Today, Margaret still bakes cookies – Clifford's favorite goodie – every week. It's a habit that shows love.
Growing up, daughter Judy Becklund, 78, who also lives in Millville, said her parents made sure their children knew what was expected of them, but showed love at all times. And they set a great example as both a married couple and parents.
"Oh, yes, you betcha," Becklund said. "We're very thankful for their health and that they've been able to stay in their house here. Their minds are sharp. And they remember stuff we don't even remember."
As for Monday's celebration, the couple said they were taken aback by the show of support.
"We were surprised," Margaret said.