For 67 years, Andy and Ruth Boersma of Wheatfield have kept the love alive with humor and common interests. On July 6, 1951, the couple wed in a small ceremony where no photos were taken, but they don’t need a wedding album to remember that day 67 years ago. Their marriage is a legacy of two people who get along well together and enjoy each other’s company.
Ruth said she saw Andy walking down the street in Wheatfield while she worked at the local grocer’s, King’s Grocery. Andy Boersma was heading to the town’s pool hall, where he was not allowed to be. “My parents would have skinned me alive,” he says with a smile. As his wife saw him walk by, she thought to herself, “I think I’ll just marry that guy.”
Andy’s sister happened to be the owner of the store Ruth worked in, and she decided to bring the two teens together without telling either of them her of matchmaking scheme. Ruth was invited to a “weenie roast” at the Boersma family farm in Fair Oaks, where Andy lived and worked.
Ruth said Andy’s sister thought Ruth would make a good girlfriend for her little brother, knowing Ruth wanted to marry a farmer. She didn’t know Ruth had already decided he was the man for her.
After being brought together at the weenie roast, Andy asked Ruth out for a date at the skating rink in Wheatfield. The couple told their parents that is where they would be with every intention of doing just that, but after discovering Boersma had never gone roller skating before, they went to a movie in Hebron. Neither of the teens were allowed to go to a “show” or a dance, Ruth explained. They kept their whereabouts at the date a secret, and continued to date for another three years until Ruth graduated from high school.
Andy had already quit school in his sophomore year to work on the farm with his father and brother, not unusual in that time. They married two weeks after her graduation and she moved to the farm in Fair Oaks, where the newly weds lived for one month before moving with his family to a new farm near Bass Lake. She and her mother-in-law worked together to milk 33 cows when the men were busy with crops and other farm work.
This was something Ruth had always dreamed of doing in her life. She grew up in town, but loved to visit her grandparents, who farmed and taught her how to farm.
When a drought hit the lake, and nearly depleted its water, the family lost the farm. “Those were disastrous years,” she said.
So in 1957, the young couple moved to Wheatfield, where Andy took a job working for a farmer for a couple of years. Then he went to work for Indiana General, a magnet factory in Valparaiso. After awhile, he went back to work for a different farmer until 1964.
The Boersmas, with their three children, moved to a farm near Kniman where they raised chickens and sold eggs they packed themselves. He delivered eggs to restaurants all over northwest Indiana and northeast Illinois, including Oak Park. He said kids came from Kniman to work on the egg farm and were taught how to “candle” an egg. Their children also worked on the farm.
This was their life for 13 years. Andy said doctors told everyone that eggs were bad for them and he couldn’t make money with eggs any more so he went into the hog business, raising feeder pigs. Ruth was always there to lend a hand, helping her husband and children as they worked on the farm. They lived on the Kniman farm for 21 years.
Don’t be complaining all the time,” he said. “Nobody wants to hear that. You have to be positive.” That is how the couple made it through the ups and downs of life, and managed to do it together.
“We help each other and have always worked together,” he added. Ruth loved to farm. She also cooked for their workers, learning how to cook for a large number of people. She still enjoys making noodles for chicken and noodles each year for the Sandhill Crane festival. She always has lots of help in her small kitchen to make the noodles every September.
“We’ve never had harsh words all these years,” she said. “There’s no sense in arguing. Even if we had no money, we still made it through.”
Now the couple, in their mid-80s, continue to help their son, Andy Jr., who owns Boersma’s Funeral Home in Wheatfield. She said on their 67th anniversary, they were helping out at a funeral and they wouldn’t have it any other way. She bakes a “Mountain Dew” cake for every family, and makes coffee for them during the process of saying farewell to a loved one. “People appreciate it,” she said.
They know loss, having lost a daughter, but have their son, Andy, and daughter Shirley Marshall, who lives in Arizona. They also have grandchildren and great-grandchildren to occupy their time. Both are involved in happenings in the town. And they both love to kid each other.
“I wouldn’t trade what I did in my lifetime for nothing,” she said.