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A 70-year Love Story

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Glenwood Couple Celebrates Milestone Anniversary

By Joel Stevens, Associate Editor

Ask Wilma and Glenn Johnson what’s the key to a long, happy marriage you might get a joke. But listen closely and you’ll get a little wisdom from a couple who just might know the secret to a long marriage.

“You have to live a long time,” said Wilma, with a giggle. “No, you don’t take fights to bed with you.”

“If you have an argument or a fight, you kiss before bed,” Glenn agreed. “You don’t carry grudges, that’s the key.”

“It makes it easy that when he wakes up, he’s always in a good mood,” said Wilma. “He’s a morning person so he sets the good mood for the day.”

Wilma and Glenn have been setting good moods for each other for more than 25,000 days – that’s 70 years. The Johnsons celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary Tuesday, Feb. 8.

But the first celebration of that Feb. 8, 1941, wedding day had to be put off for awhile. Wilma was a 19-year-old teacher in the one-room Williams School. Glenn, then a Glenwood High School senior, noticed the young school teacher sweeping the school porch one morning while cruising by in his Model A coup. He was smitten.

“I'd drive by there and she was out there shaking a mop on the porch,” he recalled. “She caught my attention.”

Less than two years later, they were married. But the marriage would remain a secret to all but family for nearly six months.The two married at a Methodist church in Lincoln, Neb., with their parents’ blessing. School teachers of the era could not be married, so the young couple kept it secret until after the school year was completed.

“You couldn’t teach and be married so we slipped away. We were a secret,” she said. “Imagine if they had a silly rule like that now?”

The couple actually grew up country neighbors. “We lived about a mile apart, but we knew each other,” Wilma said. Glenn’s older brother married Wilma’s sister. “It worked for them so I guess we figured it’d work for us.”

Glenn and Wilma bought a farm south of Glenwood off what is now Levi Road. The Johnsons still live in the house they built over 50 years ago.

“There was an old house (on the farm) we lived in before and we tore it down and used the nails and stuff to build this one,” said Glenn.

Glenn and Wilma raised six sons in the home. They have 19 grandkids and nearly as many great-grandkids with more on the way. Five of their six sons are now retired.

Glenn eventually gave up farming and decided to run for Mills County Auditor, serving for 20 years before retiring in 1980. Wilma continued to work as a substitute teacher, and later as a secretary for the county engineer and the Area Education Agency 13. She still occasionally sees students she taught. Some still refer to her as “Mom Johnson.”

Glenn, 90, and Wilma, 91, still live on their own on the farm they bought in 1952. Both remain active. Wilma is on Facebook. Glenn is never far from his police scanner and is always tinkering with some project around the house or on the farm.

They don’t have any Valentine’s Day plans, but they both suspect the family is planning an anniversary party - they just haven’t been informed yet.

“Who knows, maybe the whole family will just come out and visit us,” said Wilma. “We have a big hill out here. The kids just love to sled on it.”