Meant for each other

LAKE SHETEK

They held hands at the movies back when they were dating and, more than 70 years later, they are still holding hands while they watch TV. John and Joyce Visker of rural Tracy will celebrate 70 years of marriage Tuesday.

“She would hold my hand when we were at the movies and now, we’re watching television, she still reaches over and takes my hand,” said John.

“It’s Love, Love, Love”

Guy Lombardo & His Royal Canadians

John met Joyce through her brother, “Butch.” When John was 19, he and Butch Knowles were “putting up hay” together for a neighboring farmer in rural Tracy.

“Butch said he had a couple of sisters, and I should ask one of them for a date,” John said.

John thought that was an alright idea and soon found himself drinking a malted milk at Steinberg’s ice cream shop in Tracy where 19-year-old Joyce Knowles worked in the evenings. (During the day, she worked for an attorney, H.M. Algyer, as his private secretary, doing shorthand, bookkeeping and typing.)

“I talked to her for a while and then asked her for a date, and she accepted,” he said.

Conversations between them established that they were born on the same day, May 2, 1924.

“I was born at 7 o’clock at night, and Joyce was born at 11 o’clock at night,” John said.

The coincidences don’t end there – they both are from families of 10 children – six girls and four boys. And marriage gave them matching initials – JEV.

After doing extra farming jobs and trapping a mink and selling it, John had enough money to buy a ring at a jewelry store in Marshall.

Seventy years later, the Visker family includes four children, 12 grandchildren, 25 great-grandchildren, with one on the way, and one great-great-grandchild and one on the way.

“We have faith in our kids,” Joyce said, “and they in us. We always say something good, we never criticize.”

“We all get along,” said John. “We watch out for each other.”

The family celebrates their patriarch and matriarch’s wedding anniversaries in a big way.

For the 50th anniversary, the Viskers were remarried in the church. The daughters were the bridesmaids, and the grandchildren sang songs at the reception in Walnut Grove community center, including “O Promise Me,” which was among the songs sang at their wedding in 1944. For their 60th, family members went on an Alaskan cruise, and for the 65th, they all went on a Caribbean cruise.

Their church, Church of Christ in Tracy, and their faith has been a foundation for them throughout the years.

“I’ve been a member of the church for 80 years,” John said. He was the Sunday school supervisor for 15 years, and Joyce was the treasurer for 25 years and taught Sunday school.

“Church has been an important part of our life,” she said. “And our kids have been the same way.”

“I’ll Get By (As Long as I Have You)”

Harry James & His Orchestra

Reflecting on what makes a successful marriage, Joyce said it’s important to “be friends. Keep your trust in each other. Know what’s in each other’s heart.”

Daughter JoAnn “Cookie” Knott said there have been “tough times, trying times sometimes, but divorce was never an option. They’ve been team players since day one.”

“She was his Number 1 fan and he was her Number 1 fan,” said daughter Betty Jo Troseth of Texas.

John and Joyce have been retired for 30 years. John drove a school bus until he was 84.

“I enjoy kids,” John said. “It was fishin’ money and a reason to have coffee with the boys.”

Now with full retirement, John says, “every day is Saturday.”

Knott said her parents had been “very involved in the community” in their younger years. Joyce was the city clerk for Tracy and was on the city council for three terms. John was on the board of directors for the Tracy nursing home for about 32 years until it closed. After farming around Tracy for years – “I started farming with horses,” said John – they moved to Tracy in 1971 and bought lake property on the north shore of Lake Shetek in 1981, building their home in 2000 in which they still live. Nine of the lots are owned by family members.

“It’s been a good life out here,” said Joyce.

Knott lives next door and helps them, taking them to any doctor appointment they might have.

Every day they have tea at 3 p.m. – “unless I’m fishing,” said John.

Thinking back on 70 years of marriage, John said, “I can’t think of a day I’d change.”