‘It started with a three-block walk’

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Jack and Pat Elliott, of Marquette, will celebrate their 70th wedding anniversary on June 4. (Photo by Audrey Posten)

Elliotts celebrate 70 years of marriage

By Audrey Posten, North Iowa Times Editor

It’s an age-old question: What’s the key to a lasting marriage?

According to Jack Elliott, who will celebrate 70 years of marriage with wife Pat on June 4, it’s pretty simple.

“The secret to married life is to know when, where and how to say ‘yes, dear,’” he shared with a smile.

But for the Elliotts, who’ve lived in Marquette since 1971, a loving and supportive family, good friends, fishing trips and doses of humor have also helped.

Jack and Pat’s acquaintance dates back more than the 70 years they’ve been married.

“We met in grade school, playing ball,” Jack recalled.

The two, explained Pat, grew up near Blue River, Wis., but attended separate grade schools. She made the first move.

“I wrote him a card,” she said. “I was captain of our ball team and he was captain of his. I just asked his team to come down and play ball with us.”

Jack and Pat became further acquainted in high school. When Jack, who was a year ahead of Pat in school, joined the Navy in 1943, Pat began to write to him. During one of his times home on leave from the South Pacific, things started to get serious.

“He came home on leave one time and walked me home. I was working at a restaurant in Boscobel,” Pat said.

Their courtship, Jack remarked, “all started with a three-block walk.”

Jack returned home in 1946 and began working with his brother as a welder. He also attended school in La Crosse, to become a licensed welder. Pat was a teacher. 

The couple married on June 4, 1947, in the Blue River Methodist Church parsonage. Ironically, it was also Jack’s birthday.

“That way, he could remember it,” Pat joked.

Pat did not wear a white dress, she reflected, but rather a gold, two-piece suit. Jack, she said, was in a gray suit.

“A couple of friends stood up with us,” Jack added. “The reception was one month later in the Blue River Community Building.”

Their week-long honeymoon wasn’t your typical trip or destination, Pat shared.

“We went on—would you believe it—a fishing trip in northern Wisconsin,” she said. “He loved fishing.”

After getting married, the couple first lived in Richland Center, Wis. They also spent time in Boscobel, Columbus and Portage, Wis., before settling in Marquette. Here, Jack worked for Fabricated Products, now Gencor, while Pat worked at Dillman.

The Elliotts were blessed with four children, two boys and two girls: John Eldon, Steven, Monica (Teaka) and Julie. They also have eight grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren.

“I don’t know what I’d do without them,” Pat said. “I think I’m one of the luckiest people in the world.”

The couple also loves meeting with friends, visiting the Marquette Cafe often over the years.

“We go to the hotel for breakfast. It’s a ball,” said Pat, adding that it’s akin to a therapy session. “We laugh and tell stories and talk until noon.”

In their years together, Jack, who’s 94, and Pat, who’s 92, have frequently traveled, enjoying reunions with Jack’s Navy buddies, visits to family members and, of course, fishing trips.

Living in Marquette means they’ve also experienced some eventful fishing adventures on the Mississippi River.

“Jack, several times, tried to get rid of me on the river,” Pat said, laughing. 

One time, she shared, the motor abruptly quit, throwing her to the front of the boat. Another time, the boat wasn’t plugged, and proceeded to fill up with water.

Humor, Pat noted, has kept the marriage fun.

“He likes to pull pranks on me,” she said, recalling their first Christmas as husband and wife. That year, her gift came in a large box. However, what she initially discovered inside wasn’t so thrilling.

“There were sticks and stones, coal, old catalogs, old books and even a pair of nylons,” Jack detailed.

Amid the junk, Pat said she almost threw away another smaller box located inside.

“It was a wrist watch,” Jack said. “She didn’t have one.”

Reflecting back on their lives, Jack said Pat has taken his pranks in stride: “She’s what anyone would want in a wife.”

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