Norridge couple celebrates 70 years of marriage
Glen and Donna Olsen lived most of their married life in Minnesota but moved to Norridge recently to be close to family. | Joel Lerner~Sun-Times Media
Updated: February 24, 2013 8:46PM
NORRIDGE — Adoration is the secret to a long, happy marriage, according to Glen Olsen.
And patience, added his wife of 70 years, Donna.
The couple, who were married Jan. 21, 1943, recently moved from Minnesota, where they lived all their lives, to Central Baptist Village in Norridge to be closer to family.
“We come from families of like backgrounds,” Glen Olsen said. “We had to work.
He was a transportation agent for Northwest Airlines, while Donna Olsen served as vice president of a bank now owned by Wells-Fargo.
Later in life she became an accomplished artist. After retiring, she worked in oil painting and also pursued the art of rosemaling, a Norwegian folk art that entails decorative painting.
“I hadn’t planned on being married for 50 years, let alone 70,” Glen Olsen added, with a laugh that showed his wicked sense of humor.
“The Air Force took him away for a couple of years,” Donna Olsen noted.
Glen Olsen’s tour of duty lasted from 1942-46, and included a year in China.
The two met at a church youth camp, working in the kitchen.
They attended different, but similar, churches, Glen Olsen said.
His future wife’s church had about a dozen eligible women, he said -- but in those days, he added, a young man would pick one girl, not date the whole pack.
“You had to be a little choosy,” he said.
The first time he asked her out, she turned him down.
“But I kept asking her,” he noted.
“I was just out of high school,” she replied.
“I thought he was egotistical. He was a full-blooded athlete; played every sport.”
Her parents liked him, but she had it rough at first with his mother because Glen was her only child, and Glen’s father had died years earlier.
“After a while, she came around,” Donna Olsen said.
Although she admired her future husband for his athletic ability, that prowess became a cause of consternation during marriage.
“He was an all-around athlete,” Donna Olsen said. “He could’ve gone professional, if only he had the backing.
“Some people are good at one sport, some at another,” she continued. “Glen was good at baseball, basketball, tennis. And excellent at golf.”
She noted times were a little difficult when their children were little.
“He’d grab his (sports) stuff and go,” she said. “But we survived it. You can’t hold back someone who’s a born athlete.”
Along the way the couple joined another couple touring around the Midwest in a quartet that sang inspirational tunes.
“We did religious numbers,” Glen Olsen said. “We didn’t do it for money.
“We’d be lucky if the churches maybe would pay for travel expenses.”
But if the two had any advice this Valentine’s Day, they both agree that becoming friends first really matters.
“We’ve really have an absolutely enjoyable life,” Donna Olsen said.