Mitchell couple to celebrate 75th anniversary on Christmas DayAs Evelyn and Carl Braa celebrate their 75th anniversary on Christmas, they don’t want cards or gifts acknowledging their special day. “We just want people to know that marriage does work,” Evelyn said. “That’s it.”
By: Jennifer Jungwirth, The Daily Republic
That’s what Evelyn Braa wants everyone to know.
The 95-year-old Mitchell woman is qualified to speak on the subject. She will celebrate her 75th wedding anniversary on Christmas Day, Sunday, with her husband, Carl.
The two have celebrated much over the years, from their courtship to their careers and raising three boys — Evelyn’s pride and joy.
The secret to their marriage success? Simplicity and a focus on happiness.
“It works. It works,” said Evelyn, referring to marriage. “I never wanted to leave him, and I think he feels the same way about me.
“He’s a good man. He’s neat, he’s clean. He was a good father and we tried our best. Our boys are so good,” she said.
Carl, who has been ill recently, was not able to speak with The Daily Republic for this story.
Carl and Evelyn met in 1935 just after she graduated from Fedora High School. Carl, who is three years older than Evelyn, went to Artesian High School.
“They had a habit of marrying each other,” Evelyn said of Fedora and Artesian residents. “They like each other.”
Carl first spotted Evelyn sitting on a stoop outside a grocery store in Fedora.
“He was going to the CCC camp (Civilian Conservation Corps) in Custer,” Evelyn said.
“He wanted to know if I would wear his ring. I had never met him before.
“But he looked nice and neat and clean, and I thought, ‘Why not?’ ” she said.
So she wore his class ring — which their son still wears today.
The couple spent three months writing letters to each other before she made the decision to drive west and visit him in Custer. Carl’s friend had a model T-Ford, she recalled, which she traveled in.
“We decided we liked each other real well,” she said.
Once he returned to the area, they were married in 1936. They spent $3 on a gold wedding band and traveled to Sioux Falls to exchange their vows.
They intended to marry Christmas Eve. But the man who was going to marry them wasn’t available, so they waited until the next day.
“And that was it,” Evelyn said.
There was one more item of business, though.
“I said I wouldn’t live with Carl until I paid off my debt. I owed $6.15 on a bedroom set,” she said.
So she paid off what she owed, and the couple started their lives together, farming.
“But it was a penniless job,” Evelyn said of farming.
They then moved to Artesian, where Carl operated the laundromat and Evelyn ran the Artesian Café.
“I seated 54 people, and many times it was full,” she said. “We had a sign down on Highway 34. ‘Air conditioned café, 1 block.’ There were very few cafes at that time that had air conditioning,” she said.
Evelyn said both she and Carl enjoyed their work, and raising their boys in the area.
She doesn’t recall any major disagreements or challenges over the years. They were simply happy.
Evelyn’s sister-in-law, Lori Kelsey, describes the two as “just an average married couple.”
“They’ve just always been together,” she said.
As for their recipe to a successful marriage, she, too, said it was nothing complicated: “They were always happy and satisfied with whatever they had. They didn’t have to have anything expensive. They were content with their lifestyle.”
Over 75 years, there have been many memories, and Evelyn has her favorites. One special memory involves thoughtfulness and simplicity, much like her marriage to Carl.
It took place one Christmas Eve, and Evelyn didn’t have a working washing machine. She realized she’d have to heat the water on the stove in order to wash clothes.
That Christmas Eve, someone came to the door.
“He said, ‘We have a new washing machine for you.’ I told him he had the wrong place,” Evelyn said.
The delivery man said the machine was to be given to an Evelyn Braa.
“It was my washing machine, from my husband,” Evelyn said. “That was a thrill. My floor didn’t get leaked on anymore.”
Although Evelyn and Carl don’t live together anymore — Evelyn resides at Wesley Acres and Will lives at Firesteel Healthcare Center — she’s happy and still celebrates her marriage.
She visits Carl a few times a week — and always on Sundays so they can listen to music together.
And as she and Carl celebrate this weekend, they don’t want cards or gifts acknowledging their special day.
“We just want people to know that marriage does work,” Evelyn said. “That’s it.”