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The Story of a 50 Year Marriage

It was 1966, a Jesuit seminarian, and a young woman just starting nursing school.  Their paths were not likely to cross, however, when they did a lifetime of memories would soon follow.

Helen was a bright and beautiful 24-year-old who was ready for a whatever life brought her as she began the nursing program.  She was used to company, the oldest girl of 12 siblings.  Though she loved her family she need an adventure of her own so she bought a train ticket to San Francisco.  She moved into a small apartment and didn’t know a single soul in the entire city.  For the first time she was truly on her own.

Her older brother, Ed, was in a Jesuit seminary back in WashingtonDon Manson, good friend and fellow Jesuit, feared Ed was thinking of leaving the community.  Knowing Ed was close to his sister Helen, whom Don had never met, he sent her a letter expressing his concerns.

 “I had never spoken to her before but I was sincerely worried about my friend.  It was the best decision I’ve ever made,” Don said with a smirk on his face.  That one letter was the start of a budding relationship and 50 years of marriage.

They wrote back and forth for almost a year before finally meeting in person.

Don wasn’t exactly looking for a life partner when we met, because he was studying for the priesthood, but retrospectively he valued curiosity, compassion, gratitude and generosity,” explained Helen as she looked at Don with a soft smile on her face.

Photo courtesy of the Mansons

“I had also hoped to find someone who shared my love of reading, and who was at least a little intellectual and Don really filled the bill,” said Helen.  “It also didn’t hurt that he was also 6’6” with black curly hair and sparkling brown eyes, and a great sense of humor.”

Fast Forward 30 years and Don and Helen were happily married with three beautiful daughters, Silvia, Andrea, and Sarah.

“We both wanted children, and feel that our three girls are absolutely the best fruit of our life together,” explains Helen. “We floundered often as we dealt with the challenges of parenthood, but our girls survived and are now all in their 40’s, with families of their own. They bring us great joy.”

When the girls were young they moved to Columbia, Missouri because Don had accepted a position as a philosophy professor at University of Missouri and Helen was starting work at the VA hospital.  They built a life there and created a wonderful childhood for their three girls.

“We had an amazing childhood,”  Sarah, the youngest of the three explained with a smile.  “It always seemed like an adventure. I will never forget our big white house on the corner!”

They are 74 and 86 now, and dealing with the challenges of old age.  However, they don’t seem to mind this at all and still look at each other with patient eyes and kind hearts.  Sarah couldn’t say enough about how she always viewed their relationship as one that was strong and long lasting.

“I think growing up a lot of kids wonder if their parents will make it, but I never did.  I

Helen and Don Manson. (Photo by Nicole Dawson)

always knew, by the way they treated each other and worked through things, that I would be celebrating their 50th anniversary with them one day”.

“I value the comfortable companionship we have found in our later years,” says Helen.  We share the same ideas on spirituality, although we differ some on religion.  We respect each other’s views.  We look forward to watching the news together every evening.  Although I enjoy reading novels and he loves science, we can happily sit and read all evening,” Helen said while letting out a slight giggle.

 “Its no picnic, but we are helping each other through it… the last stage of our great adventure,” Don expressed with a smile as he looked around their quaint home.