Corletts reflect on nearly 64 years together
By Audrey Posten
“The pictures on the wall tell me stuff,” said 85-year-old Ralph Corlett.
The pictures are numerous, with dozens lining every free inch of wall, mantle or table space in the home he shares with his wife, Olga. The pictures tell him about his children and grandchildren, his Irish ancestors, his favorite horses, even the farms he has lived on and managed throughout his life. Ralph has a photo for everything. And with every photo, a story.
Pointing to a team of horses, he explained how, at 13, he first met the 9-year-old Olga when she traveled throughout the area with an oat thrashing team. During their teenage years, the two would attend the same thrashing parties and dances.
“I remember she would always ride a bike,” Ralph said, “wearing blue shorts and a white blouse. I would always keep track of her. It’s just one of those things.”
Ralph was not the only one keeping track. Olga also admitted that, growing up, she had a crush on him too.
So why did she eventually decide to marry him? “She don’t know yet,” Ralph answered with a smile.
But marry they did on Oct. 1, 1949. Ralph was 21 and Olga 17. This fall, the couple will celebrate their 64th anniversary.
Over those nearly 64 years, the two have raised 10 children and enjoyed over 40 grand- and great-grandchildren. They have lived on farms all over; everywhere from Marquette and Volga City to Wauzeka and Prairie du Chien. There was even a brief stint in Oklahoma.
Ralph said he always dreamed of being either a vet or a cowboy, but settled on being a farmer. According to Ralph, it was one of the best decisions he ever made.
“My nickname is farmer,” he said. “I love to farm and fix things up. I loved every day I farmed.”
Throughout his life, Ralph often combined his love for farming and fixing by fixing up, then running farms, doing that at least seven or eight times.
Even though he is now retired, Ralph still cannot sit idly by, and can often be found painting or mending fence at the Pleasant Ridge Road farm he and Olga live on, along with one of their sons. He also buys and sells hay and attends a number of sales in order to keep himself busy.
“I can’t just sit in the house,” Ralph said. “I have to do something. I used to go to more sales.”
Even when he is inside, Ralph cannot sit still. He rearranges the furniture weekly. After all, he has to make room for more photos.
“Olga’s always cussing me out for changing the house around,” he said. “She says, ‘Oh, God, he’s at it again.’”
Olga keeps herself busy too. She is an accomplished quilter, and often makes quilts with other women at Swede Ridge Lutheran Church. In the past, she even made clothes and wedding dresses.
She is also a pianist, playing for the local group the Dingalings, as well as at her church. Ralph marveled that she plays by ear, never having had a lesson in her life.
“I come from a musical family,” Olga said. “My mother was an organist and my dad was in a quartet. If we didn’t have a piano in the house, I might not have known I could play.”
While each of them has their own personality and interests, both agreed that their shared propensity for stubbornness is what has kept their marriage going.
“I’ve got a temper, she’s got a temper,” Ralph said. “You fight it out. Everybody’s gotta do that.
“We’ve got another year yet to 65. You gonna stick it out?” he asked Olga. “She’s been threatening to go for 30 years now,” he said jokingly.
“Not really,” Olga said with a roll of her eyes.
“That’s what nearly 65 years does. I’ll start talking and she’ll correct me,” Ralph fired back with a wink.