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Love story began at ‘50s high school hangout, continued for 64 years

February 14, 2019
As told to Amy H. Peterson , Estherville News

As told to Amy H. Peterson by Diane Nauss Bierne

The story began at Moke's a popular high school hangout in Estherville back in the '50s. Jerry was an unsuspecting 11th grader knocked into a tizzy when Sherry, just an eighth grader, walked in with some of her friends.

"I kind of like her. She's pretty sharp," Jerry thought.

Article Photos

Soon, Jerry was rolling up in his little, black Studebaker to take Sherry skating at the rink that was located where the bowling alley is now.

Spoiler alert: it worked out. Jerry and Sherry's daughter, Diane said, "Dad still has his skates with the pom-poms on them, and they were still in the aluminum skating case from back in the day. Across the top of the case, you can see where Dad painted, "Sherry."

The two continued to date for a couple of years, but it didn't take long to see that they were meant for each other, that this relationship was something special.

Diane said, "Knowing full well that this was the woman he wanted to spend the rest of his life with, Dad took Mom over to Mason city and they picked out wedding rings together."

They were engaged Christmas Day, a fact they kept secret to avoid someone trying to stop them or telling them they were too young. Only Sherry's sister, Vernice, and Jerry's cousin, Weldon, knew Sherry and Jerry intended to marry on New Year's Eve.

Vernice was in a bit of a predicament. If she didn't tell their mother of Sherry's upcoming marriage, mom would be mad. If she tattled on Sherry to their mother, Sherry would be mad.

Diane said, "In the end, her loyalty stayed true to her sister."

Jerry and Sherry eloped at the tender ages of 16 and 19, two young hearts in love and certain their intense feelings for each other would last. They pretended they were going to a New Year's Eve dance and dressed in their finest.

Diane said, "In fact, David Clemenson commented to them, 'You look like you're going to a wedding!'"

Because of their ages, both Spirit Lake and Worthington denied them a marriage license. However, a drive to Blue Earth was the ticket and at 7 p.m. on New Year's Eve, 1954, Sherry and Jerry became Mr. and Mrs. Nauss at the Methodist Church in Blue Earth as Jerry's cousin, Weldon and his wife, Marlys stood up as witnesses.

The newlyweds motored out of Blue Earth and took a honeymoon to Mason City, Cedar Rapids, and Chicago, where they stayed with an aunt and uncle of Sherry's, Bob and Joyce. While they were on their honeymoon, Weldon and Marlys returned to Estherville to tell Jerry's father, Fred, about the elopement.

Diane said, "Even though he didn't drink, that night Fred made an exception as he broke out the Mogen David Wine and made a toastthis, certainly, was a cause worthy of celebration!"

Some people said it wouldn't last.

Those people were wrong.

As with many young couples, they came home, living with Sherry's parents for the first 14-and-one-half months of their marriage. When Sherry's dad bought them a lot upon which they built their home, Jerry helped to build a brand new house that was ready on St. Patrick's Day, 1956. This was the home they would live in the rest of their years together.

Jerry was a cabinet maker and Sherry didn't work outside the home until their children were all grown.

Diane said, "For her, there was no greater calling in life than raising the four children that God had entrusted to her care."

Diane said the true fruition of Jerry and Sherry's love wouldn't show itself until decades later.

In 2002, Sherry was diagnosed with Alzheimer's.

Diane said, "Despite adversities and hardships, Dad's love for mom was unwavering, and the challenges brought great strength and renewal. He never left her side, and he was bound and determined to be her primary caregiver until the very end."

As Sherry's memory continued to slip away, Diane said Sherry held on to Jerry the longest.

"Even in the midst of confusion and forgetfulness, she still remembered Dad and would often ask for him and call him by name. 'Jerry. Where's Jerry?' she would ask," Diane said.

Sherry once wrote a tribute with loving words for Jerry. "My mind hurtled back through time and space to those young, glorious days with Jerry, days that had been the happiest of my life. We'd been so in love, Jerry and I; so madly, crazily, terribly in love. It was a love that can come only once a lifetime, a miracle that is granted only to some, and only once."

Diane said one thing Alzheimer's couldn't take from her parents was their love and devotion for one another. Diane said it was Jerry's determination to be Sherry's primary caregiver that surely gave Sherry longevity despite her grim health outlook.

"On January 20, 2019, at 10:45 a.m., after 17 years of battling Alzheimer's, Mom finally went to her forever home," Diane said.

Jerry is left alone to, as Diane said, "pick up the broken pieces of an empty, devastated, and heavy heart."

Diane adds, "Dad would, without a doubt, go back and do it all over again while proudly proclaiming along the way, 'If you want to see how true love should be, then just look at us.'"

See Diane's full account on our website



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