180 years of love: Three Rifle family couples celebrate their 60th anniversaries
Love isn’t something that you say, it’s something that you do.
That’s the feeling of Kay (Johnson) and Richard (Dick) Morgan of Rifle who are celebrating their 60th wedding anniversary this year. Kay’s sister, Carla (Johnson) Bernklau and Paul Bernklau married just six short days after Kay and Dick. Within a few months, Paul’s sister, Darleen Bernklau) married Arnold Mackley in a June wedding. It seems it was a good year to start a happy marriage.
Kay (Johnson) and Richard (Dick) Morgan
Morgan and Kay had their first date when they were both students at Rifle Junior High. At a Sadie Hawkins’s dance, where traditionally the girls invite boys to the event, Kay wasn’t brave enough to ask Morgan. Instead, she had a friend make the request for her. He accepted and walked Kay home after the dance.
Her date made it all the way to the front porch before he bolted and took off running as fast as he could.
“I should have kept running,” Dick joked.
The couple were married on Dec. 17, 1957 at the First Christian Church in Rifle. The two believe their relationship has endured all these years because of their commitment to each other. What does commitment mean to them?
“Love that person. No matter what you go through, you go through it together.”
Their relationship continued to thrive even when he went through boot camp and then was stationed far from home while serving in the Army. He trained for the Central Intelligence Agency (C.I.A.) in Washington D.C. The two, and their growing family, lived in several other towns and a few more states before making Rifle their permanent home.
The two opened Rifle Food Market in the 1970s and established a cattle ranch in 1982 on East Divide Creek. Along the way, the couple bought property which was first settled by Kay’s Swedish immigrant grandparents. Six generations of family members have lived in the original Rifle home site at one time or another. Kay and Dick continue to live on the Divide Creek Ranch, which remains a hub for family gatherings.
Darleen (Bernklau) and Arnold (Mack) Mackley
Mackley was in the first graduating class from Central High School in Grand Junction in 1950. He was enrolled in Mesa College when he decided to join the Navy and served four years. Upon his return, his mother was thrilled when she found an ad for a job for him. It was 1957 when Mackley started working as a field accountant for Sterns Roger Manufacturing Co. at the Union Oil Company Shale Demonstration Plant in Parachute. Darleen, who was raised in Rifle and had graduated from Rifle Union High School, had recently just traded in her job at the First National Bank to become a secretary for the Union Oil Company. As it happened she dropped some papers in the hallway and Arnold helped her pick them up. Their first words to each other… “Good morning,” were the start of a long and loving relationship.
The couple became engaged on Christmas Eve in 1957 at Darleen’s family home and were married there on the front lawn on June 29, 1958, where they live today. They still tend to the apple tree on the front lawn, which was used as a backdrop for their wedding photos.
Although they have lived on their ranch outside of Rifle for the last 45 years, during their first 15 years of marriage they lived in 17 different towns in a variety of places, including Colorado, California, Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, Montana, Kansas and Beersheba, Israel. Throughout their marriage they have been dedicated to the Emmanuel Lutheran Church in Rifle and have enjoyed public service and community involvement. Mackley spent 14 years on the Garfield County Planning & Zoning Commission followed by his two terms as a Garfield County Commissioner and Darleen’s participation in the Garfield County Fair.
Asked what advice they would give other couples on having a successful marriage, they had some good advice. “Go to Church on Sunday together” and “Marry someone you have a lot in common with because there is less to fight about.”
Carla (Johnson) and Paul Bernklau
It wasn’t the most likely of places, but Carla and Bernklau met in a snow bank while they were both at a sledding party. The two ended up on the same bob sled and wrecked into the snow bank.
“It was kind of like love at first site,” they said with a smile.
Their first date was at the Horn School House Dance, located southwest of Rifle. Bernklau asked Carla to the dance, but she knew her dad, Keith Johnson, would not let her go. Knowing the answer, as she was not allowed to do stuff like that, she took a chance and asked anyway.
She was right. Her father replied with a quick “no” and just looked at her.
“Who do you want to go with?” her father wanted to know. After saying it was Paul Bernklau, he gave his permission.
“You can go, he’s OK.”
After being married in Rifle on Dec. 23, 1957, the two moved to Manhattan, Kansas while Bernklau was in boot camp. Carla moved back home to Rifle when he was deployed to Germany. She later joined him in Birkenfeld, Germany. They then returned home to have their first son in Rifle. They moved to Sweetwater, Gypsum, Briggsdale, Grover, LaPorte and back to Rifle in the early 1980’s.
The couple are true friends and enjoy being together whether it’s in good times or bad. They love to laugh and spend time with family, including children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and keep an open door to their warm and loving home.
Their best advice to other couples?
“Never go to bed mad at each and never leave while mad,” they said sincerely. “You never know if you will see them again.”
If you add up all the years of marriage these couples have shared, it comes to an incredible 180 years. The family will celebrate with all three couples at a special open house from 1-5 p.m. on Saturday, April 21 at the Garfield County Fairgrounds. There will be special toasts at 2:30 p.m.