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LDS mission brings couple closer

For some people, the close quarters and constant companionship found in a mission are inconvenient, but for Marv and Ellen Tuddenham, being inseparable for 18 months was just what they were after.

The couple married in 2003 when Ellen was 76 and Marv was 80. Within eight months, they were in Colorado Springs, teaching people about the gospel and learning about each other.

"We just decided that that would be a good way for us to get well-acquainted," Ellen said.

Marv served in the Navy in World War II, so the mission with his new wife was his first.

"My interest in serving a mission grew stronger as I grew older," he said. "I sort of felt that I had been talking the talk for a good many years ... and it was time to walk the walk."

Ellen had thought about serving after her first husband died but didn't want to do it alone.

"I thought about it when I was alone, but I didn't ever act on it because I just felt it would have been better for me to have done it with someone," she said.

Some of the things the couple encountered in the mission helped them to rely on each other, Ellen said. Like when some of the people they visited slammed doors in their faces or the one occasion where a man demanded that they leave.

"We were trying to fellowship them, but we were told to get off the property," Ellen said. "An elderly couple, what threat were we?"

Such occurrences were rare but good for the couple because they "had to depend on each other," Ellen said. Over the course of their mission, they put 19,000 miles on their car and made great friendships with people in the ward.

"It wasn't a large ward, but there were some lovely families that were a part of it," she said. "They were very helpful to us."

It wasn't long after they returned home that they were filling out their papers for a second mission, this time locally in Salt Lake City. One week out of each month, they would provide cleaning checks to 35 apartments to ensure the elders and sisters weren't neglecting their apartments. They would call the night before they were to come inspect the apartment.

"They knew that they would be inspected," she said. "And sometimes they were a little bit disgruntled."

Prior to their 2003 nuptials, Ellen had been a widow for 19 years, after her husband, Raymond A. Johnson, died in 1984. Marv's wife, Dorothy, died in 2001. He continued meeting up with his dinner group that had met for 50 years, but he felt a bit out of place.

"I kept meeting with them but sort of felt that, alone, I was sort of a fifth wheel," Marv said.

A mutual friend of the now couple wanted Marv to meet Ellen, but he wouldn't consider it at first.

"I said 'no way.' I had trouble enough dating when I was young, I was too old for that stuff."

Eventually, they did meet, and the rest is history. They have four children each and more than 30 grandchildren and great-grandchildren between them.

Heidi Shepherd, one of Ellen's daughters, said the family loves Marv and is happy the two found each other.

"The 'golden years' have become a joyful journey for them since their marriage," Shepherd said. "I think of him as my mom's 'new life blessing.' "

They found they have many interests in common, especially hiking and snowshoeing. They each have a cabin, and during the winter, they'll visit Ellen's cabin in Brighton and snowshoe the 20 minutes it takes to get to the front door.

Getting remarried was a bit of a transition for both Ellen and Marv, but they each believe their missions helped the transition go smoother.

"You have to get used to a new set of rules, but I think we both adjusted pretty well," Marv said. "The focus on things other than the ordinary you get when you go on a mission helped a great deal."

e-mail: mfarmer@desnews.com