Making each other happy: Longest-married couple in Utah celebrates 80 years of marriage

Allen and Evelyn Frandsen celebrated 80 years of marriage Wednesday, making them the longest-married couple in Utah — a record officially recognized by the governor's office.

The couple was married March 30, 1942, at the Salt Lake Temple, when Allen was 22 years old, and Evelyn was 21. According to their daughter, Rita Gardner, the union happened all by chance, or rather, circumstance.

Allen Frandsen, who grew up in the Gunnison Valley, returned to his hometown to become a farmer after deciding that college wasn't for him. And like most men his age at the time, he also enlisted in the National Guard, and was home on leave during the fall of 1941.

At the same time, Evelyn, who grew up in the Bennion area of Salt Lake County, had just graduated from the University of Utah with a double major in business and business education, and was offered a job teaching business in the South Sanpete School District. To her surprise, the job would take her to Gunnison, which Gardner said was a much smaller town than Evelyn had anticipated.

"She had never heard of Gunnison and when she came across the hill into Gunnison and saw what a small town it was, she asked herself, 'What have I gotten myself into?'" Gardner recalled.

It wouldn't take long before the young man who stayed home in that small town would meet the new school teacher at a church function. And while their union had sweet beginnings, it would soon be presented with some challenges.

A few days after they met at a Young Men's/Young Women's meeting of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in November 1941, "they met on the street and Allen asked her for a date," Gardner said. "On Dec. 7, 1941, Pearl Harbor was bombed and the United States declared war on Japan."

The couple was married that next spring, and would spend the next few years like many couples had: separated due to war.

"Two weeks after being married, (Dad) returned to active duty in the Army," Gardner said. “(Mother) followed him wherever he was stationed."

Building a life and family together

When the war was over, Allen and Evelyn Frandsen returned to what they knew, and began building a life together. Allen went back to farming, which earned him many awards, including "Young Farmer of the Year," and he became the first farmer in Gunnison Valley to install a motorized sprinkling system.

Evelyn went back to teaching business at local high schools spanning 14 years, also serving as the PTA president.

Both were very active in their church and communities. Allen was the mayor of Centerfield and a member of his ward's bishopric for 16 years, while Evelyn served on the City Council, and in her local congregation's Primary and Relief Society presidency.

Amid all of those responsibilities and accomplishments, Allen and Evelyn Frandsen managed to raise eight children — all of whom served Latter-day Saint missions, and graduated from Brigham Young University.

"Being a schoolteacher, (Mother) emphasized the importance of doing well in school," Gardner said. "When their oldest daughter became older, she asked her parents what they wanted for their children. They told her that they wanted their children to be active in the church and to follow the Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and to get an education in order to support themselves."

Making marriage last

Supporting each other is what Allen and Evelyn said has been a key to their marriage's success.

"Dad said that he tried to make Mother happy, and she tried to make him happy and so they were happy," Gardner said. "They loved and supported each other in the things they wanted to do and to become. They planned to be married forever, and so they just worked things out and loved each other.

"Mother said that she loves that Dad never got angry or raised his voice with her, and that he has always been calm and kind. Dad said that he loves that Mother loves him and is patient with him. They said they love just being together and traveling the whole world together."

Gardner said that her parents' example has taught her many things that she has carried throughout her life.

"They taught us to love and accept everyone no matter what they did or who they were," Gardner said. "Mother taught us to forgive others and continue to treat them kindly. They taught us to work hard and honestly. They taught us to always choose the right and follow Christ's example."