Luther Alumni Magazine

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They found true love at Luther

Joyce Everson ’56 and Robert E. Lee ’50

Providential Love?

by Joyce (Everson) Lee

As a Boscobel, Wis., high school freshman, I attended the very first Dorian Music Festival in 1950. I distinctly remember the president of the Dorian Society with the famous name, Robert E. Lee, who presided at the banquet that year.

Joyce (Everson) Lee ’56, Weston Noble'43, and Robert E. Lee, ’50
Joyce (Everson) Lee ’56, Weston Noble'43, and Robert E. Lee, ’50


Then, as a high school senior in 1953, at our spring regional music festival, our high school band director advised us to hear the contest performance of the up-and-coming Mount Horeb High School Band. I distinctly remember the enthusiastic directing of its conductor, Robert E. Lee.

Also, it so happened that spring that there were two other Luther-related incidents that impressed me: (1) a hand written warmly Weston recruitment note suggesting that the Luther College Concert Band needed me, and (2) a personal visit from a charming Luther College recruiter who also implied the LCCB needed me. (That recruiter, Fred Thompson, turned out to be a close friend and classmate of—yes—the same Robert E. Lee!)

Upon high school graduation, I was scheduled for matriculation at Wheaton College, predestined there by parental wishes and a strong desire to follow in my idolized big brother’s footsteps. With eagerness to complete pre-med studies in three years, I immediately started at Wheaton summer school shortly after high school graduation. However, I was absolutely overwhelmed by homesickness, and by late July, I had tearfully convinced Mom and Dad that Luther really did need me—not to mention, it was conveniently so much closer to home! A quick trip to Luther to fill out an application ensued. I was accepted, and enrolled for the fall term starting within a month. Whew!!

Fast forward to 1955. It so happened that Robert E. Lee returned for his fifth college class reunion that fall. He was teaching in Madison, Wis., at the time and was directing the University Lutheran Student Choir at UW. His classmate Fred Thompson knew that I would be applying to medical school there the next fall and arranged to introduce us. I remember that occurred on the steps of Larson Hall, and Bob, eager for LSA recruits, took out his little black book and entered my name. I was honored.

In the fall of 1956, I entered the University of Wisconsin Medical School and within a few weeks received a call from Robert E. Lee. He needed me to sing in his choir. I accepted. By November, we were dating. By July 4, 1957, we were engaged, and by Thanksgiving Eve, 1957, we were married in the chapel of the LSA Student Center on the UW campus. Within three years, I finished med school and Bob had acquired his dream job as director of bands at Wartburg College. The rest of the story is history.

But I am convinced that it would have been an entirely different story had I not received that warmly Weston recruitment letter, which was very similar no doubt to those that many other musical high school seniors received that year! Thank you, Weston. 

Sue Matthews ’59 and Chuck Enge ’58

To Sue . . . A Valentine Gift

by Chuck Enge

The glorious unexpected lifetime experiences that I had at Luther College and after started late summer 1954.

Sue (Matthews) '59 and Chuck Enge '58
Sue (Matthews) '59 and Chuck Enge '58


I was scared to death that I could not make it after some wisdom from my older brother, John, who was starting his senior year. After seven days per week of studying and a part-time job at the old canteen, I received great grades! I couldn't believe it.

Fall of sophomore year, taking an order from a customer, I turned to place the order through the window to the kitchen. I did an instant double take! I was looking at someone magical. I knew immediately that I had to meet her—Sue Matthews '59. We started to spend time together.

On one of our walks one October evening, Sue announced to me that she had a birthday coming up in a few weeks. When I asked the date and year, I didn't believe her! She asked why. We were born on the same date and the same year! Star-crossed lovers!

The first day home as I walked in the door, my mother said I had a phone call waiting. I picked up the phone and heard one of my good friends from high school: “Be on the curb at 5:00 a.m. Pack a bag!” Suburban Seattle for the summer before the national four-lanes came about. Out there, I was able to consult with my godmother, secretary to the president of PLC in Tacoma—she asked me about my feelings toward Sue. I declared my love for her and that I wanted to marry her. I couldn't live without her!

It began to fall into place my junior year. I sensed the same feelings from Sue. We both were from smaller towns in Minnesota and Wisconsin, from ordinary families. Coincidentally, my father and Sue’s mother were full-blooded Norwegians. We were married in 1958, three days before my graduation from Luther.

Our first job was teaching and coaching in Preston, Minn., so Sue could complete her degree. We lived in a small trailer and were so happy! My first head basketball job in northern Minnesota I forgot our birthdays until two weeks later when it dawned on me! That evening I brought up my dumb forgetfulness. She said: “Yes, I know!” What a great lady I married.

And finally in our Fulbright year in Norway, long after our own children had moved out, we were taking our walk in the fall evening down at the North Sea, and I said to Sue: “Dear, do you know I am beginning to fall in love with you all over again?" And she said: "It's happening to me also!"

I lost her to lung cancer in 2003, but we still talk.

Pam Lokken ’68 and Bob Oman ’68

by Pam (Lokken) Oman

I met my spouse at Luther, and it was truly “love at first sight.” Bob Oman ‘68 had transferred from Willmar Community College to Luther as a sophomore in the fall of 1965. I was also a sophomore and one day spotted a cute blond guy walking across campus. I was able to find out who he was when he came into the language lab where I worked. He had to give me his name so that I could record that he had been to the lab.

Bob '68 and Pam Oman '68
Bob '68 and Pam Oman '68


A few weeks later there was a girl-ask-boy Sadie Hawkins Dance, which gave me the chance to ask him on our first date. Soon it was time for Christmas break, but then in January he asked me to a “formal” sophomore affair called “A Night in Camelot.” After that evening I told my girlfriend that I was going to marry Bob. I also wrote a letter to my cousin Chuck Bye ‘66, who was on interim in Minneapolis, that I’d met my future husband.

Bob and I were married June 16, 1968, and were able to have a wonderful life blessed with three sons who have given us three daughters-in-law and five granddaughters. Bob was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in December of 2007, was forced to retire from his veterinary profession, and died October 23, 2013, from complications of it. I miss him every day but will be forever happy to have had him in my life for 48 years.

Audrey Happel ’73 and Robert Hill ’73

by Robert Hill

Audrey Happel '73 and I met during an open house at Brandt women’s dorm in January 1970 of our freshman year. This was back when Luther was just starting to allow men on women’s dorm floors and women on men’s dorm floors. I know this is a hard concept for many to even comprehend today. I went to Brandt with a group of friends, with all of us ending up visiting in one girl’s dorm room. Audrey happened to be in the dorm room that night. We visited that evening, with this chance meeting being the start of our life together. I later proposed to her in my dorm room located in Men’s Tower [now Dieseth Hall].

Bob '73 and Audrey Hill '73
Bob '73 and Audrey Hill '73


We graduated from Luther in May of 1973 and were married Labor Day Weekend, May 26, 1973! We will have been happily married for 43 years in May 2016. We now have three lovely daughters, Elizabeth, Erin, and Laura, and five grandchildren. We have lived all, except for one year, of our married life in Independence, Iowa. Audrey is now retired from teaching in the Independence, Iowa, Community Schools for several years after a long career as an elementary teacher. I have been the human resources director at Wapsie Valley Creamery in Independence for the past 27 years. Audrey and I will forever be grateful to Luther College for bringing us together one cold snowy January evening in 1970!

Elaine Olsen ’81 and Gary Johnson ’82

“Was it a medical emergency” or “Did I just get engaged”?

by Elaine (Olsen) Johnson

I was a new RN grad from Luther, working my first holiday shifts at St. Mary’s Hospital in Rochester, Minn. So that meant celebrating Christmas with my boyfriend, still at Luther, before he left to spend Christmas break with his family in Wisconsin. We were both broke, so it was agreed that gifts would be simple. He agreed to cook me a meal in his “garage apartment.” As a lovely supper was served, he disappeared to put my gift on the turntable—I soon heard my favorite album, “An Anne Murray Christmas,” playing. We had danced quite often to Anne Murray’s songs. Perfect! Such a thoughtful and meaningful gift!

Elaine (Olsen) Johnson ’81 and Gary Johnson ’82
Elaine (Olsen) Johnson ’81 and Gary Johnson ’82


But then he returned with another gift— a 4-x-4-inch bow-topped box. But we had agreed to keep it simple! What was this all about? He had heard me many times wish for a larger nurse’s watch—he must’ve decided I needed that!

As I carefully unwrapped the foiled box, he kneeled beside me. But what was going on? He was gasping for air, sweating and I could hear his heart pounding! He breathlessly said, “There’s a question that goes with that gift.”

The always aware new nurse thought, “Is he having a heart attack?” and then, “Doesn’t he think I know how to use a nurse’s watch?” So I furiously pulled off the paper and opened the box to find the most beautiful diamond solitaire ring I had ever seen. On one knee, he said, “The question is,will you marry me?”

My disappointment over the nurse’s watch waned quickly and I immediately said yes! We were married September 18, 1982! We now have three children and one grandchild. We have celebrated many more wonderful life events together!

Oh, and I bought myself a nurse’s watch.





Kristin (Jensen) Reimann ’88 and Paul Reimann ’89
Kristin (Jensen) Reimann ’88 and Paul Reimann ’89


Kristin Jensen ’88
and Paul Reimann ’89

by Paul Reimann

I met my future wife, Kristin (Jensen) Reimann ’88, at Luther in 1986. She was an athletic trainer, and I was on the football team. We endured our fair share of teasing from the other players!

This fall will be our 25th wedding anniversary. Our oldest daughter, Rachel, is a junior at Luther majoring in—you guessed it—athletic training.

Go Norse!

Hallie Hite '97 and Nate Evans '96

by Hallie (Hite) Evans

Nate and I met the fall of my junior and his senior year. We had a ton of fun and lovely times on our ice cream dates in the caf and making pots down in the old pottery studio, but one of my favorite college memories was our first spring break trip, 20 years ago this March. We'd only been dating for a few months, and it was a true test for any relationship. We'd planned on visiting Nate's sister in Holden Village, Wash., but after my car broke down in Fargo, N.D, we wouldn't have made it in time for the boat to take us there.

Hallie (Hite) '97 and Nate Evans '96
Hallie (Hite) '97 and Nate Evans '96


We made a quick change of plans, grabbed a tent and some really mismatched warm weather clothes from my parents' house, and headed south to Moab, Utah, instead. We drove 24 hours straight through and had a blast there camping and hiking and visiting Canyonlands and Arches national monuments. The CD player in my car broke on the trip, so Nate sang a thousand Neil Young songs to me on the drive. A storm was heading in as we left the desert, and by the time we hit the Rockies, we were in the middle of an ice storm, so bad that Nate once drove off the road and didn't know it, and the car stopped in the middle of the interstate—I got out and scraped the ice off the headlights as semis slowly rolled past at 15 mph. We found a motel in Golden, Colo., and left the next morning with sunny skies.  But, by Nebraska, we were caught in the middle of a white out, and again had to stop after hours of white-knuckle driving, barely able to see a thing. We managed to get back to Luther the next day, finally.

We'd only been back a short time and already I wanted to go up to his room to see him again. I figured that if I was still so excited to see him after a trip like that, we had a pretty good thing going. Since then, we've moved to North Carolina for a pottery apprenticeship and back, set up two potteries, built a house and had three kids, and yes, I'm still excited to see him every day! 

Last March we celebrated the 19th anniversary (because a baby on the way would make it impossible to take a trip this year) of that trip, by heading to the southwest again. We traveled to a place near Taos, N.M., via Colorado Springs and didn't even break down or get stranded anywhere on the trip, though at 28 weeks pregnant, I did have to stop a little more often. We did sing along to some favorite old Neil Young songs on the way, too.


Anna Grinde ’11 and John Stoltenberg ’10

by Anna (Grinde) Stoltenberg

The story of how we met started in the Legends weight room. Yes, I know what you are thinking: how cliche and corny. To give you some background, we were both athletes at Luther, so it was only natural to be training in the weight room while not in class or on the field. John played center for the football team, and I was midfielder on the soccer team. We didn’t meet until J-term of my freshman year and his sophomore year, despite having probably passed each other while coming and going in the Regents building.

Anna (Grinde) ’11 and John Stoltenberg ’10
Anna (Grinde) ’11 and John Stoltenberg ’10


Our story is truly one for the books. While lifting weights one day in Legends with my friend, teammate, and roommate Kelsey (Balk) Grimm ’11, I spotted John. To give you an exact reenactment, I was on the bench press while Kelsey was spotting me. I stopped, mid-lift, and said, “Who is that?” like I had just seen a celebrity out of nowhere. Kelsey had no idea who it was and was clearly not as interested as me. I had to find out. As a freshman, though, I wasn’t brave enough to just go right up to him in the weight room, since he obviously was lifting a lot of weights and didn’t exactly look approachable.

That next Friday I did feel brave enough to go up to him while enjoying some “social time” at Americana Grille. I walked right up to him and said, “Hi, I saw you in the weight room, and I think you're really cute.” Yes, that is literally what I said. We had a nice little awkward conversation and slowly started hanging out that next semester.

We started dating that next fall, went on J-term together in 2010 to New Zealand, got engaged at Phelps Park on July 9, 2011, got married in Madison, Wis., on Nov. 10, 2012, and now live in Minneapolis. We have so many great memories from Luther and will never forget how it all started in the weight room. Let’s just say, I get all the credit for making the first move!


Catherine Gehlsen ’14 and Garrett Hillestad ’14

Garrett Hillestad ’14 and Catherine Gehlsen ’14 met their freshman year at Luther College. Catherine is from Ankeny, Iowa, and Garrett is from Sioux Falls, S.D. Both were soccer players and met through a mutual friend. However, Garrett was not single when he came to Decorah. Catherine always had a crush on him, but since he was not single the two just remained friends. Later that year, Garrett returned to school after a break and broke the news to Catherine that he was newly single. During their second semester, they began to see each other more. Doing homework together, going to the CAF together, as well as the Whippy Dip, the two became closer. In April of 2014, the two became a couple and dated through a whirlwind of four years.

Catherine Gehlsen '14 and Garrett Hillestad '14
Catherine Gehlsen '14 and Garrett Hillestad '14


In May 2014, Catherine and Garrett graduated from Luther. The two had a special trip planned after graduation to the Black Hills. During their week out there, Garrett had a fun hike planned for the two of them. Little did Catherine know what was coming that day. During their hike at Custer State Park, Garrett took Catherine to his favorite spot from when he was a child. While overlooking the lake, Garrett pulled out a little blue box from his pocket, got down on one knee, and proposed! Of course Catherine said yes.

The two are ecstatic and cannot wait to get married. Garrett and Catherine have waited a while to get married so Catherine could figure out her career in graduate school and so Garrett could get accustomed to his new job after Luther. They will be married on September 24, 2016, in Decorah. They wanted to get married somewhere special and somewhere they both had wonderful memories.  

Today, Catherine is in graduate school at the University of Iowa in Iowa City for her master’s in healthcare administration, and Garrett works at Hormel Foods in Austin, Minn.

Jocelyn Petersen ’14 and Alexander Kalal ’14

by Alexander Joseph Kalal

On October 9th 2010, Joel Bruns ’14 and I went to the Flamingo Ball in hopes of having ourselves a good time. When we got to the gymnasium, Joel and I were surprised to see so many things going on. At this point, we had shown up an hour later than when it started. We talked with one another for a few minutes, and out of the corner of my eye, I noticed this beautiful woman who was wearing an ocean blue colored dress. I could not believe how beautiful she was! I had to do a double take and make sure that I wasn't imagining something going on. At this point I knew I had to ask her to dance.

Jocelyn Petersen ’14 and Alexander Kalal ’14
Jocelyn Petersen ’14 and Alexander Kalal ’14


The only issue was that I had a hard time dancing to the song that the band had been playing on stage. Then, to my surprise, the Flamingo Ball band performed a cover of "Sweet Caroline" by Neil Diamond, and I knew it was my chance to meet this beautiful woman. I asked Joel if he would accompany me as a “wingman” of sorts, and he agreed to come with me. I approached this beautiful woman and asked her if she wanted to dance with me. To my surprise, I got an immediate “No thank you” from the beautiful woman. I knew it was going to be a challenge.

When it came to the pre-chorus verse in “Sweet Caroline,” with the line "Reaching out, touching me, touching you," I pointed right at her and got her to shed a smile. I was determined to get this woman’s number and name, and by the end of the night, I got her name from a friend of hers, Melissa Tholen ’14, who had seen my failed attempts to get this woman’s attention at the dance. Her name was Jocelyn Petersen ’14.

Later that night, Joel, Melissa, Jocelyn, and I hung out in Jocelyn’s dorm room and played some games and watched some hilarious videos on YouTube, which were ways to help me gain her attention even more. I tried to do my best flirting possible, and it was at this point that I got her to acknowledge me, and she began laughing at my humor.

After that night, I continually ran into Jocelyn at least once every day for the next week on campus, and every time we saw each other, we would jokingly say something along the lines of "You're stalking me!" After running into Jocelyn in the Luther bookstore for about the fifth time, I asked her for her phone number and asked her if she wanted to hang out sometime.

Jocelyn and I got to know each other over the span of the next couple of weeks, and on October 22, 2010, I asked Jocelyn to be my girlfriend. We have now been together for over five years, and on Halloween of 2015, I got down on my knees at the Lake Harriet Bandshell in Minneapolis, Minn., and asked her to marry me after having some fellow classmates of mine perform “Thinking Out Loud” by Ed Sheeran. The love story continues, and I cannot wait to call her my wife! It only took a little determination!