June 26, 2024 at 12:00 a.m.

Big brother hit marriage milestone

Back in the Saddle


Editor’s note: This column is being reprinted from June 25, 2014. Jack looked up to his big brother Steve, frequently telling stories about him. Ten years ago, he shared stories related to his brother’s 50th wedding anniversary. This year, Steve and Beth Ronald, who live in Minneapolis and are blessed with children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, celebrated 60 years of marriage.


Fifty years.

That’s a milestone for any marriage.

And it’s a milestone my brother, Steve, and his wife, Beth, passed this month.

Steve ordinarily would have been back in Jay County for his 55th high school reunion. He graduated from Portland High School in 1959, and for most of his reunions he has slept in our spare bedroom after partying with his classmates.

But this one was different. This reunion collided with his wedding anniversary.

Steve met Beth Taylor when they were students at Earlham College. I was in junior high at the time, and to me everything about them was larger than life. 

In the year or two before the wedding, the families got to know one another. Beth made the kind of stressful visit to our house that every fiancée dreads, and our family made the trek up to Minnesota to meet Beth’s family. 

Ours was the easier trip. Beth’s visit was marked by someone spilling milk at Sunday dinner, while ours was a delightful visit to Lake Minnetonka outside of Minneapolis. And while Beth’s visit to Portland was probably pretty hum-drum, our visit to Minneapolis was — at least in the eyes of a junior high kid — very cool. 

Beth’s family had ties to a bookstore near the university in an area known as Dinkytown, and for me there was nothing cooler on earth at that age than a bookstore. Portland didn’t have a real one. Dunkirk didn’t have one. My best book choices came from a newsstand at the Rexall Drug Store in Portland, and I made the most of it. 

The patriarch of Beth’s family, Grandfather Perine was a gnomish little old man who made Steve’s younger siblings feel at ease immediately. He was a coin collector and currency collector. And before our visit ended, he’d given me a $2 bill, telling me to keep it in my wallet forever and only use it if I ended up completely down and out. It was great advice. 

The wedding happened about a year later, and I found myself in my first tuxedo. 

Did I look like a 15-year-old dork? You bet I did. 

It was the first time I had ever worn rented clothes, which struck me as a little odd. 

The tuxedo drill goes something like this: Pants, jacket, shirt, cummerbund (what the heck is a cummerbund?), suspenders, shirt studs (we can’t afford buttons?), silk socks (those are weird) and shiny shoes. 

In Tuxedo World, none of the clothes you wear everyday have any use. So you have to rent replacements from some guy who knows more than you do. Or pretends to. 

My role, 50 years ago, was as an usher, a task I handled without embarrassing myself. 

I was not, to my immense relief, asked to be Best Man. But several years later, I tapped my brother for that very role. 

I didn’t ask him to wear a tux.

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