Their first official date was to a Sadie Hawkins dance at Neponset High School. Mary Ann Christiansen asked Hugo Block if he would like to accompany her. He did and the pair quickly became high school sweethearts.

They had grown up knowing each other. Neponset is a small village and their mothers had known each other for years.

“The people in our class were close,” said Mary Ann.

The teens graduated from Neponset High School – Hugo in 1949 and Mary Ann in 1950. Hugo became a farmer and Mary Ann went back to school to become a teacher.

The wedding wasn’t a lavish or grand affair, instead the couple described the event as rushed.

“I finished my coursework on Thursday, we married at the Methodist Church in Neponset on Friday and I started work Monday morning at the Galva High School,” said Mary Ann.

Their honeymoon was a quick trip to Chicago to attend the theater and back home again the next day.

That was 66 years ago on Jan. 29 and the couple recently celebrated their anniversary by watching a little television. Her favorite is “Wheel of Fortune,” while Hugo likes “Lawrence Welk.”

This year Hugo gifted Mary Ann with a dozen red roses.

“I used to give her a rose for every year, but after three dozen my daughter suggested I stop,” Hugo said.

Hugo is what his wife refers to as a “dyed-in-the-wool farmer.” Hugo’s wife, however, earned her Ph.D. in Education.

“She never pulled rank on me,” Hugo said, referring to his wife’s educational accomplishments. “It takes work and cooperation,” he said.

The couple had two children, Clint, who was born in 1959, and Sonia, born in 1961. They now have five grandchildren and two great grandchildren.

Hugo has a theory about how the couple achieved such a marriage milestone.

“If you are going to be married that long, you have to live that long,” he said.

Throughout their life, the two have spent a lot of time together and Mary Ann quit working for several years to raise the children. They also did a bit of traveling when they were younger to places like Yellowstone National Park, Salt Lake City and Oregon. They always had a garden, Hugo said, and Mary Ann enjoyed canning and preserving the food they grew.

They are both active in their church, the Church of Peace. Hugo grew up in the church and Mary Ann joined after they were married. The two spent 30 years as youth fellowship sponsors there.

When asked if they have a secret for staying together so long, Hugo paused before starting a list. “It takes love, faith, forgiveness and humility,” he said.

Laughter, he said, helps as well. “When you get to our age, you’ve got to laugh a lot.”

As for Mary Ann, she recalls a dutiful husband. “He is so good to me, so kind. He appreciates me no matter what I do.”

Hugo found it difficult to pin down just exactly what he loved most about his wife. “It’s pretty hard to list it all,” he said, adding that she was always a great care provider for her family.

“You have to accept what the other person’s like,” said Mary Ann.

Hugo agreed.

“Happily-ever-after takes work.”