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Helmut Schmidt, Published July 27 2012

Love story for the ages

FARGO - Looking for love? Consider playing more pinochle. It worked for Michael Ludwig and Virginia Iverson.

Michael said he was sitting at the card table at the Riverview Place in January, waiting for a partner.

Then Virginia sat down across from him, and he was entranced.

“She had a big, beautiful smile,” Michael said. “And I smiled back. And that was it. I knew it. That’s the gal.”

Virginia also liked the twinkle in his eye.

“I thought, ‘He’s kind of cute!’ ”

Over the next few months, several dates and lots of dancing, love bloomed for Michael, 85, and Virginia, 86.

It bloomed so much, they got married Friday at the retirement community’s chapel, surrounded by family and friends.

He wore a blue suit, crisp white shirt and brown tie.

She was in a pink and black floral print summer top and a white skirt, a corsage gracing her wrist.

They took their vows before the Rev. Wayne Quibell and the Rev. Gerald McCarthy.

As part of the ceremony, Quibell asked them both when they were born.

Their answer: 1926.

“Father McCarthy and I, after considering the facts, feel you are both old enough to be married,” Quibell said, drawing a round of laughter from the crowd.

Quibell said Michael came to Riverview Place in December and charmed his way into Virginia’s heart.

“And he danced with Virginia. And Virginia began to like him more, and more, and more,” Quibell said.

The result was a love that brought them both to the altar, he said.

“We don’t know how it happened, but we’re glad it did,” Quibell said.

And not long after, their vows were taken and they were Michael and Virginia Ludwig.

Second shot at love

Both Michael and Virginia had been married before.

He was born on a farm outside Harvey, N.D. He moved into Harvey at age 11 and was on his own by age 14.

He moved to Fargo in 1951, working for the city street department for 37 years, rising to assistant superintendent. He was married in 1947 to Theresia Richter in Esmond, N.D. They were together 62½ years, until she died.

She was born in Fonda, N.D., and had also spent time in Sutton and Binford, for moving to Cooperstown.

She married a farmer, Norris Iverson, in 1948 in Sutton. They were married 43½ years, until he died.

Virginia had been alone about 20 years and had gotten used to life by herself.

Michael, however, missed his first wife and the companionship of marriage after she passed way in January 2010.

On date No. 2, the pair made it clear to each other that dating was fine. Marriage? Meh.

“I told her, ‘We’re going to date. This is fine. But I’m never going to get married again,’” he said.

“I said, ‘That’s fine. Because I certainly wasn’t going to,” she said.

“Of course, now we say this now,” he said.

“We’re never going to get married again,” she said.

As they laughed at the joke, their hands found each other’s, and their fingers intertwined.

Michael said by this May, just a few months after the fateful pinochle game, he realized their relationship had changed.

“I woke up one night and I thought to myself, ‘I’m going to ask Virginia to marry me,’” he said. “And I did. And she said, ‘No!’”

Virginia reminded him that it was because she had said she wouldn’t remarry.

But by June, something had changed for her, too.

“She called me up one night. ‘Come on over. I want to tell you something,’” Michael said.

And he went to her apartment.

“I said, ‘You want to ask me again?’” Virginia said.

“And I said, ‘Yes!” Michael said. “And I did.

They then told their children, getting a good reception. Though Virginia said her clan thought the courtship “was kind of quick,”

To which he replied: “Well, 80 years old, you can’t wait too long,” he said. “Time is running out. That’s the way I looked at it.”

And they laughed again.

Two families now one

At the ceremony, both families were all smiles.

“I think it’s great! I’m glad that he’s happy,” said Cayla Dallman of Harwood, N.D., a great-granddaughter of Michael’s.

“They make each other happy. It seems like a God-led thing,” said one of Virginia’s granddaughters, Heather Smith of Montana.

“I wish them all the happiness,” said one of Iverson’s sons, Louis Iverson.

“It’s been a long time since we’ve seen our father that happy,” said Dana Ludwig, one of Michael’s sons. “We moved Dad out of (his) apartment yesterday and every time he saw Virginia, everything stopped.”

For the newlyweds, riding the carousel of romance filled a void.

“It kind of ended my loneliness. It brought me back to where I enjoyed life again. Because when I lost my wife, I lost pretty much everything,” Michael said. “I just couldn’t get my life back to where I was happy, until I met Virginia. She turned my life around. Now, I want to live again.”

“I enjoy being with him very much,” Virginia said. “I have to say, I had adjusted to being alone. But now, I realize what I had missed.”

“It’s nice to know that you are loved,” she said. “We feel we’re pretty fortunate to have found each other.”

“I tell you this, three things you’ve got to have: Faith, hope and love. You got them three things, then you should make it a long, long time,” Michael said.

“Eighty years old doesn’t mean anything. It’s what’s in your mind and your heart,” he said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583

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