News: Couple models lifetime commitment through marriage

January 22, 2020

Gert and Willie Madsen

It was love at first sight for Willie Madsen.

He was hanging out with friends on Main Street in Audubon when he first laid eyes on 16-year old Gert Bowman in 1946.            

“It was a Saturday night and that’s where people congregated on Saturday nights years ago,” Gert said. “I had a boyfriend and he had just broken up with me and I was kind of blue.

“And then Willie came along and saw me,” she continued. “He told his friends that was the girl he was going to marry.”

“She was beautiful,” Willie said. “I dreamed about her before I saw her.”

Luckily for Willie, one of his friends knew Gert.

“She just walked down the street and I told my friend ‘I would like to meet her,’” Willie said. “And he stopped her and we started talking.”

As small towns go, Gert knew Willie’s mother.

“I would see her at church praying for her three boys,” Gert said.

Willie and Gert had their first date not long after at the Audubon County Fair.

They both felt fortunate the other was Catholic, as faith was very important to them both.

They dated for a couple years before eventually marrying at St. Patrick Catholic Church in Audubon on Nov. 13, 1948.

Gert stayed home to raise their growing family while Willie worked as a rural mail carrier.

“He would be home in the afternoon [after finishing the mail route] and help with the babies,” Gert said.

“He was a good husband,” she added.

They started out in an apartment and moved a few times before settling down at the house they’re in now. “We’ve lived here 56 years in this house,” Gert said.

Their boys were servers at church growing up. Gert taught the First Communion catechism class to second graders for 25 years and Willie was a trustee at the church for 25 years.

Faith was a cornerstone of their life.

“Willie would go to Mass in the morning before he went to the post office for many years,” Gert said.

All three of their daughters were married in the church, a time of celebration for the family.

The St. Patrick community was also there for the couple during their darkest times. The funeral for their son Mark was held at the church in 2002 after he died of cancer.

“He is buried in Audubon,” Gert said.

Mark left behind a wife and child.

Despite the hardships, they continue to put their trust in God.

“He answered our prayers many times,” Gert said. “We try to go to Mass as often as we can and try to say the rosary every day. Our faith is very important to us. We couldn’t have made it without him.”

They are also grateful some of their adult children live close-by: Joni lives in Audubon, Jim is in Carroll, Julie is in DeSoto and John is in Nebraska.

Nowadays they spend their leisure time having coffee with friends in Audubon. Willie still likes to play golf, though it’s become more difficult, due to hearing loss and limited vision.

There’s no secret to a successful marriage, they said.

“I have a patient husband,” Gert said with a laugh. “He’s very helpful, considerate and a good father.”

“And she’s a wonderful wife,” Willie added.

Willie is now age 94 and Gert is 89. Though their bodies aren’t as strong as they used to be, their love for each other has never been more powerful.