Sitting at a table with Rosie and Gerry Wilson at Creekside Grille at Wilson Creek Winery, I asked how long they had been married. 63 years, replied Rosie. The three of us sat together for nearly an hour and they shared their love story with me.
Rosie had just graduated from Iowa State and was setting up an Easter Seals cerebral palsy center for children in Boise, Idaho. Gerry had graduated from the University of Minnesota and was commissioned as a lieutenant in the Air Force ROTC and was stationed in Mountain Home, Idaho. On a train ride home to Iowa for Christmas, Rosie “saw a handsome Air Force lieutenant sitting across from me.”
They got to talking and she learned he was on his way to cut down Christmas trees for an officers’ party. Bells went off, she said, and she asked “where did you say you’re from?” “I didn’t” he answered, “but I’m from Minneapolis.” “Are you by any chance Gerry Wilson?” Rosie asked.
A few days earlier on a Saturday, a buddy of hers who also served in the Air Force had told her about Gerry and said she should meet him. “He’s tall and blonde like you. You’d make a good couple.” The following Tuesday she saw a picture in the paper of two lieutenants and two nurses in uniform dancing. She couldn’t see the faces, but one was named Gerry Wilson. The two of them and one of Gerry’s friends kept each other company on the train until he got off in Omaha to head home to Minneapolis.
17 days later, Rosie boarded a train in Ames, Iowa “and guess who got on the train in Omaha?” Gerry was shaving when a porter came in and said there was a lovely lady waiting for him in the dining car. She’d ordered French toast, “the best I’d ever tasted” said Gerry. She wound up getting the recipe from Union Pacific.
They started talking and Rosie asked if he knew how to ski. He had only skied down a golf course before, but assured her he did know how. When they eventually wound up on the slopes in slopes in Idaho, he thought to himself while on the ski lift “how do I get down?” He zigged and fell, zagged and fell and finally went straight down the hill before swallowing his pride and heading to the bunny slope. Rosie was in the ski chalet watching the whole thing and said to her roommate, “see that little dot up there? That’s Gerry.”
They spent time in Boise with a few other friends, played games at the Boise Hotel, danced on the roof and partied every weekend. “Those were really memorable times”, Rosie told me. They never discussed whether they were going to get married as it was a matter of when. Gerry’s wing was scheduled to go to England and Rosie said “we’ll do it before. I’m not going to let you run around England.”
At this point I asked Rosie when she knew she was going to marry him. She held five fingers in the air. “Five days?” I asked. “No” Rosie answered. “Five minutes. We were chasing each other until he caught me” Gerry said “I wasn’t going to get married until I owned a car, had a job and had $10,000 in the bank. I married the car, got a job and I still don’t have $10,000 in the bank.”
They shared a few of their secrets to a long marriage. Number one, said Gerry, “stay alive. The number two rule we have is to spoil each other” “Marriage isn’t 50/50” Rosie added, “it’s about 80/80 and that’s what I tell the brides. The neat thing about this story is that we all still like each other”
Gerry wound up being stationed in Korea for a year and they wrote each other every day. It enabled them to really communicate and plan their future. He sent every paycheck home which gave them enough for a down payment on a home in Minneapolis. Rosie got a job as a home economist at Northern State Power and Gerry was in management training at a bank.
You’ll find the lovebirds at Wilson Creek nearly every day, having lunch at the Creekside Grille and thanking customers for coming. Three of their four children work at the winery, and “we try to have a Wilson on the property at all times.” “As far as Rosie and I are concerned, we can come down here now when we want to, if we want to and do what we want to. My commute to work is about two minutes by golf cart. If I’m late to a meeting I say ‘traffic was a nightmare.’ ”