Tried-and-true love story
"She's been the perfect wife," 98-year-old Tom (Thomas) Pederson beams as he talks of his longtime partner in life, Julia, 96, who he affectionately refers to as 'Jul.' I knew when I married her that she was absolutely the right one for me and I still feel the very same way today."
The reflection is the result of conversation regarding their upcoming 75th wedding anniversary which they will celebrate Feb. 6. As they talk, the two of them only complement each other with their quick responses and loving glances.
Still on the name topic, Tom explained. "She usually calls me Thomas, but many times we call each other mom and dad. It's just a habit I guess."
The pair recently moved to their new second floor apartment home at Sheyenne Crossings, where they enjoy their living room window view of bustling Sheyenne Street and 13th Avenue. Prior to moving to the Crossings, they had lived in both a private residence and most recently a condominium. "We really like it here, it is very comfortable," Tom said. Jul is restricted in her mobility and must rely on a walker and wheelchair, with Tom taking care of all of her needs as both devoted husband and now caregiver.
An easy task, Tom says, since their lives are fairly simple. He prepares a light breakfast, and they spend the remainder of the day reading, watching television or visiting with frequent guests that include relatives and friends, before getting ready for their trip down to the main floor dining room for their evening meal. With the elevator conveniently accessible right outside their door, both Tom and Jul look forward to this nightly ritual that also affords them conversation with other Sheyenne Crossings residents.
Approaching almost eight decades together, Tom and Jul share a rich and interesting history spanning a variety of experiences. Tom was born in Iowa and eventually moved with his family to Crosby in Divide County where his dad farmed, first renting and then acquiring his own land south of Crosby.
Tom helped out on the family farm until he was 19, graduating from Crosby High School and then Minot State Teachers College with a second grade professional teaching certificate. He taught school for 13 years in rural and consolidated schools and then four years in neighboring Fortuna. He eventually took, and passed, an examination for the Border Patrol before accepting a position in Detroit, Mich., as an Immigrant Inspector. He worked in the Detroit area for several years before being relocated to Cleveland, Ohio, where he served as District Director of Immigration and Naturalization Services.
It was while Tom was in Crosby that he met Jul, whose family also made their home there. They 'went together' for four years and married Feb. 6, 1932, while Tom was still teaching.
Jul worked for only a very brief stint while they lived in Cleveland and spent the remainder of her time as a stay-at-home mom caring for their three children, Joann, Duane, and Jerry. Joann Scott now makes her home in Portage, Mich. Duane and his wife, Pat, reside in Flint, Mich.; and Jerry and his wife, Julie, make their home in Washington. Tom and Jul are also extremely proud of their 11 grandchildren and their numerous great-grandchildren.
Tom officially retired in 1972, and since that time the couple has pursued a lifelong passion of traveling. "We've traveled all over the United States, making it a point to visit every state," Tom said. They drove to Alaska and, of course, flew to Hawaii and also savored two trips to Europe, the Scandinavian countries first, and later to Genoa, Italy where they had the opportunity to visit the statue of Columbus.
"We have had a very enjoyable retired life and it was a special treat traveling in Europe," Tom said. "We thought Switzerland was the most beautiful country, with all the colorful flower boxes in the second floor windows."
They also played as much golf as they could while traveling. "We always carried our golf clubs with us and played every chance we could," Tom reflected.
As for their original West Fargo connection, Julia's now late sister and brother-in-law, Louise and Carl Burner, initially introduced them to the community. Both couples had adjoining Minnesota lake property, and ultimately West Fargo homes, spending the summers at the lakes and the remainder of the time at their West Fargo location. "We have always really liked living in West Fargo," Tom said. They also continue to enjoy regular visits with their nephew and nieces, children of Carl and Louise Burner, Milt Burner and his wife, Jean; Sharon and her husband, Larry Christiansen, all longtime West Fargo residents; and Beverly Lee, who lives in Fargo.
Through the years they also maintained and cherished their involvement as parishioners at Community Presbyterian Church, which they are no longer able to attend but are there in thought weekly.
When asked how they are going to celebrate their anniversary on Feb. 6, Tom said they have no special plans. Both agree the greatest achievement in their lives has been their children. With mention of their family, Tom and Jul's faces immediately light up. "Our kids are the greatest thing from our 75 year union," Tom said. "We've had a wonderful life together and I would do it all over again if I had the chance. That includes you too Jul," Tom grinned, as he lovingly patted her on the arm as he often does. By the affectionate, responsive smile on Jul's face it is evident the feeling is clearly mutual.