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Rolandos' love endures


Richard Jenkins/Daily Globe

Delores and Dennis Rolando are shown in their Bessemer home this past week. Delores' essay was chosen as the winner of the Daily Globe's "Valentine's Day is all about Love" contest. Their prize package included flowers, chocolates, dinner, movie rentals, a manicure and massages from local businesses.

BESSEMER - Dennis and Delores Rolando have been together for 56 years. That's long enough that they sometimes finish each other's thoughts. That doesn't mean they aren't still capable of surprising each other.

One of those surprises was Delores' decision to enter the story of their relationship into The Daily Globe's "Valentine's Day is all about L-O-V-E" contest. Dennis was unaware of her decision until the couple was contacted by the Globe to inform them that they had won the contest.

Dennis asked her if he could read her essay.

"It put tears in my eyes," Dennis said. "I didn't even know that she wrote it and she put it so poetically."

Delores told of how they met in 1959 while both were attending Wakefield High School. He was 16 and a junior, she was a 14-year-old freshman. One day Dennis asked her out through a friend, who delivered her "yes" back to Dennis.

For their first date, they saw "Darby O'Gill and the Little People" at the Wakefield Theater. Delores' submission said that they "just seemed to fit together as a couple after that."

Many people disagreed with their relationship, including her mother, who didn't appreciate that Dennis' father owned a bar. People also said that they were too young, but they knew it was meant to be.

"We wanted to be together and we knew we could make it," Delores said. "That was the big thing, we knew we could make it."

"From the first time we met, I knew. I knew we were meant for each other, even though we were very young. I was 16 and she was 14, we just kind of knew," Dennis said.

Dennis graduated from high school in 1961 and went to work in Milwaukee. The area's mines were closing and Delores' father lost his job. This meant money was tight for her family.

While he was able to find other work, her mother worked at several of the local resorts, leaving Delores to help look after her younger brother and finish high school. Once she graduated, the couple got married on July 6, 1963.

Still too young to drink at their own wedding, Dennis said people still discouraged the couple from settling down. The nay-sayers included her teachers, who felt that as valedictorian of her class, Delores should pursue college, instead of the relationship.

The young couple moved to Milwaukee for two years before they decided to return to Wakefield. Upon their return, Dennis took a job at the White Pine Copper Mine in Ontonagon County for four years, before the couple decided that Dennis should go to college and become a math teacher. This meant that Delores began as a waitress at several restaurants in the area, while Dennis also worked nights as a janitor at Wakefield High School.

"We didn't do anything easy; we had two kids before he went back to school," Delores joked.

Dennis graduated from Gogebic Community College in Ironwood in 1971 and Northland College in Ashland in 1973, before getting a teaching job at Bessemer High School.

"She's obviously a great cook and a good mother to the kids. She cared for all of us, I guess. I didn't have to worry about much, except going to school," Dennis said, looking back on their time together.

With Dennis teaching, Delores became a stay-at-home mom until 1977, when she got a job at the Twin City Insurance office in Ironwood.

When Delores retired in 2010, the couple was free to enjoy their hobbies - Dennis retired from teaching in 1995 - including four-wheeling, enjoying their hunting camp in Tula and traveling to see their three kids and five grandchildren.

Retirement has also given the couple a chance to slow down and enjoy life.

"We're flexible. If we feel like getting up in the morning and taking off, we do. If we don't want to do anything, we just hang around here."

When asked for the secret to their almost 52-year marriage and 56-year relationship, Dennis attributes it to how easy it is to get along.

"She's so easy to get along with ... even when I'm wrong, she says I'm right," Dennis joked.

Delores added to "not be afraid to say you're sorry, if you do say something."

They offer some timeless advice for younger couples - to communicate and not go to bed angry.

"You can't quit. You have to talk to each other. You just can't walk away. I can't say we haven't had an argument now and then, but nothing that can't be fixed by the end of the day," Delores said. "Never go to bed angry."

"Too many young people just don't communicate with each other," Dennis said. "They don't tell each other their true feelings and thus they don't iron it out, and pretty soon there is financial problems and pretty soon they're divorced."

"Even talking to some people our age who have had problems, I've heard them say that they haven't talked in two or three days. That's got to eat at you," Dennis said. "That's why she's always told me, 'we are not going to go to sleep mad. We might disagree, but we aren't going to sleep mad.'"


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