Valentines for life

—Jacksons coming up on 73 years


CRESCO - Ben and Margery ‘Marge’ Jackson’s love story began when they were high school sweethearts, and this year, it continues as they celebrate 73 years of marriage July 15, 2018.
Margery Eaton was born and raised in Cresco.
“I was born in the Cresco Hospital, and graduated in 1944 from Cresco High School,” she said. “I went to Cedar Rapids and worked at Collins Radio for about one year, waiting for Ben to come home (from military service).”
Ben Jackson came from a family of eight. His mother passed away when he was 12 years old, and he ended up at a juvenile home before arriving at a foster home outside of Cresco.
“I grew up here at a foster home out by Davis Corners,” he said. (Foster father) Tom Rhodes had me go by ‘Ben Rhodes.’ They never adopted me, but I went by their name; that’s the name on my high school diploma.”
Ben graduated from Cresco High School in 1942. Meanwhile, he and Margery began dating in 1941 or 1942, Margery said.
What did a date entail in the early 1940s?
Margery: “We went to church together.”
Ben: “We went to movies together, but rarely.”
Margery: “We rarely went to dances. There was not much else to do, because of the gas rationing in 1942. In the fall, just before Thanksgiving, Ben went into the service.”
After he volunteered to go into the military, Ben bought an engagement ring and sent it to Margery.
Ben served in the United States Army in Burma, a member of Merrill’s Marauders during World War II.
“Our general was Frank Merrill,” Ben explained. “We were stationed in Carson, Colorado. A captain came through and wanted 1,000 volunteers for a dangerous and hazardous mission, with a 15-day furlough, and we would be home in one year. My best buddy from Missouri signed up with me, and the next day, we were on a troop train going to California. The day after that, we were on a troop ship going under the Golden Gate Bridge.”
Ben was one of the fortunate few who survived the mission.
“The claim was that out of the 3,000 who went to Burma, 119 of us lived through that,” he said.
Margery added, “His buddy went with him all the way through; they both came home and neither got hurt.”
Today, Ben says, just 22 of the Merrill’s Marauders are still living.
Meanwhile, with Ben stationed overseas, he and Margery had to continue their courtship by mail. Although Margery could write to him, he was unable to write back.
“We left three addresses back in India, and the government wrote to those addresses,” he said. “On one mail call, I got 90 letters from over a three month-span from Marge. I was the envy of the company, because a lot of guys never got any mail.”
In April 1945, Ben recalls the American flag flying at half-staff due to President Roosevelt’s death.
“I wrote a letter to Marge to tell her to get her wedding dress pressed. I didn’t get home until July; the troop ship took 64 days to bring us home.”
Once Ben returned home, the couple’s wedding occurred shortly thereafter:
“He came home on a Saturday, and the following Sunday, we were married,” she said.
Ben adds, “A minister came to Marge’s parents’ house and married us there.”
“We had a Best Man and a Maid of Honor, and 35 people at the ceremony,” Margery said.
“We didn’t have a car, so after the wedding, a friend who took basic training with me, Russell Jensen, who was a farmer near Algona, took us home with him,” Ben said.
As for a honeymoon, Ben and Margery traveled by bus to visit Ben’s relatives, and by November, Ben was finished with his military service.
Margery recalls, “Ben worked for my dad for a while in the milk business, and then he worked for the State Highway Department.”
The couple had five children: Ann, Jean, Judy, Robert ‘Oscar’, and Rose. Margery stayed home to raise them. The couple has nine grandchildren and 17 great-grandchildren.
They have enjoyed numerous winters spent in Texas:
“I had to go on disability from the state when I was 65 years old, and we started going to Texas in the winter,” Ben said. “We spent 26 years down in Texas, and took a travel trailer back and forth.”
“We had a lot of good times down there,” Margery said.
Ben adds, “We made a lot of good friends. There were always different people coming there. We lived in a travel trailer, so we got to meet a lot of people.”
Back home in Cresco, Ben and Margery have been active in the VFW and Auxiliary, serving in the roles of commander and president, respectively. They are also involved in the First United Methodist Church.
As they anticipate their 73rd anniversary, the couple offers advice for others:
“Love each other, Margery said. “We don’t fight; it’s a waste of time.”
Ben adds, “When you get married, it’s for life, till death do us part.”
Meanwhile, the couple never thought as far ahead as imagining their 73rd wedding anniversary.
“You don’t imagine that (when you’re younger),” Ben said.
They did enjoy a party on their 70th anniversary.
“Marge and I were very surprised at all of the people who came to the party,” Ben said. “You just never know who you will see. A friend came here we hadn’t seen since we’d been here. They brought each of us a birthday card, and there was a lottery ticket in each one.”
Ben and Margery involved a couple of their local great-grandchildren in the fun:
“When a couple of our great-grandchildren came here Monday and Wednesday after school, they scratched the lottery tickets, and there was $30 between the two.”
Ben continues, “Our grandson took them to Quik Star and cashed them in, and brought me a $20 bill and two $5 bills. I gave each boy a $5 bill for scratching the tickets.”
As the Jacksons prepare to celebrate 73 years together on July 15, the circle of life continues: It is perhaps fitting that the newest great-grandchild of a military veteran and survivor of Merrill’s Marauders was born on July 4th, America’s Independence Day.

Cresco Times

Phone: 563-547-3601
Fax: 563-547-4602

Cresco TPD
214 N. Elm Street
Cresco, IA 52136

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