In 1950, Bing Crosby and Nat King Cole crooned their way up the Billboard charts, Fred Astaire glided across the cinema screen and Disney’s first rendition of "Cinderella" told a tale of one young couple’s happily ever after. It was also the year that Forrest and Rosie Andreason met at a dance in Washington Park in Eugene.
At the time, teen dances were a regular occasion, but this one was special. Rosie went home and told her sister that she met “a really cute boy with a funny name.” She had misheard and thought his name was Florence. His name is actually Forrest. He now goes by Andy. She went to the dance again, and there he was.
“Andy knows how to dance real well and I could follow him — lots of girls couldn’t,” she said with a laugh. “I think that helped.”
“You were a good dancer,” Andy piped in. “We danced all the way until Rosie got sick five years ago.”
After meeting as teens, the two soon married and went on to have a big family of seven kids and many more grandchildren. And they’ve kept dancing through the years — on March 1, they’ll celebrate their 70th wedding anniversary. In honor of Valentine’s Day, the two talked with The Register-Guard about their decades-long love story, making a marriage last over the years and how they’ll celebrate their big moment amidst a pandemic.
A young love blossoms
Rosie first met Andy when she was in the eighth grade and he was in his first year of high school. She went to St. Mary’s Catholic Church and he went to the old Eugene High School.
When Andy and Rosie began going steady, he’d sometimes have long visits at her family’s house. Rosie remembers her German mom switching from English when she thought he’d been there long enough.
“Doesn’t he ever go home?” Rosie remembers her saying in German.
Andy would ask Rosie what she said.
“Of course, I’d say, ‘Oh, nothing,’ ” Rosie said.
Andy joined the Navy when he was just 17. They were kids when they got together, Andy said, and pointed at a picture of himself at the time in his Navy uniform.
“I looked like a kid in a sailor suit,” he said.
They kept talking while he was away. Once he called her while he was in San Diego and declared they had to get married.
"He said ‘Come on down or I’ll go AWOL,’ ” Rosie said and chuckled. "I asked my mom and she said, ‘No way.’ ”
She talked to her sister Vangie, just a few years older, about asking their father.
“I was just a little worried because she was so young," said Vangie Andreason, who years later married Andy’s brother and now lives in Brookings. “It was just something she wanted to do ... . I couldn’t have done it.”
To the girls’ surprise, Dad gave the go-ahead and Rosie went to California where the two married.
"Our marriage grew with some friends we moved next to and we kind of grew up together. Three, four couples, we all did the same thing,” Andy said. “We were all broke.”
The young couples played cards together, went dancing, sometimes played good-hearted pranks and laughed a lot.
"It was us being kids,” Andy said. “Adults being kids.”
“We had a lot of fun,” Rosie said.
Making a big, happy family
The couple went on to have seven children: Karlene Andreason Norby who lives in Oregon City; Steve Andreason in Springfield; Stacey Sciortino in Vancouver, Washington; Sue Lematty in Springfield; Jeff Andreason in Eugene; Lisa Miller in Las Vegas; and Darren Andreason in Eugene.
The family is described by many as incredibly close-knit. They stayed tight through family vacations, lake trips and church.
"My fondest memory of my family is going to church because we’d take up the whole pew,” daughter Karlene said. “We're all very, very close.”
As a dad, Andy had a big personality and was the entertainment, daughter Stacey said. Her mom was a little more reserved.
“She's the implementer who gets things done. They're a really good team,” she said. “My dad loves to tell jokes and stories. And my mom, she’ll still laugh at his jokes and stories, even though we've heard them for years.”
The children, many who are now grandparents themselves, remember piling into a station wagon, before seat belts were required, for trips to the coast and other outdoor adventures.
“We tried to make life interesting to ourselves,” Andy said.
Often, he’d promise a dollar to the kid who could hold their breath under a tunnel and then slow the car down, a prank that’s now gone on for generations.
"All of them are just one big family,” Vangie said. “It warms your heart."
Andy wanted to be a doctor but hadn’t graduated high school and a councilor advised against medical school, so he got into the mortuary business. He served his apprenticeship at the same funeral home he went on to own in 1998. He sold Andreason's Cremation and Burial Service to his son Jeff in 2009.
Andy did have a little experience working at a hospital in Labor and Delivery, which unexpectedly came in handy. When Rosie was pregnant with their fourth child, it became clear she wasn't going to make it to the hospital. It wasn't the plan, but they delivered the baby at home. Their family doctor sent a congratulatory post card and jokingly offered to knock $50 dollars off the then-$150 fee for giving birth at the hospital “as long as they promised not to do it again.”
Rosie did most of the childrearing as Andy tended to the business, but she said he was eager to do his part, which wasn’t always typical at that time.
“You didn’t see very many husbands helping with the children,” Vangie said. “He always helped her with the children.”
While the couple loved being together as family, they also made time to nurture their relationship.
“They would go out on date nights when we were kids long before it was a thing,” Stacey, their daughter, said. “They'd get dressed up and go dancing or playing cards with friends. Every wedding, party that we went to, they were on the dance floor.”
Family attests that through the years, they’ve set an example for the next generations by being generous with their affection — telling each other ‘I love you’ multiple times a day and frequently holding hands.
Becoming 'darn fun' grandparents
The two went on to be unbelievably great grandparents, said one of their grandchildren, Mary Lawson, who lives in Veneta.
“Everybody that I’ve talked to about my childhood with my grandparents has a really hard time believing the childhood that I had,” Lawson said. “I really look up to my grandparents. Obviously, they've been married for forever, but they are just darn fun.”
For many years in the early '90s they would organize the Andreason Bash, a weekend of bonding between cousins and their grandfather. No parents were allowed. Grandpa would load the kids up in a motor home and take them on democratically elected activities — some combination of bowling, miniature golf and swimming. The kids would get to their hotel and find their room filled with junk food.
At the end of the bash, the whole family would gather at Papa’s Pizza and Andy would give prizes to the grandkids for the weekend’s adventures — biggest bite of pizza, best cannonball and other silly awards that made everyone laugh.
The grandchildren were also invited to a yearly fancy dinner. Grandma would break out the elegant china, the kids were served a steak dinner and drank apple cider from wine glasses, Lawson said.
“No parents allowed. It was just for the grandkids and we just thought we were fancy as hell,” Lawson said with a laugh. “That's the kind of grandparent that I want to be... . it's just lasting memories.”
The couple has 18 grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren, and four more are on the way.
Making a love to last
Friends and family can vouch for the couple’s kindness.
“I have never met a couple that was so giving,” friend Tom Altenhofen said. “They have the right values ... they just have the real basic values that build on 70 years of marriage.”
Altenhofen and his wife, Susan Altenhofen, have been friends with the Andreasons for about 30 years. The couples met through their church and became close through prayer groups and potlucks, but they also “played hard,” Altenhofen said. He recalled stories of crabbing, playing games and laughing so hard they cried.
The Andreasons said they’re proud of accomplishing 70 years of marriage.
“It wasn’t always easy, and it wasn’t always hard,” Andy said. “If I were advising anybody, I would tell them to listen.”
They both partly attribute their success to their shared faith. That, and their many good times on a dance floor stepping to their own kind of swing.
They had to stop dancing in 2018, when Rosie had a heart attack. Her health deteriorated from heart surgery complications and she was put on in-home hospice care. For several weeks, her condition worsened.
Andy attended to her, doing the caring, cooking and cleaning.
“Andy never was much of a cook, but he sure learned,” Vangie said. “That was just amazing to me.”
After several months, the family was surprised when Rosie decided to try and walk. About eight months later, the hospital bed was removed from the house. The experience opened Andy’s eyes to just how much his wife did as the primary caretaker for their seven children.
“I don't see how in the heck she did it because we don't have any kids any more, it's just her and I ... . I wish I had done more,” Andy said. “I wish that I understood more.”
“He was a good dad,” Rosie said in response, adding that it didn't bother him to change diapers and take care of messy kids.
“We learned as we went,” Andy said.
The ongoing pandemic might have dashed big plans the couple deserves, but they still look forward to a smaller celebration with family to mark the occasion. While the family wishes they could throw them a big party and see the two take to the dance floor again, the couple has each other and they're closer than ever.
"We always were close, but no time has been as nice as these last five years that she's been sick because I take care of her,” Andy said. “And I enjoy that, I enjoy being with her.”
Contact reporter Tatiana Parafiniuk-Talesnick at Tatiana@registerguard.com or 541-521-7512, and follow her on Twitter @TatianaSophiaPT. Want more stories like this? Subscribe to get unlimited access and support local journalism.
This article originally appeared on Register-Guard: Eugene couple Forrest and Rosie Andreason reflect on 70 years of marriage