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Singing together for 77 years

Ken and Margie Matheson pose with a picture taken the first year they were married. The Mathesons have been married for almost 77 years. (Photo by Teri Cadeau)

Ken and Margie Matheson know each other pretty well by now. The lifelong Duluth couple will celebrate their 77th anniversary on Nov. 26.

Ken says he loved Margie "right away," but Margie wasn't so sure about Ken.

"He thought he was pretty darling, the way he could sing and dance," Margie said.

Ken's father was also a singer who encouraged Ken to pursue his singing career. Ken recalls that his father once brought him down to the police station when he was still 18 to see if they would make an exception for him and let him sing in the bars. They didn't.

When he was still 18 he appeared on the Major Bowes Amateur Hour, a national radio talent show which broadcast in the 1930s and '40s.

"It was like an old radio version of "American Idol." You had to call in to vote for your favorite. Dad got the highest number of votes. It was a real point of pride for him and for Duluth," Ken's daughter, Colleen Birt, said.

Soon after his performance on Major Bowes, Ken was back in Duluth to help organize a local talent show. And there he met and fell in love with Margie Hollingsworth.

"She was a great singer too and we just got along so well," Ken said. "I knew we'd be great together."

Once he was old enough, Ken sang with several bands in Duluth such as the Joe Priley Orchestra.

"He had to know at least 100 songs by heart," Margie said. Today he can't quite remember the names of all the songs he used to sing, but he still hums the melodies.

The Mathesons were married on Nov. 26, 1938 at the St. Margaret Mary Catholic Church in Morgan Park.

Three years after they were married, the United States became involved in World War II. Ken served in the 1st Marine Division as a lance corporal. He served one year in the South Pacific and one year in southern China.

While he was overseas, Margie worked at the Piggly Wiggly and took care of their three daughters, Maureen, Bonnie and Colleen. Colleen, now Colleen Birt, says that her mother also took care of other children, cousins that would stay at the house from time to time.

"Everyone was always welcome at our house," Birt said. "That's something I didn't think about at the time, but now, looking back, I think it was pretty remarkable how hospitable Mom was."

After the war, Ken began to work as an interior designer. Daughter Maureen Matheson remembers how they moved fairly often from house to house.

"We lived in many neighborhoods," Maureen said. "Dad liked to fix up a place then look for someplace new. He still always checks out the real estate listings, looking for his next move."

Though the couple probably won't move again anytime soon. They're currently living with Maureen in Denfeld. Ken is very satisfied with the house.

"Isn't that the most beautiful deck? And the two living rooms? I really fell in love with the place," Ken said.

The way Ken always took care of the house is one of the reasons Margie says she loves him. After so many years, what does Ken love about Margie?

"Well, I'll tell you. She's not only a wonderful friend, but also a good housekeeper, an excellent mother, a peachy dancer and a loyal lover ... she had everything," Ken said.

Did they ever expect to be together for so long?

"We never thought otherwise," Ken said. "I always knew we'd be together for a long, long time."

Teri Cadeau

Teri Cadeau is a reporter for the Budgeteer.

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