DORSEY — Of all the challenges and accomplishments one can experience in life, a successful marriage is perhaps the greatest of both. For Gene and Dolores Bertels, the hard work they have invested in each other’s lives has resulted in a solid marriage for 60 years.
Gene Bertels was raised in Dorsey. Dolores Perry grew up in Bethalto. They had never met before they went on a blind date.
“A girlfriend of mine stopped by my house with friends and Gene was with them, but I didn’t want to go out with him because I had just washed my hair and it was up in rollers,” Dolores explains.
After a while the group came back to her house and the two ended up going out together with them.
“I told them I didn’t care about her hair being in rollers,” Gene says.
The rest is history. After two children and a lifetime together, the Bertels celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary Oct. 8. An open house in celebration of the event was held for them at the Emmaus Lutheran Fellowship Hall in Dorsey Oct. 11.
The Bertels have made their home in Dorsey ever since they were married. They have two children; Brenda, who lives in Texas; and Ricky, a minister in Wisconsin. They have four grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.
The Bertels’ lives have been filled with many challenges and an equal number of rewards. Brenda was born with cerebral palsy and required extensive care growing up. The love and attention provided by the strong family unit resulted in her overcoming the many obstacles the affliction presented.
Dolores and Gene give a lot of credit to assistance from friends and community members.
“There were a lot of people who helped us,” Gene says. “She has touched a lot of lives.”
They point out they have also relied on their faith.
“We couldn’t have gotten through it without God,” Dolores says.
Their care, combined with Brenda’s strong determination, resulted in an independent adult life for her.
“You couldn’t tell Brenda there was anything that she couldn’t do,” they say.
Gene worked as a mechanic as well as mail carrier over the course of their marriage, retiring in 1996. He also farmed during that time. Dolores worked at Germania Savings and Loan until their children were born. Later she worked part time at Famous Barr and for the Aid Association for Lutherans.
Times and technology have changed over the years. Dolores points out they had no telephone or television when they first wed. “We played a lot of games and visited friends and family,” Dolores says. “We made our own fun.”
Fixtures in their community the past 60 years, the Bertels have been active in their church as well as community and civic activities. Gene is a founding member of the Dorsey Volunteer Fire Department. He also collects aluminum for recycling and donates proceeds to the church. Dolores has pursued a number of hobbies and interests over the years and currently tole paints. Their activities have also included travel and gardening.
When asked the secret to such an enduring union, they reflect on a few simple principles.
“It’s give and take,” Dolores says. “If you want to make it work, it will.”
That would be good advice for any married couple, as Gene and Dolores Bertels have clearly figured out the formula for a happy, lasting marriage.
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