Falling in love with each other — and farming

| June 5, 2014 | 0 Comments
Elaine and Vernon Rosckes are excited to be hosting this year’s Rural Life Sunday on their farm in Watertown. The event will feature a polka Mass celebrated by Bishop Andrew Cozzens.  Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

Elaine and Vernon Rosckes are excited to be hosting this year’s Rural Life Sunday on their farm in Watertown. The event will feature a polka Mass celebrated by Bishop Andrew Cozzens. Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

Back when Vernon Rosckes was a teenage farm boy, he met the woman he would marry at a Halloween party for high schoolers.

He was Catholic; she was Lutheran.

In 1957, that was a big deal in the farm community of Watertown, and in most other places.

Their religious differences, however, were not part of their first conversation, which took place at the party near the town of Mayer.

“She was with another boy, and I was in the back seat of the car,” said Vernon, who belongs to Immaculate Conception in Watertown. “We went to a bonfire and Halloween party when we were in [high] school. She turned around and she said, ‘I don’t like that guy I’m with tonight. I should have never said I’d go [to the party with him].’ And I said, ‘Well, come in the back seat by me.’ And, she’s been in the back seat ever since.”

Vernon and his new high school sweetheart, Elaine, were married in 1959, when both were just 17. Because of their interdenominational marriage, the tension started right away.

“It didn’t work out very well with the parents [at first],” Elaine said.

Said Vernon: “They thought the marriage would never last.”

Turns out, both sets of parents were wrong. After 55 years of marriage, Vernon and Elaine, both 72, still give each other adoring glances when talking about their rural life, even when talk turns to how tough things were when they first bought their farm from Vernon’s parents, Carl and Cordelia, in 1965.

“We didn’t have a nickel to our name,” said Vernon, who grew up near that farm on a farm owned by his grandparents, Barb and Charlie Ehalt. “It was tough going. We just had a few milk cows and she worked at Tonka Toys.”

Today, things are much better, and they have a beautiful home on their 100 acres. Their deep faith and postcard perfect homestead are reasons why members of Immaculate Conception nominated them to be hosts of this year’s annual Rural Life Sunday, which will take place June 22.

Event preparations

The event will kick off with Mass at 1:30 p.m. celebrated by Bishop Andrew Cozzens, making his first appearance at the event as a bishop. The Mass also will feature a polka band, Dale Dahmen and The Polka Beats. Vernon especially wanted to have a polka Mass, and he received approval for it from the pastor of Immaculate Conception, Father Joe Fink.

Now that Vernon and Elaine have sold their cows and hogs and only grow crops, things are more relaxed, and they have time to spend with their five children, 13 grandchildren, seven great-grandchildren and their great-great-granddaughter. One of their children, Dan, comes every night after his regular job to help out on the farm.

Recently, they have been busy planting the crops — corn, soybeans and hay. As always, they’ve had their eye on the weather and jumped in full throttle to get the crops planted during a string of warm, dry days at the end of May.

Their prayers for good weather will continue all the way up to the start of Rural Life Sunday. But, if things turn gloomy, they have a wonderful backup — a hay barn that Vernon converted into a reception facility. They host a number of wedding receptions every year, and have no official fee for doing so, only the invitation to make a free-will offering.

Life on the farm

On a day bursting with landscaping activity to get ready for the event, Vernon and Elaine took a leisurely stroll around their barns and farmhouse, with no hint that Vernon needed to race over to the fields to continue planting as soon as the tour was finished.

Thankfully, almost all of the planting was done, with good weather forecast for the next several days. He said the latest they want to plant is June 5, and he expressed confidence that the task will be done with time to spare.

They are hoping that 500 or more people will take the opportunity to experience a taste of the life Vernon and Elaine have been enjoying for more than five decades — and hope to for many more. Vernon’s chronic bronchitis has slowed him down, but it will never take the joy out of surveying the sprawling landscape, one that now includes a housing development just down the road on land he sold to a developer in 1997.

“I enjoy it more [now] than before,” Vernon said, of living out in the country. “Now, we’re just cash cropping and you can enjoy life a little bit. You can get the crop [planted] and go to the cabin and then come back every week.”

By the way, Vernon has remained Catholic all these years, and Elaine is still Lutheran. She goes to St. Paul’s Lutheran in Watertown and both go to each other’s church on special occasions.

This will be the first time a bishop sets foot on their property.

And, that’s just fine with both of them.

“It’s kind of an honor, really,” Elaine said, “that they’d even think about having it out here.”

Rural Life Sunday

  • When: 1:30 p.m., Sunday, June 22. Polka Mass with Bishop Andrew Cozzens.
  • Where: The Vernon and Elaine Rosckes farm.

Please bring your own lawn chairs or blankets. Some seating will be provided. Bars and refreshments will served following Mass. Activities and entertainment will include music, face painting, children’s hay rides and mini donuts concessions.


From the Twin Cities, head west on Highway 7. Go north on County Road 10 to Watertown until you reach the Rosckes farm. The address is 3255 County Road 10 North, Watertown.


Read more: When is the last time you thanked a farmer?

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