One Ripon couple – Gerald and Donna Herrema – credit the continuing of their deep feelings for each other to their weekly square dancing, eating together every night and sharing their faith at Sunday church services.
Their romance has continued through every one of their 46 years together in their hearts and souls, committed to each other first and foremost. With just the mention of her name, Gerald sports a quick and gentle smile for the love of his life.
Herrema said he would like to see a rebirth of the long defunct Ripon Snorters Square Dance Club.
The couple operated the Blue Light Motel for 17 years on the Highway 99 Frontage Road next to the northbound lanes of the freeway. Donna has been teaching at Park View elementary school for some 24 years, She currently teaches at the fifth grade level. For the last couple of years together they have taken their summers off and traveled about the country.
They have been square dancing with two other couples from Ripon, Lammert and Rosemary Williams along with Gerrit and Edith Doppenberg and meeting John and Elma Overing at a club in Hughson. The club name is Gem Dandies and the caller is Jim Penrod. They have danced there every Wednesday night for the past 12 years.
Their square dance club usually draws as many as three squares a week with eight dancers per square. They have to leave for their dance routine by 6:30 p.m. after his wife tutors a child, Herrema said, getting to the dance floor by 7 and dancing until about 10:30, with no time for dinner.
The square dancing Black and White Ball is set for S tonight with dancers wearing the appropriate dress with women sporting colorful tops and contrasting pants and the men with long sleeved shirts and neckerchief ties. Some even wear boots to add to their appearance, Gerald said.
Other dancing clubs attending the annual ball, come from Merced to Twain Harte and even the Bay Area, with 100 people gathering into squares for the event at an elementary school gymnasium in Ceres.
“It gives you something to do together,” Herrema said, “and something to look forward to together.”
As for using their fifth wheel on their vacations, they have gone with two other couples to Bryce and Zion National Parks, to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon and onto South Dakota.
The couple began their lives together in Southern California in the city of Artesia where his dad owned a small jewelry store. Her dad operated a small restaurant – just two doors down.
“I knew her dad long before I knew he had a daughter, Gerald said.
It was just a year out of high school when he went into the military and was stationed in Germany for about 18 months. They exchanged hundreds of letters before he came back home. He remembers one phone call – the only call he would make – on Christmas when he was placed on a waiting list for his turn. It cost $25 for three minutes from where he was stationed in Augsburg, just north of Munich, for a phone line back to Ripon.
He remembers getting back home in May of 1970 and they were married the following August. They were later blessed with three children.
Donna spoils him a little extra once a year at Christmas with her famous flank steak stuffed with bread stuffing, he said. They continue to spoil each other all year long keeping their romance alive and well.
To contact Glenn Kahl, email firstname.lastname@example.org.