One thing that never gets old for Cliff Ratzlaff and Dorothy (Lindquist) Ratzlaff of Little Falls is seeing people’s reaction when they find out they just got married Jan. 24. Given that she is 87 years old and he is 88, they are not surprised. After all, it is not every day people hear about men and women in their late eighties getting married, Dorothy said.
At first, neither Dorothy or Cliff envisioned their friendship blossoming into marriage. She had been single for 61 years. He was widowed after his wife, MaryAnn, died in 2019. Once they started to spend more time together, their moments became something they treasured. It was nice to have someone to talk to, eat meals with and share different things with. It was nice to not be alone, they said.
Dorothy and Cliff knew each other before they started to spend more significant time with one another. While MaryAnn was still alive, Dorothy had gone with a mutual friend and visited her on several occasions. As he gardened a lot, she also bought strawberries from him.
“He was around, of course, when we visited, but he was always MaryAnn’s husband. You just acknowledged it as that and that was all it was,” she said.
Dorothy (Lindquist) Ratzlaff, 87, left, and Cliff Ratzlaff, 88, were married Jan. 24 after their friendship blossomed into marriage.
After MaryAnn died, Cliff had to sell their home and moved to an apartment complex for seniors. When he was looking for a place where he could park one of his vehicles since the apartment complex only allowed parking for one, Dorothy offered him the opportunity to store it in her two-car garage. There was only one catch to it — he would have to help her clean it out to make room for the car.
“The garage was so full with stuff, I couldn’t even get one car in there,” she said.
At first, Cliff cared for his garden in the morning, went home and ate lunch and then spent about five hours at Dorothy’s residence, cleaning out the garage, until about 5 p.m. Then, he went back home, made supper for himself and didn’t return until the next day. Eventually, Dorothy figured that there was no sense in both of them preparing their supper separately and she suggested that he stay for supper. However, it surprised her that once he had finished the meal, he picked up the dishes and placed them in the sink to do the dishes.
“I told him no, that I always do the dishes at my house and never let company do them,” she said.
Cliff, on the other hand, countered with that unless he was helping with the dishes, he wouldn’t be eating. For a while, that was their routine. Once the dishes were done, he’d put on his hat and leave.
As time went by, they started to watch the news together. They also started to have hours-long conversations after supper about everything they could think of. It gave them the opportunity to really get to know one another. Eventually, they were spending so much time together that the only time Cliff was really at his apartment was when he went home to sleep.
Before Cliff proposed to Dorothy, he asked her son, Roger, for his blessing to marry his mother. He didn’t want there to be any discord in the family. However, Roger was thrilled for them both.
“It meant a lot to me to have my son’s blessing. When he and Roger visited the first time, there was an immediate click between them. The next day, Roger said, ‘I hope I can get to know that man better. He could become my second father,’” Dorothy said.
Her daughter, JoAnn, also accepted the marriage.
Cliff’s children, Kathleen, Charmain and Dallas, were in favor of the marriage, as well, although one of his daughters was extra protective of him. She simply didn’t want him to get hurt and wanted him to have the chance to enjoy life more. As Cliff had been married twice before, he had cared for both his wives, who had serious health issues, for many years.
Getting married again was something Dorothy didn’t take lightly. When Cliff began talking about marriage, Dorothy said that at first she had seriously wondered if she could.
“I was concerned that I had been single and had paddled my own canoe for so long that I would have trouble with adjusting to having someone around all the time,” she said.
However, one day he asked her that even if they didn’t marry, if they could remain good friends. It made her realize how serious he was about their friendship and how much it meant to him.
“I like everything about him. He is kind, loving, very gentle, is not quick to judge people and does not like seeing any problems created,” she said.
In Cliff’s mind, she’s easy to love.
“She’s very lovable, is easy to please and never condemning. As far as I am concerned, I am very blessed with her. I couldn’t ask for someone better,” he said.
Dorothy and Cliff were married at Emmanuel Lutheran Church in Hillman. Before they were married Jan. 24, they had set two other dates that were not possible due to COVID-19.
“He came Christmas Eve and wasn’t feeling good. We had him tested and he had COVID. We were going to get married after he was done with being quarantined. Then, when he was out of quarantine, I got sick and had to be quarantined,” she said.
It was a small ceremony with only the immediate family present. Since Dorothy’s daughter, JoAnn, was unable to attend in person due to being considered high risk, her son, Jesse, livestreamed the wedding for her on his phone.
Cliff said that while some people may think it was way too soon for him to marry after MaryAnn’s death, he believes it is what is best for him. They share and embrace life together, enjoy each other’s company and have fun together.
Some of the things the two enjoy doing together is reading the Bible and praying in the morning and at night and gardening. They have also started biking together with three-wheeled bicycles.