Jean (Bukoskey) and Lloyd Davenport met when it was cold outside and married on a frigid Jan. 21 day, but they say their 72-year union has produced warm and wonderful blessings.
Jean grew up in Princeton, on a farm that sat where the high school is now. She recalls picking wild berries and apples from the trees, tending a garden and growing up happily there. Lloyd grew up near Bogus Brook, was one of 14 children and worked on the family farm. She went to Princeton Schools and he attended a country school.
Jean said everyone in the area was excited back then about a new ice-skating rink created near the current Immanuel Lutheran Church on Eighth Avenue S in Princeton. Everybody, including Lloyd and his brothers, would skate on the Rum River, which wasn’t always safe. Besides, everyone had heard the new rink had a warming house, which was a plus.
The Davenports’ love story began at the outdoor rink when she visited with a bunch of girls on the same day he came with a group of guys. Jean said fellas and gals came together as they do.
“We just happened to skate together,” she said.
Lloyd had enlisted for four years in the Navy, which he said was to avoid getting drafted into the Army. He then reported to Naval Station Great Lakes in North Chicago for training. Jean remembers receiving a letter from Lloyd while he was there that asked “will you be my valentine?”
While the war was still underway, Lloyd was a gunner on ships traveling back and forth to Europe. He was on shore duty based at the former Treasure Island Naval Station near San Francisco, California, when the war ended.
Jean remembers being impressed with Lloyd’s family when one time he was home on leave and she was invited to dinner to meet them. Though his dad suffered from palsy, he insisted on shaking her hand to welcome her. Jean said she could not have asked for a better mother-in-law, either.
Lloyd said, “We both come from active parents.”
While the two were courting long distance, they said they both wrote a lot of letters. Sometimes one or the other would get a glut of them at once, because of oddities like overseas mail and government censorship of wartime correspondence.
Wedding bells ring, future unfolds
Jean said at some point during one of Lloyd’s visits home, he looked at her and said, “You know, if we still feel the same way about each other when I get out, we should get married.”
“Yup!” was her immediate reply.
The two married at the former Treasure Island Naval base with full hearts, few frills and two witnesses. Jean recalls about half the base personnel turning out for the affair and then nice co-workers holding a reception. Jean was 18 years old at the time, and Lloyd was 24.
Jean said Lloyd had been working construction in the Twin Cities before he enlisted and returned to that career after his service time ended. The two had a friend help them build a house in Edina without any kind of loan. The Davenports had a total of 11 children.
“My mother-in-law always said 14 kids were too many,” said Jean, so she and Lloyd stopped before that number, but they both say about the kids, “They’re all such a blessing.”
The Davenports moved back to Princeton after their kids had left home. Jean said they more or less retired back to the area. Jean said she worked for the bakery that used to occupy part of the space where the K-Bob Cafe is now. She also worked in the space that is now Ossell’s when it was still Nelson’s grocery store.
Jean and Lloyd have done a lot of traveling in the United States and have played a lot of golf in retirement. Jean fondly remembers one trip she took where an uncle who was a railroad conductor mapped out a route for her to go around by train and stop in places where she met aunts and cousins for the first time.
When asked about their secret to marriage longevity, Lloyd replies, “We love each other.”
Jean points out they acknowledge men and women are different, and Lloyd agrees, “just a shade.”
“We don’t always agree on everything, but we discuss it,” she said.
Once they talk, they might decide together right away on whatever action to take, or they might shelve the topic for awhile and talk again later. Lloyd says they not only would talk about things but also respect each other’s views.
Jean said that local priest Fr. Kevin Anderson once told them they’d made their marriage a partnership. She agrees and said they find happiness in just being together.
On a recent Wednesday morning, they met by chance at the elevator of the Elim Home returning from separate appointments. Wheelchairs snuggled together into the elevator to face each other for the ride back up to home, they smile at seeing each other and lean together for a kiss.