SARTELL, Minn. — “I wrote her a love note in grade school.”
Marcel Tadych doesn’t remember the exact details of the letter, but he remembers it didn’t go over well.
“I wouldn’t look at him,” Doree Canfield told the Saint Cloud Times. “He passed it to a friend to give to me. And I tore it up like a bowl of rice — such little pieces.”
“Well, the nuns would have had a fit,” she said.
Tadych, 89, and Canfield, 88, met while attending parochial school in Gilman, Minn., about 20 miles northeast of St. Cloud.
Although their romance never blossomed in elementary school — nor 20 years later when they dated for a week while Tadych was on leave from the Navy — the couple just seemed to be fated to end up together.
After each was widowed (twice for Tadych), the couple finally married in 1993. And in October, they celebrated 25 years.
“It took me 60 years to land her,” Marcel said.
It wasn’t a whirlwind romance. But it turned out to be a worth-the-wait romance.
Delores Robak, who goes by Doree, was born in 1930.
Marcel was born a year earlier. Both attended St. Adelbert School near the Church of Sts. Peter and Paul in Gilman, which Doree describes as “a small community where you know everyone’s name.”
“I thought she was a pretty cute kid. But that didn’t work,” Marcel said of his love note.
Doree said she never responded to the note. But Marcel got the message.
“I wouldn’t look at him,” she said. “I took one look and thought, ‘How dare you write that note?’ The nuns would’ve gotten a hold of it.”
The two went their separate ways.
The second chapter
After Marcel graduated from Foley High School in 1947, he went to California to work for the Sante Fe railroad system.
“I lasted about three months,” he said with a laugh. “They were so hard up for people, it was seven nights per week.”
Marcel enlisted in the U.S. Navy, where he served as a radio operator for four years.
While Marcel was home on leave, he stayed with his parents in Jakeville, an unincorporated community just outside of Gilman. His parents owned a grocery store, gas station and dance hall there.
While in the Navy, Marcel started dating Doree’s cousin Florence, who lived in the Twin Cities.
But Marcel and Doree crossed paths briefly before they were betrothed to others.
“I lived on the farm on the other side of Gilman,” Doree said. “We dated for a whole week because we knew each other and maybe — just maybe — he still liked me. I don’t know.
“And then the last night we dated before he was going to see my cousin in Minneapolis ... he said to me, ‘Should I go tomorrow or shouldn’t I?’” Doree added. “And I said, ‘Well, you know, you have to decide that.’ And I got out of the car and went to the house.”
“That’s the second time she turned me down,” Marcel said.
“Well, I wasn’t going to tell him what to do,” Doree said. “If he was dating my cousin, what are you going to do? So eight months later, he married her.”
Marcel and Florence had two daughters, LaVon and Shelly.
Florence’s friend Aloise was a bridesmaid at their wedding. Aloise and her husband, Al, had two daughters, DeeAnn and Jill.
The two oldest daughters — LaVon and DeeAnn — were born three days apart. The two youngest — Shelly and Jill — were born on the same day. And Marcel was asked to be Jill’s godparent.
Marcel worked for the railroad and lived with Florence in a Twin Cities suburb until Florence died in 1978.
Aloise’s husband had also died. So Marcel and Aloise married in 1979. When they wed, Marcel’s goddaughter Jill became his stepdaughter.
Meanwhile, Doree had married Jerry Canfield in 1959. He was a milkman and later a liquor salesman in St. Cloud.
“A real comic I married,” Doree said. “If he walked into the room and said about three, four words, everybody was laughing.”
The pair had two children, Kim and Todd. Doree worked in retail in downtown St. Cloud at Fandel’s, Herberger’s and Norby’s department stores.
Jerry died in 1992. Marcel’s second wife died also died in 1992.
When Doree heard Marcel’s wife had died, she sent a note to his brother, Hilary.
“And unknown to me, he sent that to Marc and told him that my husband had died in July,” she said.
Marcel gave Doree a call. He said he was planning to visit his second mother-in-law, who lived in St. Cloud. He would also visit her.
They met at O’Hara’s, a now-defunct St. Cloud restaurant.
“So there he came with his shiny leather jacket and that was it,” Doree said. “I hadn’t seen him in years but I recognized him right away.”
Their relationship was comfortable because of their history, but the spark was still there after all those years. And it was evident to those around them.
“His oldest daughter called me up one day and I hadn’t seen her since she was a little girl,” Doree said. “She called and she said, ‘My sister and I want to thank you for putting that smile back on dad’s face and that twinkle in his eye.’”
The couple now lives at Country Manor in Sartell. As octogenarians, much of their time is filled with doctor’s appointments, Doree noted. But the pair still makes time for romance — on Valentine’s Day, they planned to go out to lunch.
And once a week, they go to the local American Legion for the old-time dance.
“I went to dances and I loved to jitterbug,” Doree said. “Well, there was no jitterbug in Marc. He’s old-time. But once in a while, he’ll talk me into doing the hop polka.”
Marcel said he’s proud he “finally landed” his first crush.
“Lucky, lucky. He was lucky he got me back,” Doree responded.
“Lucky, lucky. He was lucky he got me back.” Doree Canfield, speaking of Marcel Tadych, her husband of 25 years