Harry Westerholm won a coin toss and got the chance to catch some corn -- and the girl.
Harry and his twin brother, Johnny, had hitchhiked to DeKalb, Ill., in the summer of 1961, from their home in Fort Worth to work for Del Monte Foods during the pea and corn harvest. The employment director from Del Monte had visited what was then Harding College in Searcy to recruit students and the Westerholm twins jumped at the job opportunity.
The first time I saw my future spouse:
She says: “I was probably throwing corn at him.”
He says: “She was pretty cute, too.”
On our wedding day:
She says: “There was a lot of excitement. It was a Saturday and we had to be at work on Monday, so forget the honeymoon. We just kind of had a day to ourselves. Then we had to work for a week and then drive back. But that’s OK, we’ve had lots of honeymoons since.”
He says: “The 15-20 other guys from Harding who had gone up there to work were the ones who were part of the wedding party. It was kind of a neat thing. When she came down the aisle I was beaming. And I still beam at her.”
My advice for a long happy marriage is:
She says: “Respect one another. And communication is essential. Tell each other you love them.”
He says: “Just follow God. That’s the easiest way of doing it. If you do that, you’ll succeed.”
Their parents were educators and they had an older sister who already attended Harding.
"Money was tight," Harry says. "We knew the only way we could afford to go back to Harding was to work as much as possible."
There were two jobs available, one working on a machine that husked corn and one on the floor close to where the girls worked.
"We flipped a coin to see who would take which job and I won," Harry says. "I took the job by the girls."
Marcia Sorensen was just 17, a senior in high school, and it was her job to toss the bad corn that came down her line into a bin.
"I was the one who collected it," Harry says. "On one side of the belt the girls would pick out the wormy corn and throw it across the belt into a bin where I would chop out the wormy part and throw it back on the belt. Marcia worked opposite me and we would make eyes at each other and smile."
It was too loud in the plant for them to talk much, but he knew she was someone he would like to get to know. When he heard on a Saturday night that the plant would be closed the next day because the corn wasn't ready for harvest, he asked Marcia for a date.
"When I asked Harry what year he was in school, he said sophomore," Marcia says. "He was young-looking. I thought he meant high school."
He went to her house the next morning after church and they walked together to a movie theater.
"Brides of Dracula was the only thing showing," Marcia says.
The next day, Harry and his brother caught a bus back to Harding College.
"We wrote back and forth for quite a while and then at Christmastime I told my folks, 'I think I'm going to hitchhike back up to Illinois to see her," he says.
Harry's mother nixed the idea of his hitchhiking to Illinois alone in the winter. She wrote a letter to Marcia's family asking if they would allow her to visit the Westerholms instead.
Marcia's parents had seen the Westerholm twins walk past their house on their way to work and had invited them to dinner several times so they said she could go. Harry's parents bought her a train ticket. She was there for a week and then she took the train back to DeKalb, Harry went back to Harding and they wrote letters the rest of the year.
When summer rolled around Harry went back to his job at the cannery. He worked long hours, but they found time here and there to be together.
"At the end of the year, I said, 'You know, this just isn't going to work, this letter writing,'" Harry says. "She was supposed to go on to nurse's training in Chicago. I said, 'You're going to either have to come to Harding or I think we're going to have to just call it quits.' So she asked her dad and her dad said OK, she could go to Harding."
Harding had strict rules about dating. Students couldn't leave campus together without special permission.
"All we could do was go walking on campus," Harry says. "We really got to know each other through our talks. At Christmas time I bought a ring and when we got back to Harding after the Christmas break, I proposed to her sitting in a campus swing outside the Science Building."
They were married on Aug. 10, 1963, in a Lutheran Church in DeKalb.
The newlyweds drove to Chicago and walked through the Natural History Museum and got lost on Lakeshore Drive. They left shortly after that to go back to college. Marcia was a sophomore, and Harry was a senior.
Harry taught at Harding Academy while Marcia finished her senior year, and then at Bradford High School, where he planned the senior play and trip. When Marcia graduated they moved to Garland, Texas, where she taught and he got his master's in secondary school administration.
Harry and Marcia moved to Branchburg Township, N.J., with 85 other families to start a new Church of Christ and stayed there for 37 years, both working in education. About 15 years ago, they retired and moved to Hot Springs.
The Westerholms have four sons -- Wayne Westerholm of Searcy, Wade Westerholm of Easton, Pa., Chris Westerholm of Seattle, and Chad Westerholm of Mozambique, Africa. They also have 11 grandchildren.
"I tell her every morning how beautiful she is," Harry says.
"And that he's so glad he married me," she adds. "He tells me that every day."
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Harry and Marcia Westerholm moved to Hot Springs about 15 years ago after they retired, she as a teacher and he as a prin- cipal in Branchburg Township, N.J. “I tell her every morning how beautiful she is,” Harry says.
High Profile on 08/12/2018
Print Headline: He took a summer job and she took his heart