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Ann and Paul Martinson celebrate 60 years of marriage

The Rev. Paul and Ann Martinson are still in love 60 years after meeting in a Minneapolis hospital room. He was visiting a sick uncle and she was a student nurse. (Hudson Star-Observer photo by Randy Hanson)1 / 2
Ann and Paul Martinson cut their wedding cake on Aug. 21, 1954. They were married at University Lutheran Church of Hope next to the University of Minnesota campus. (Submitted photo)2 / 2

Ann Payfer couldn’t believe the audacity of the young seminarian who called the floor of Asbury Hospital to ask her out on a date.

Paul Martinson had gone to the Minneapolis hospital to visit his sick uncle, and was captivated by the beauty of the student nurse who came to deliver a malted milk.

“I looked at her nametag and I thought, I can remember her name. It’s Payfer. Pay for this. Pay for that,” Paul recalls with a laugh.

Ann turned him down the first two times he called.

“I couldn’t imagine anybody coming to visit a patient and then calling the floor of the hospital and asking a nurse out. That just blew my mind,” Ann says.

Wanting a date for the St. Olaf College homecoming, Paul decided to give Ann a final call to see if she would accompany him.

Ann said she was scheduled to work, but she would see if she could find somebody to take her shift.

“So things were looking up,” Paul interjects.

“I finally got curious,” Ann explains.

She found a replacement, they went to the homecoming, and on Aug. 21 the Martinsons celebrated 60 years of marriage.

“It didn’t take us long to realize that we were very much in love,” says Paul, a retired Lutheran pastor.

Ann says she liked Paul’s “gutsiness.”

“He wasn’t afraid to launch out and do anything, meet and engage people. That impressed me a lot,” she says, “and the fact that we had a common love of Christ.”

While it was her physical beauty that first caught his eye, Paul says it was Ann’s inner beauty that made him want her for his wife.

“That came through just really strong, and it still does,” he says.

They were engaged the following March and married nine months after their first encounter in the hospital room. The wedding took place at University Lutheran Church of Hope next to the University of Minnesota campus.

Ann, the daughter of a Methodist pastor, dropped out of the nursing program at Hamline University to support the couple while Paul finished his studies at Luther Seminary in St. Paul.

You couldn’t be a nurse if you were married in those days. Ann took a clerical job in a doctor’s office.

The Rev. Paul Martinson and his wife went on to serve five parishes during their full-time ministry. He pastored Lutheran churches in Maplewood, Owatonna, Montevideo and Arlington, Minn., as well as the International Church of Copenhagen in Denmark for two and a half years.

They also raised four children -- Paula, Kent, Ron and Dean. Their family now includes their children’s four spouses, eight grandchildren and two exchange students from Norway and Germany.

Paul says the greatest year for the family was 1967-68 when they traveled through Europe in a Volkswagen camping bus. Paul was studying team ministry with the Lutheran World Federation at the time.

The Martinsons came to the Hudson area in 1993 following his retirement from full-time ministry. The lived south of the Bass Lake Cheese Factory in the town of St. Joseph until building a new house in Hudson in 1995. Their home was one of the first in the Stone Pine subdivision.

Paul’s retirement was short-lived. He served as the interim pastor at First Baptist Church of Hudson for two years in the mid-1990s, and is proud to call himself a rare BaptLuth minister.

He also has served as interim pastor at Lutheran churches in Gaylord, Winthrop, Springfield and South St. Paul in Minnesota, and Hayward, Prescott, Somerset and Burkhardt in Wisconsin.

He started the chaplaincy program at Christian Community Homes and was a volunteer chaplain at Hudson Hospital for five years.

Paul says he and Ann always served churches as a team. He says Ann helped in her quiet way -- networking with parishioners, teaching Sunday school, in the kitchen and by keeping private information confidential.

“She’s always spoken positively about people. She didn’t get sucked into all this gossip that you see going around churches and communities,” Paul says.

Ann says the congregations they served allowed her to be who she is.

“There wasn’t that role that was expected, particularly,” she says. “They appreciated and honored whatever it was that I wished to contribute.”

In her 40s, Ann returned to college at then Mankato State University to complete her work for a nursing degree. She later worked at the Arlington and Hudson hospitals, and was a volunteer for Adoray hospice for 10 years.

The Martinsons’ teamwork has carried over to their hobbies. Paul learned to weave when they were in Denmark, and Ann is an expert tailor. Together, they make beautiful woven sweaters and coats.

They also worked together making five stained-glass windows that hang in the Cathedral Church in Iringa, Tanzania.

Ever the pastor, Paul has a message when it comes to marriage.

“What I hope this story can do is to encourage people in the marriage estate to hang in there, and practice forgiveness and reconciliation,” he tells a reporter.

At a time when divorce is common and many couples are foregoing marriage, Paul wants people to realize “what a great, wonderful, God-given institution” it is.

The Martinsons say there have been times of conflict in their own marriage, partly because of changing spousal roles, but they have always found a way to resolve them.

Even now there can be disagreements, Paul says.

“You would like to think that after 60 years you can just kind of brush your hands and say, we’ve got it together. No. We’re still changing,” he says. “Marriage is a dynamic kind of thing. It’s a process.”

At 86, he isn’t as diplomatic as he used to be, Paul says.

“You get feisty. She has to put up with that.”

“Well, I’ve got my own brand of it,” Ann, 79, says with a smile.

They say they’re extremely thankful to God for bringing them together in 1954.

In Paul’s words, the two became one flesh. It’s been an exciting, challenging ride, and they are headed home.

Randy Hanson

Randy Hanson has reported for the Star-Observer since 1997. He came to Hudson after 11 years with the Inter-County Leader at Frederic, and eight years of teaching social studies. He’s a graduate of UW-Eau Claire.

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