You Know You’re From...Dorchester: 74 years of wedded bliss

Published: May. 9, 2022 at 9:56 PM CDT
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DORCHESTER, Wis. (WSAW) - “How they stayed together this long and the love and support they have for each other,” said grandson Kirk Cwikla.

Cwikla reached out to me early March of 2020 about his grandparents celebrating then-72 years. Then COVID hit. Now here we are two years later.

Jerry Radlinger, 95, and wife Betty Jane, 93 look sharp, married 74 years, and together almost 76.

“I think about...I’m in my 70′s, and my parents are still here,” said their only daughter Julene Mueller.

Before the two would ever join forces, a 17-year-old Jerry followed in the footsteps of his brother and enlisted in the Navy.

“I don’t think I had very many fond memories of the service. I thought it would be but I guess it wasn’t,” Jerry said with a gentle smile.

He served the final 15 months of World War II. While on the aircraft carrier USS Hancock, he was injured.

You Know You're From...Dorchester

“When a bomb went off, a Japanese bomb, it broke that cable and it come whipping across. And my legs were broken,” he recalled.

That blast sent him to a Honolulu hospital for recovery. He was discharged in June of 1946 with a Purple Heart and a handful of other accolades. After returning home, Petty Officer Radlinger landed a job at a cheese factory.

“Happened to be that she was there.”

That’s when he saw Betty Jane for the first time. The two teens hit it off.

“We lived on a gravel road out there. Jerry pulled out of the yard and the gravel flew all over and my dad says, ‘you’re not going to ride with that guy are you?’” Betty Jane said with a big laugh.

March 13, 1948 they began to build a life together.

“We just got along I guess,” said Jerry.

Together, they settled down in Dorchester and helped establish the local Lions Club. They each served as president on more than one occasion. Jerry was elected director of the International Lions Club, providing some of their fondest memories.

“We used to travel for Lions International,” Betty Jane said. “We went to so many different countries and stuff like that.”

Jerry added, “we traveled pretty much all over the world.”

When they weren’t globetrotting, they could be found at polka dances. Betty Jane even showed off a few of her moves for our camera.

“Oh yeah, I like to dance. Yeah,” she said.

But if you ask Jerry and Betty Jane the one secret to their love story, in a word, family.

“Family is very important to them, and obviously it’s trickled down to the generations. And they’re always there for us,” Cwikla said.

“I think just being there for everybody,” Mueller said about their lasting legacy. “That would be, that would be the most important thing.”

“Always tell them how much I love them. Right,” asked Betty Jane.

“Yes we do,” answered Jerry. “And we’re happy to be here so we could do that.”

Cheers to you Jerry and Betty Jane. 74 years never looked so good.

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