One of our featured couples in the Happily Ever After section of this week's newspaper.
Delbert Sandhoefner was a senior at Sleepy Eye High School in the fall of 1939 when he discovered his future wife. “I walked past the room where the junior class was having a meeting, and saw Eunice,” he explained. “I knew she was the one for me.”
Eunice Markert was a farm girl from the Evan area. “There were no school buses when I started high school. So I lived in a room in town with a girlfriend who was one year older and already knew what is was like to live in town away from her parents,” Eunice said. “I was an only child, so that was hard on us.” On weekends, her dad would come to town and drive her home. After two years, the school bus system was put in place and Eunice was able to stay home.
Delbert and Eunice hit it off and made plans to marry. “I had to wait a year for her to graduate,” said Delbert. Eunice said her parents weren’t too sure about Delbert, and this writer conjectured it may have been his family’s bar and restaurant business that gave them pause.
But true love prevailed and the couple was married on June 24, 1941, just a few weeks after Eunice’s high school graduation.
“We had the wedding on the farm, in the house,” said Eunice. The reception was at Delbert’s grandparents’ establishment in New Ulm—Beyer’s. Then the young couple hopped in a borrowed car and traveled to California for their honeymoon on Catalina Island.
This all happened just a few months before the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. The country’s entrance into World War II, and the reality of the draft, encouraged Delbert to enlist in the Air Force, where he was trained as a navigator.
Eunice said she followed Delbert during his years in the service, including cadet camp in Missoula, Mont., and on to California. “We didn’t have children yet, so I went along and found work of my own,” she said. Delbert’s last assignment was at Drew Field in Tampa, Fla. There he was asked to manage a mess hall at the German POW camp. “He could speak German, and got along with the prisoners quite well,” said Eunice.
The Sandhoefners’ first child, son Lynn, was born in Florida, but the family soon moved back to Sleepy Eye as the war was over. Delbert and Eunice went back to work at the Leona Hotel, which his dad owned. Eunice said its restaurant served good food to the railroad workers and was a busy place.
The Leona later became the DelRoy Hotel, named for Delbert and his sister Delores and her husband, Roy Suker, his business partners at the hotel and restaurant. Today it is the Railway Bar and Grill.
“We both worked there,” said Eunice. “But not together. I worked as a waitress and helped in the hotel.” Delbert said they got along just fine all those years at the DelRoy. “I was tending bar, at the other end of the place,” he said.
Eunice and Delbert ran the DelRoy for 31 years, raising their family along the way. Lynn was joined by two sisters, Renee and Jill. Delbert and Eunice have seven grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren.
Maybe waiting for that bus trip to school foreshadowed Eunice’s future career. After they sold the DelRoy, she took up bus driving. “I drove school bus for 41 years; I stopped when I was 85,” she said, adding, “I only drove the little bus in town at the end.”
Delbert served 38 years on the Sleepy Eye Fire Department, including seven as chief. He also was a charter member of the Sleepy Eye Lions Club, and remained active in the club for 65 years, just ending his membership this past year.
The Sandhoefners celebrated their 75th anniversary last summer with a family dinner at the Railway—just like old times. Eunice said they had a big open house party at the golf club for their 65th anniversary. What about their 50th? “I don’t think we did anything special,” she said, looking to see if Delbert remembered.
Any couple that stays married for 75 years must have advice for the rest of us, right?
“I don’t know. I just say it must have been God’s will,” said Eunice. “We did have a disagreement,” said Delbert. “Once.”