By Carol Mowdy Bond
Martha and Martin Doepel celebrate their 65th wedding anniversary on June 19. Now ages 83 and 86 respectively, the Doepels enjoy their independent living apartment at Residence at Yukon Hills, 105 E. Bass Ave. The staff and their family will honor them with festivities.
Born in 1933 in Lutherville, Ark., Martin is one of 11 children. Known as “Marty,” he grew up in a German-speaking family, so he didn’t learn English until he entered grade school. Tragically, one of his brothers died of the Spanish Flu in 1919.
Also known as “Marty,” Martha Rauschelbach, born in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, is one of four daughters.
Martin said, “It was customary among German Lutherans to migrate here and create German settlements. There are several. There’s one in Fredericksburg, Texas, and one in Lutherville, Arkansas. Lutherville was named after Martin Luther.” In 1517, Luther nailed his 95 Theses on the door of the Wittenberg Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany.
Historically, that act is considered the Birth of the Reformation.
Martha and Martin clicked on a blind date. And they had a lot in common from the get-go, including their full-blood German ancestry, and their Evangelical Lutheran faith.
A college student in Illinois, Martin’s college buddy, who was dating Martha’s sister, kept telling Martin that his girlfriend had a cute sister. Martha’s sister kept pestering her, saying her boyfriend knew a good looking Arkansas kid.
So, at the end of his college freshman year in June 1952, instead of going straight home to Arkansas, Martin and his pal took a side trip through Wisconsin. And Martin met the cute Wisconsin gal named Martha, a high school student.
Martin said, “She was a good Christian gal, and of the same faith as I was.”
Martha said, “He was a big kidder, and he was so cute. And then he left in the summer. I was afraid I would never see him again.”
But in short order, Martha had Martin’s college class ring on her finger. Martha said, “Through high school, I wore it with a lot of tape in it so it would fit my finger. It was a very long distance relationship. We wrote back and forth a lot. But we didn’t see each other a lot.”
Spending time together in December of 1954, Martin pulled Martha’s arm behind her back, and told her that he wanted his class ring back. Martha said, “When I brought my arm back in front of me, he had removed the class ring, and replaced it with an engagement ring. It was a very smooth move.” They married June 19, 1955, in the First Immanuel Lutheran Church in Cedarburg, Wisconsin. Martha said, “I was 18 years old, and I weighed 92 pounds, and he had hair.”
Not only do they both have December birthdays, but with both of them known as “Marty,” pretty much everyone was confused. And although they’re both still called by that name, they changed the spelling. Martin is still known as “Marty,” and Martha changed her spelling to “Marti.”
The newlyweds moved to Breckenridge, Oklahoma, where he took his first teaching position in a one-room school house. Teaching eight grades at the Immanuel Evangelical Lutheran School, he was also the school principal, and the church organist.
Their first child arrived in 1956, when Martha was 19. Initially she was a stay-at-home mom and homemaker, and the family grew to include three children: Mark, David, and Rachel.
RED DIRT, FLANNEL NIGHTGOWNS, AND CHICKENS
Martha said, “In Oklahoma I had a ringer washer. We always had white sheets. I would hang my white sheets out on the line to dry. But the Oklahoma red-dirt wind turned them into pink sheets.”
They stayed in Breckenridge six years, and then moved on so Martin could take other teaching positions, including an elementary teaching position in Wisconsin, and a high school position in Michigan.
Martin then attended Bethany Lutheran College and Seminary in Mankato, Minnesota. While he attended seminary, their daughter Rachel attended college on the same campus.
Martin went on to pastor three evangelical Lutheran churches in Minnesota and two in Wisconsin.
Martha said, “I love people. So I worked 10 years at a family owned department store. It was a fun place. I worked in Christmas gift wrapping and I loved that. I also worked in the children’s department and lingerie. And I was a manager for two years.”
Martin said, “Our coldest winter in Minnesota was 45 degrees below zero, and a wind chill factor of 90 below.”
Martha said, “While working at the store, one time I ordered too many flannel nightgowns, and not enough fancy nightgowns!”
They’ve had some ups and downs, and navigated them together. When crops didn’t come in, the farmer parishioners couldn’t tithe to the church. So the couple’s paycheck might be late.
Or they might be paid in eggs, chickens, or what have you. One time, they received a lot of pancake flour. Martha said, “We ate a lot of pancakes, but we didn’t go hungry. At the beginning, we went through some hard times. A woman asked me if I would like to have some fryers. I said, ‘Yes,” thinking of chicken fryers you buy in the grocery store. But the woman brought me two live chickens. I wasn’t born on a farm, and didn’t know what to do with them. I thanked her. Then I went inside and cried.”
Both have enjoyed hobbies through the years. Martin played on softball teams. He also learned to make stained glass. And he even designed and made the stained glass windows for one of his churches Martha’s hobbies included running. Now she reads, walks, and enjoys jigsaw puzzles.
The Doepels have nine grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.
They both enjoy all the activities and opportunities at Residence at Yukon Hills, and they love the concept of aging in place in their own apartment.
They attend Gethsemane Lutheran Church, an Evangelical Lutheran church in Oklahoma City.
In agreement, they said their marriage has lasted 65 years because they have a Christ-centered home. Martha said, “It takes three.
Husband, wife, and Christ. It takes roses, but there are also thorns. We stick it out together.”
Still wearing the silver cross necklace Martin gave her on their wedding day, Martha said, “It’s been a good life.”