Margaret & Bill Bartels have learned compromise over their 44 years of marriage. When I asked about how they met, they laughed. I knew this was going to be one good story. They were a fun couple to talk to as we had a lighthearted conversation about their relationship.

Bill was stationed as a security police/law enforcement at Royal Air Force Alconbury for an 18-month tour. Interested in the history of England, he was sure he’d come back with some memories. Little did he know that he would be coming back with someone who would make a lifetime of memories with him.

Bill started off by explaining how he met Margaret Fyfe at a Christmas party in 1974, when he made casual conversation with her and her friend Elaine. They went about their daily lives after that evening, until a couple weeks later when thoughts of her started wandering through his mind. He decided to try to find her, though it was unlikely. It was a jaunt from Alconbury to her hometown of Corby, Northamptonshire and he didn’t know her phone number or address. He decided to start driving around the town of about 60,000. He didn’t expect to find her, it was a needle in a haystack shot.

As luck would have it, he saw Margaret’s friend Elaine from the party walking down the street after he had spent some time driving around. “That was crazy when you think about it!” Margaret laughed.

Remembering the friend, he called out to Elaine and asked if she would help him find Margaret. The friend was all for it and hopped in, taking Bill straight to Margaret’s house.

He sums it all up with, “So I stopped and talked to her that day, and we just started dating.”

His tour ended in July and he came back home to the United States.

She followed him that October, planning to come for a visit, her first time out of England. One visit turned into another which turned into another. The two married in August 1976 in Laurel, Nebraska.

They rented a house in Belden, Nebraska, a town of less than 200 people. When a storm caused their power to go out, the landlord invited the couple to his house. Margaret continues with the story in her slight English accent. “Well I had heels on, skinny 3- or 4-inch boots, and in Belden, Nebraska there were no paths (England’s term for sidewalks).” She laughed, “I’m not kidding you; I was falling over, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry! What am I doing here? I’ve never seen so much snow in my life!” In England, she explains, just a few inches of snow will bring the town to a stand-still.

Leaving her home country wasn’t easy. She was very home sick.

Every time she went home it was harder and harder to get back on the plane to go the United States. “It was tough for quite a few years,” she reflects. “It got easier, but it took a lot of years, a lot.” I heard Bill talking in the background and Margaret laughed, “Bill said I couldn’t stay away from him!”

Though Margaret has lived here since 1975, I detected a slight English accent, primarily in how she accentuated some words. We talked about her accent and she mentioned that she does hear that from time to time. She laughed, “When I go back to England, they say ‘here comes the Yank!’” Bill explained that, over the years, he has learned that there are several words in the United States that have an entirely different meaning in England.

A history buff, Bill talked about the history of England, the castles, old houses, buildings, and towns. While in England, they visited many castles, though they weren’t as intriguing for Margaret since she grew up around them. “Before, you don’t appreciate it.

Now when we go back it’s like ‘Yeah, Wow!’” She described a castle that was a 10-minute drive from her house. As kids, they would visit the castle and didn’t think much of it. “Now, you can get married there and rent a room in there, it’s more commercialized,” she added.

The couple added four children to their family over the years. As the kids got older, the family would go back to England every two years or so. Several times over the years they talked about moving back to England but never did follow through with it. When she visits, she realizes the differences in Yankton versus her hometown. She described her hometown, “In a town of 60,000, you could almost touch your neighbor’s house with your nose.” Bill added that the front yards there are the size of a postage stamp.

They were going for a two-week visit to England and Scotland in June, but the current Coronavirus epidemic has put that on hold.

Though she is disappointed, she thoughtfully comments how there are so many people in much worse conditions than they are, and they will just have to plan for it later.

Margaret didn’t hesitate to tell me that their kids are the best part of their marriage, and now grandkids. She enjoys how they have more time for each other. She loves to travel, and she spends time at their camper set up at a park across the bridge on the Nebraska side.

Spending time at the camper is Margaret’s favorite, she’s as giddy as a kid when she’s there.

“What’s the secret to a healthy and happy marriage?” I asked, curious how they made 44 years of marriage work. Still a very close couple, though Bill is on the road as a truck driver, they still talk several times a day.

“I really had to put up a good front for about a year until I got her to marry me,” Bill laughed. “It’s not easy, you’ve got to work at it.”

Margaret added, “Like I tell Bill, ‘What’s yours is mine and what’s mine is my own.’” I laughed, deciding that I really liked her philosophy, it made sense.

“We’ve had ups and downs,” Bill explained how they would run into some bad times. “It seemed like we thought it was the end of the world, we didn’t know what to do. It seemed like we always got through it.”

“You’ve got to give and take,” Margaret stated, and Bill added “and work together.” The word compromise comes up.

“Yeah, compromise,” Bill added. “A lot of compromise. I call it compromise, but I usually just let her have her way.”