Ken and Danette Martin
How does a shy girl from the backwoods of Wisconsin end up marrying a witty fellow from a well-populated region of Southern Ontario, Canada? We say it’s a mystery, agreeing with Solomon in his description of “the way of a man with a maid”, and that it is “a thing too wonderful” for us – it had to be God-orchestrated!
Even before the two of us met, I had heard a little about Ken’s family from my dad since both he and Ken’s dad were ministers and their paths had crossed on numerous church-related occasions. The summer I was 17, I went with my family to weekend meetings held at Ken’s home church area near Waterloo, Ontario. Evidently Ken and I met there for the first time at a get-acquainted social for the youth one evening after the church service (likely on his 17th birthday). We don’t clearly remember it, but we signed each other’s papers during a Name Bingo game. Since that was back in the era I saved everything, I was able to come across my paper with Ken’s signature some years later.
The winter before those summer meetings in Ontario, both Ken and I had been to Maranatha Bible School (Lansing, Minnesota) as students, albeit different terms. The winter following, we both attended MBS but managed to miss each other again; Ken went the first six weeks and I went the last six. We now joke about the way it seems that the next winter I decided “enough of this avoiding each other” and I signed up for all 12 weeks of MBS 1984. Ken was there for the last six weeks that year. During the first three weeks that we were actually at Bible School at the same time, we weren’t together a whole lot. I thought Ken was just one of the many in a passel of Canadians that attended MBS that term, and he thought of me as just one of the Schrock twins, either Danette or Annette.
The final 3-week term that year, though, was when we began to take note of each other. We ended up taking the same three classes, so we experienced the same teachers and study material. Sometimes in the smaller classes, we’d sit in desks near each other and chat a bit. It dawned on me one day that Ken knew which one of the Schrock twins was Danette, and that fact was significant to me. He cared enough to learn to tell us apart! Did it mean anything?
When the students began the end-of-term ritual of exchanging photos of themselves, Ken requested one of me, as well as one of Annette. Since my twin and I had depleted our stacks of photos in a prior term, I had nothing to give Ken but a promise to mail him a picture of me after I got home. At home after Bible School, Annette and I got more photo reprints and sent them to our friends. In most cases, we’d both send a photo and one of us would write a friendly little note. I specified that I wanted to address the envelope and write the note when we sent pics to Ken. And, I included in the customary “Keep Christ #1”-type blurb written on the back of my photo for Ken: “May God bless your future.” These were little details that were significant to Ken much the same as I had taken notice of Ken’s ability to tell us twins apart.
That summer, we saw each other again at a mutual friend’s wedding in Missouri. Annette and I were waitresses at the wedding reception and we talked with Ken and his brother Steve very briefly when we served their table. Ken’s carload had been planning to leave the area right after the reception and travel to Indiana to take in the last services of the Midwest Fellowship Meetings in session there that weekend, but car trouble changed those plans. Ken couldn’t get the replacement part for his car until Monday so he and his passengers were at the same church as I was on Sunday morning. That gave the two of us more chance to visit. During the after-church fellowship meal, we talked together long enough to tell each other our Bible School plans for the next winter.
Every summer at some point Ken needed to discuss with his dad and brothers the question of who should go to Bible School for which terms. It always took some juggling of schedule to accommodate his dad’s teaching, the boys’ preferences as students and the farm/orchard responsibilities at home. Ken wanted to go for a term that included a choir program, but he didn’t know if he could convince his brothers to allow for that when they had similar wishes.
I told Ken that I would be going to Mountain View, Arkansas to teach school that fall, coming home to Hayward, Wisconsin to be with my family for Christmas vacation, and then going from there to attend Maranatha for the first three weeks. Inwardly, Ken perked up at this news. Earlier, when he had somehow gotten word of my upcoming teaching position, he’d just assumed that I wouldn’t be able to take time off for being a student myself.
After the fellowship meal that Sunday on the Missouri wedding weekend, the youth played volleyball, but I didn’t join in because I had a very sore toe. The inexplicable pain had increased with the walking I had done while serving at the reception the day before. When I got back home and was limping around, one of my aunts teased me by saying that it all came of chasing out-of-state fellows. My twin nudged me later and said, “Hmph, it’s more like an out-of-country fellow!”
The morning after Ken got home from the Missouri trip, his dad told him at the breakfast table that they really needed to decide who is going to MBS for which term. “I’m going to teach second term, and Steve is going to graduate fourth term…I’m sorry, but I think I can let you off work for only one term, and it will have to be the first term…” Normally, Ken would’ve balked at readily agreeing to this plan, at least without due debate, but since he had just learned that his favorite Schrock twin would be going first term, he quickly consented with an “okay, Dad – no problem” attitude.
We hadn’t gotten very far into that first term at MBS 1985 together until Ken knew for sure that he wanted to start a dating relationship with me and I was quite certain that he had a special interest in me. So when he came over to me in the library corner early one morning, I was pretty sure what he was after before he started speaking.
Back in those years at Maranatha, there were 10-minute outdoor walks and 20-minute chapel talks allowed as opportunities for guys and girls to get to know each other a little better apart from all the group activities and goings-on at Bible School. Ken wanted to ask me to go on a walk with him, but how could he find a time and place to ask me privately, when they were always people around every minute of the day? One morning he got ready for breakfast earlier than usual so he went into the library to do some homework before the breakfast bell. As he entered the library he noticed I was sitting in the area of the room that had been sectioned off as work space for yearbook staffers. He went to a table in the main part of the library and sat down with his books, to study. He couldn’t focus on his studies, though. He thought, “Here’s my perfect chance to ask Danette alone. Likely it’s now or never.”
He got up and walked over to me in my corner and asked me if I’d consider going on a walk with him that afternoon. For me, it hadn’t been a falling in love at first sight kind of feeling with Ken, but I thought that maybe I was headed toward a growing in love kind of feeling for him. I knew by this time that he was a steady, solid-character sort of person who valued many of the same things I did, and I knew that I wanted to get to know him better, so I said yes. Our first walk together was kind of awkward and scary, but exciting at the same time.
When Ken asked me to go on another walk with him soon after that, I said I’d rather not, without really explaining my reason: I felt swamped with homework assignments. Ken was afraid that my apparent disinterest meant I didn’t really like him after all. He felt so relieved and happy when later he asked me to sit with him at the farewell banquet of that term, and I consented with no hesitation.
Before we parted ways that final weekend of first term, we decided we’d continue to communicate via letters and phone calls. Since the mail service between Arkansas and Ontario wasn’t exactly speedy, and because we waited to write until it was in answer to a letter we’d received from the other, the space between those first letters was very long – several weeks, for sure. The phone calls between the US and Canada weren’t exactly cheap, either. Ken called me about once a month for the first while.
We saw each other next at the summer Midwest Meetings in Indiana that July. To this day we don’t exactly know what to say was our first date. Was it that first walk together on the village streets of Lansing, Minnesota during Maranatha Bible School 1985, was it when we attended the first term banquet as a couple that year or was it when we visited my uncle and aunt one evening after the aforementioned meetings (the first time we drove together somewhere in Ken’s car)?
Our relationship continued to develop steadily over the next few years. We got engaged in March of 1988 and were married on October 22 of that year. From the time we went on that first walk at MBS to the time we walked down the wedding aisle as Mr. & Mrs. Ken Martin, 3 years and 9 months had elapsed. So ours was a lengthy courtship while maneuvering the bumps and hazards of a long-distance relationship. It’s been worth every effort and we have many pleasant memories of that time in our lives. As my mom used to say, “All good things take time.” It did take time, and it’s been very good.
Ken and Danette with their family
Thank you so much, Danette, for sharing your story with us. Wishing you many more years of good things!