“It makes Centerfield quite famous, I think” says Evelyn
as couple is honored for being longest living couple in Utah
(LEFT): Evelyn and Allen Frandsen, who have been married 79 years, at their home in Centerfield. (RIGHT): Allen and Evelyn Frandsen pose on their wedding day, March 30, 1942.
Following the celebration of their 79th anniversary on March 30, Allen and Evelyn Frandsen of Centerfield received a letter from the Utah governor’s office.
“According to the Governor’s Century Club of Utah, you are the longest living married couple in the state of Utah,” the letter said.
Allen and Evelyn are both 101 years old.
“It is something. It makes Centerfield quite famous, I think,” Evelyn said.
Evelyn was raised on a 10-acre farm near Redwood Road in Bennion, Utah. At 16, she began working “in a tea room at nights” and also worked at a dress shop. She earned 25 cents an hour and saved enough to pay for her college.
“Dad was in debt,” she recalled. “Everyone was.”
At the University of Utah, Evelyn double majored in business and education. When the South Sanpete School District approached her and convinced her to take a teaching job, she assumed she would be in Manti. She had never heard of Gunnison, but that’s where she was assigned to teach business and English for the 1941-42 school year.
She said she will never forget the evening of December 7, 1941 when she heard about the attack on Pearl Harbor and the declaration of war.
Evelyn’s three brothers served in and survived the war, but her brother-in-law was killed. Allen, who she would later marry, joined the U.S. Air Force.
“Kids today don’t understand depression or war,” she said.
Allen’s father owned land to the west of Centerfield before the group of Jewish immigrants from back East established the town of Clarion. Born in 1919, Allen remembers the two Jewish families who stayed behind after Clarion was abandoned in 1915.
Since Allen’s brothers found work in other places, it fell on him to take over the farm.
On leave for Christmas in 1941, he attended a Young Men’s and Young Women’s meeting in Gunnison and met Evelyn. The couple dated for a couple months and were married in March in the Salt Lake Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saint.
For a couple of years, Evelyn followed her husband to his military assignments in Oregon, Washington and California. She worked in state government offices in Olympia, Wash., while he was stationed in Fort Lewis. They saw each other on weekends.
When Allen discovered he got sick on extended flights, he switched to the Army, and played the trumpet in the Army band. In 1944, he was released to go home and farm.
The couple returned to a little abandoned house in Clarion, fixed it up, and moved in.
“There was a living room, a kitchen and a bedroom. That’s all there was,” Allen said.
They used coal stoves to heat the house. They had to bring in ice to for their ice box to keep food cool.
The bathroom was outside, with a pot under the bed for cold winter nights. There was electricity in the town of Centerfield, but not at their Clarion house.
“Kids don’t know anything about that, but to us, it was just part of life,” Evelyn said.
Allen raised livestock and grew oats, barley, alfalfa, field corn, peas and sugar beets.
Because there was a shortage of farm workers during the war, Evelyn said, German prisoners of war who were being held a military prison in Salina were brought to weed the beet fields.
“They had to do it properly, or they wouldn’t get dinner that night,” she remembered. Once, she took a batch of cookies out to share with them and had a nice conversation with them, especially with one who spoke English well.
“The war was a frightful thing for all of us,” commented Evelyn, “I didn’t mind talking to them at all.”
In 1949, the Frandsens built their own home in Centerfield and moved in with their babies, Joan, Ronald and 3-week-old twins, Rita and Russell. While being interviewed, they laughed, remembering how Allen teased Evelyn’s mother who came to help with the baby.
The couple had four more children: twins Mark and Myles (who lived only a few days), Tracy and Kelly.
Allen expanded his farm by purchasing land in Mayfield that included grazing rights on the mountains. For a time, he raised bulls and ran a bull test station where bulls were raised under standard conditions to evaluate which animals offered the best genetics.
While serving as mayor and on the Centerfield City Council, Allen helped create a culinary water system, including building a water storage tank. Evelyn also served a four-year term on the Centerfield City Council.
Allen also served as the Sanpete County Farm Bureau president, on the Gunnison Irrigation Board and on various state committees.
When Kelly started kindergarten, Evelyn took a job teaching at Richfield High School and also taught business and shorthand at the new formed Sevier Technical College.
“It was wonderful to teach in a place where you didn’t know everyone. I had no prejudice to the children coming into my class,” she said.
When they were 65, Allen and Evelyn were called to serve a mission in the Philippines for the Church. The Frandsens served nine months in the mission office and nine months traveling around training Filipino church leaders.
Following their mission, they traveled the world.
“But my happiest time to get home was after our mission. When we flew over the U.S., I started to cry,” Evelyn said.
The Frandsens served at the Manti Temple for 22 years, Allen as a sealer and Evelyn in the temple office.
“As you reminisce on your many years together, we hope you feel a sense of accomplishment for the family and love surrounding you,” the letter from Gov. Spencer Cox and Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson said.
Sitting in comfy chairs with a view of U.S. 89 out the window, Evelyn said, “He’s such a good husband. We really and truly enjoy each other.”