Equally Yoked More than two hundred years of marriage and service

The three Gerking siblings count over two hundred years of marriage between them. With that kind of record, Marjie, Darlene, and Duane owe a lot to the solid foundation laid by their parents.

It all began when an adventuresome young lady came west in 1913 with three girlfriends. Working for relatives, she earned five dollars a week during harvest — milking the cows, cooking breakfast, and cleaning house. She met Dad Gerking in Pocatello, Idaho, and they were a match.

In 1925, Dad and Grandpa attended campmeeting in Walla Walla, Wash., driving into town from their farm near Waitsburg every day. The whole family accepted the Adventist message. Still, they had more to learn. One night, a Dr. Thompson gave them a Bible study on health.

Darlene remembers it this way: "‘If I'm gonna do it,' said Dad, ‘I'm gonna do it right.' The next morning, Mom cooked her first vegetarian breakfast. ‘That was the hardest meal I ever did get,' Mom said."

When Dad became a Seventh-day Adventist, he realized we were all supposed to be witnessing. He made the most of his connections, and over the course of time brought out two Adventist teachers to the one-room public school about two miles from their farm.

Once he had done everything he thought he could do from his farm in Waitsburg, he moved the family to Montana. As the kids got older, he realized "his kids needed to go to church school."

Darlene came home from school one day to find the whole house packed up. They moved to College Place, Wash., the same day. They bought a house and enrolled the kids in what is now Rogers Adventist School.

Everyone pulled their own weight. They weren't rich, but they never realized they were poor, either.

Since they went to church school, all their friends were Adventists. When they got to courting age, friendships were established. When they got married, they chose spouses with similar backgrounds.

"We were equally yoked," says Duane.

Marjie chose Earl Bolton, and just after they married they moved to Loma Linda, Calif., for medical school. They both worked hard to get him through. When he finished, they moved to Wenatchee, Wash., where Earl practiced with his brother. Seventy-two years later, Earl still lives in the same town. (Marjie died earlier this year.)

Darlene chose Clayton Prusia, who was also a pre-medical student. Or maybe he chose her. One Saturday night, a group of girls stood visiting outside the dorm. He tapped Darlene on the shoulder and said, "Would you like to go for a walk?"

Pulling out a picture of him from those days, she says with a grin, "You can see why I said yes! He saved me from being an old maid at eighteen."

Rather than go on to medical school, Clayton decided to go back to farming. They raised two children, in the College Place/Lowden area and still live there seventy years later.

Duane, the youngest, was the last to enter the courting scene. He and his wife, Christine, have been married sixty-three years. In their courting days, they didn't go out to eat or things like that.

"There just wasn't any money floating around," he says. But their parents had encouraged them to be optimistic, and to work hard. They grew up in a different era. "In the depression times, you were satisfied with what you had. That works in marriage as well as in life. When things went wrong, you tried to fix them.

"There was no such thing as divorce!" says Duane. "That wasn't an option."

It seems simple, doesn't it? Hard work and a healthy lifestyle sustained three siblings, three marriages, for a long lifetime. It seems like a pretty straightforward equation. And it works. These lives show it gracefully.

August 01, 2009 / Upper Columbia Conference