Alaska Life

Anchorage couple married downtown in 1952 celebrate their 70th anniversary

anniversary, helen and gene vik

On a recent afternoon in Anchorage, Helen and Gene Vik sat together in their sunroom, just a few days shy of their 70th wedding anniversary. They spoke through bouts laughter about their early years together, and gave advice for newlyweds.

“It feels like I was born married,” Gene said.

“I don’t know where the years went,” added Helen.

Both are transplants from Minnesota.

Gene, 94, arrived in Anchorage in 1947 with the military, while Helen, 90, drove up the Alaska Highway with her friends four years later. They met in Anchorage in the fall of 1951. Even though Gene missed their second date due to a bear hunt, they were engaged by February the following year.

“He didn’t show up for about three weeks,” Helen recalled, noting that there weren’t cell phones yet. “He went hunting and I am patiently waiting for him and he did not show up.”

Eventually, Gene was ready to come home. He wasn’t worried Helen had found someone else either, Gene said with a sly grin.

“Well, she was working in Minneapolis and looking around (for) all available boys and she couldn’t find one she wanted so she had to come up here,” Gene said.

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“And you’re very lucky that I chose you because there was 10 men to every woman when I came to Alaska,” she quipped back. “I had so many dates, I was ecstatic.”

The couple got married at Holy Family Old Cathedral in downtown Anchorage on April 5, 1952.

anniversary, helen and gene vik

About a dozen people attended their wedding dinner, where plastic flowers decorated the tables.

“I’m just a farm girl, 19 years old, I didn’t know I was supposed to get flowers so we had these artificial daisies on the table ...,” Helen said. “It’s kind of fun to look back at some of those early days in Alaska.”

The couple grew together with Anchorage. They embraced the changes along the way.

Their first apartment was a unit in veterans housing, where the Delaney Park Strip rose garden currently stands. They experienced earthquakes and Mount Spurr’s eruption. They frequented clubs downtown and lived off of the land.

Hours before Helen gave birth to their second daughter, she was picking blueberries, Gene recalled. Now, the Anchorage School District Education Center covers those patches.

Gene worked at Ketchikan Spruce Mills, a lumber company once located at the Port of Alaska, and went on to own Superior Millworks, a window and door company. Helen worked on the economic development commission for the state and was an administrative assistant at Our Lady of Guadalupe.

They have four daughters, 10 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.

Almost every year they celebrate their anniversary with a filet mignon, New York strip steak and martini at Club Paris. This year, they had a family celebration and will be attending Mass and a brunch at their church afterward with friends and family on Tuesday.

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When asked what advice they had for young couples, Helen’s answer was simple: Carve out time to talk about your day with each other.

For the Viks, this meant making sure they had dinner together as a family.

Once the children grew and left the house, they switched it to a cocktail hour with vodka tonics every day at 5 p.m.

“All I can say is, if just people would realize how short life really seems that they would take each day and smile a little and laugh a little,” Helen said. “I always say that because of our humor and our cocktails at 5 o’clock, we’ve made it this far.”

In the years since, they’ve moved up the time to 4 o’clock. Gene jokes that “maybe by the time we’re ready to go, we’re down to about noon.”

As for their future plans, Gene has a halibut fishing trip in Seward this May and hopes to surpass Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter’s 75th anniversary.

anniversary, helen and gene vik

Emily Mesner

Emily Mesner is a multimedia journalist for the Anchorage Daily News. She previously worked for the National Park Service at Denali National Park and Preserve and the Western Arctic National Parklands in Kotzebue, at the Cordova Times and at the Jackson Citizen Patriot in Jackson, Michigan.

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