Weekly roses honored his longtime love
When Don Onstad’s wife Delores passed away, a year ago today — March 24, 2012 — it was a devastating loss for the longtime Detroit Lakes-Richwood area resident.
But Don turned that loss into something truly heartwarming for the ladies at Sharon’s Style, the local beauty salon where his “Lolly” had a standing hair appointment every Friday for many years.
“I have been privileged to watch love in action — while she (Lolly) was with us, and after,” said Sharon’s Style owner Sharon Johnson.
“Her ‘Prince Charming’ took such good care of her as she became less and less able to care for herself. The time came when she couldn’t drive herself to the salon on Fridays, so Don brought her.”
“That was her day to get her hair done, so I’d bring her in, help her up the steps and into the chair, then come back an hour later and bring her home,” Don said.
“I got a hug every time I walked in the door.”
The first Friday after Lolly’s funeral, Don decided to bring a single red rose to Sharon Johnson at her regularly scheduled appointment time, in memory of the woman who had been the center of his world for so many years.
“They took the place of her,” Don said.
Sharon described the moment Don handed the rose to her: “He said to me, ‘Here’s from your 3 o’clock. “The next Friday, Don brought flowers again, and the other ladies and hairstylists, along with myself, were so moved.”
Don’s visits, bouquet in hand, became a Friday tradition over the course of the next 12 months.
“It was just something I decided to do,” said Don — but this past Friday, he added, he was going to be delivering the last bouquet.
“There’s an end for everything,” he said. “I did it for a whole year, and that’s enough.”
Not that his visits to Sharon’s shop will end, however.
“I’ll still stop in and bum a cup of coffee once in a while,” he said with a smile.
“‘Prince Charming’ has shared the experience of his love for his queen with us,” Sharon says. “He has given us all hope that such love is real and possible.”
Love at first sight
It was about 65 years ago, shortly after Don’s return from a two-year stint in the U.S. Navy, that he met his Lolly in a local nightclub.
“I met my wife one night at a dance hall,” he said. “She was 16 years old, and I was 19. I fell in love with her at first sight.”
His daughter Susan, who stopped in this weekend for a visit from her home in Williston, prompted him to tell the whole story of that first meeting.
“I was a Navy man, I’d been all over, and I had an eye for women,” he said with a twinkle in his eye. “When she walked in that door, I said, ‘Oh my god, what have I got here?’”
He walked up to her, introduced himself, asked her name, then asked her for a dance. She said yes.
After they danced, he brought her to a booth and had her sit inside, while he slid in next to her.
“She was a farm girl, very shy,” said Don. “I looked at her and said, “I bet I know what you’re thinking,’ and she said, ‘Oh?’”
His response: “You’re thinking what it would be like to kiss me!”
Her rejoinder: “Let me out of this booth!”
By the following week, he had discovered where she lived, and showed up in her front yard.
The courtship lasted three years — Lolly was only 16 when they met, after all.
“She was so shy, so green, she didn’t even know how to kiss — I had to show her,” said Don with a big smile.
Six decades and three children later, their love endures — as evidenced by the hand-written note from Lolly that hangs in a frame on Don’s kitchen wall.
“I found it in a safe deposit box after she was gone,” he says, tearing up as he once again reads the tender words that described what his love had meant to her.
“I was married to that gal for 61 years, and do I ever miss her,” he said.
Follow Detroit Lakes Newspapers reporter Vicki Gerdes on Twitter at @VickiLGerdes.