FOREST CITY | Flowers, chocolates and a song or rhyme.
Those have been staples in Larry Hill’s grandiose Valentine’s Day gestures for his wife, Becky, for years.
“He’s very good at that kind of stuff,” Becky said.
Last year, Larry stopped by Becky’s Waldorf classroom with a tune and treats. A couple years ago, he visited her office, got down on one knee, and with flowers and candy in hand started singing The Beatles’ “When I’m Sixty-Four.”
“He’s the more outgoing person, and I’m more, ‘Don’t do this,’ and he does it,” she said. “But I’ve gotten used to it through the years.”
And there’s been plenty.
High school sweethearts, parents of four, grandparents to eight grandsons and professors at Waldorf University, the couple, who lives in Thompson, will celebrate their 45th wedding anniversary in August.
“To me, it feels like 10 years. For her, it’s probably felt like 80,” Larry said making them both laugh.
Although the two grew up on farms 2.5 miles apart in rural Winnebago County, Larry attended school in Forest City, and Becky went to Lake Mills.
Their paths crossed for the first time at a 4-H teen dance at the county fair when they were in junior high.
“In those days, the county fair was the summer event,” Larry said.
Then, when Becky was in ninth grade, and Larry was in eighth grade, she asked him to attend a Sadie Hawkins dance. But it wouldn’t be until two years later that they started “going together for good.”
In 1971, Becky graduated from Lake Mills and went to Waldorf, which was a junior college at the time, until Larry graduated and followed her.
On March 31, 1973, Larry proposed to Becky, and on Aug. 18, they were married.
“I had the summer to make my wedding dress and bridesmaids’ dresses,” Becky said.
That fall, the couple moved to Mankato, Minnesota, where they attended Mankato State University for their bachelor’s degrees in education.
After graduating from college, Becky became a dispatcher for the Blue Earth Sheriff’s Office and the Mankato Police Department. She was there until Larry finished school, and they both moved to Baxter, Iowa.
In Baxter, Larry taught and coached “every sport every season” to earn extra money and make ends meet, while the couple started their family with the arrival of their oldest daughter, Carrie, in 1976.
Becky was a stay-at-home mother, who operated an in-home day care, when the couple’s twins, Christopher and Jennifer, were born in 1979. Their youngest daughter, Stephanie, came in 1982.
In 1981, the Hills moved to Thompson, where they still reside today.
While raising their children, the couple served in various capacities within the community, including 4-H, city council, church and ambulance service.
“We tried to make sure our children appreciated what goes on in the community and the value of service,” Larry said.
Becky taught K-12 special education in Buffalo Center for four years before taking a position at Waldorf as the director of the learning disabilities program in 1991. She later became the college’s Academic Achievement Center director and Academic Support Program director. She’s now an associate professor of education and department chair.
Larry taught high school social studies and coached football and basketball before becoming the elementary principal in Lakota, the middle school principal in Thompson and the North Iowa Community School superintendent. He was superintendent from 1995 to 2010 and was recognized as Iowa Superintendent of the Year.
“I enjoy teaching so much that I wanted to go back and finish my career with what I started doing,” he said.
Larry teaches online and residential business, education and master’s degree courses at Waldorf as an adjunct professor.
“The two of us had such a good experience here at Waldorf with the professors we had and the relationships we built, we want to give that back to the next generation,” he said.
The key to a long, happy marriage?
The Hills said it’s the ability to have fun together through life’s ups and downs, cherishing the moment and helping each other.
“It’s not about keeping scores, it’s about blessing one another,” Becky said.
“And complementing the other’s shortfalls,” Larry added.
The Hills consider themselves fortunate.
“We’ve been blessed both in our relationship with our kids and the opportunities we’ve had to work,” he said.