66 Years of Marriage
By Nolan Lister
After 66 years of marriage, Big Timber natives Art and Barbara Sell said the key to a successful, lasting relationship is compromise.
“He has always been the risk taker,” Barbara said of her husband. “I’ve always been a little more careful about things. But we always manage to come up with a compromise.”
It was a learned skill, one developed over decades of cohabitation. In the fall of 1950, Art, on leave from the San Diego Naval base he was stationed at, bought a brand new Pontiac and drove home to Big Timber. While cruising down McLeod Street one evening, he spotted two pretty girls, Barbara and her friend, and offered to give them a ride home. After dropping off her friend, Art asked Barbara if she would like to drive around town a little longer and listen to Grace Caldwell play the electric organ on a Billings radio station.
“He’s told everyone for years he picked me up on a street corner, which I can’t deny,” Barbara said with a laugh.
The young couple went on a few dates, but eventually Art had to return to the base. He said he realized she was the woman he wanted to marry that January.
“I thought she was pretty special,” Art said. “Still do.” The proposal “wasn’t anything terribly romantic,” Barbara said. Art asked for her hand in his car.
By 1952, Barbara graduated from Sweet Grass County High School and the two were married.
“I married him to get out of Big Timber,” she said. “We were married in June after he got out of the Navy and came straight back to Big Timber. And I mean straight back.”
Work at a family business kept the newlyweds in southern Montana, where they raised their five children, a feat they both consider their greatest accomplishment as a couple.
The couple stays busy these days, visiting with friends and family,
attending yoga classes, playing cards at the Legion and occasionally traveling.
They still get into disagreements, even after 66 years, and still manage to come to a compromise.
The two said their advice to young couples is to “hang on.”
“Don’t split the sheets after the first fight,” Art said.