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A bowling alley, a typewriter shop and a love that endured 60 years

Earl Erickson of Grand Rapids shows Juanita Johnson of Hermantown a photo of him and his late wife, Alberta, on Thursday during a visit to Duluth Typewriter & Business Furniture on what would have been their 60th anniversary. The building used to house a bowling alley, where Earl and Anita met in April 1948. (Amanda Hansmeyer / News Tribune)

Every so often, someone will walk down a short flight of stairs off Third Avenue West into the Duluth Typewriter & Business Furniture office and reminisce about their bowling game.

The underground space used to be the Duluth Center Lanes, so the employees are used to this.

It's not often, though, that a great love story walks through the door, said office manager Susan Stebner.

But it happened on April 9 this year when Earl and Alberta Erickson of Grand Rapids walked in the door.

The couple had met at the bowling alley exactly six decades earlier, after Earl went to the bowling alley snack bar for some coffee and Alberta stopped in after roller skating with her friends.

"My wife confessed, many years later, that she said to her girlfriends, 'See that guy over there? I'm going to marry him,' " Earl Erickson said.

It turned out to be true. The two met after a conversation over Alberta's silver roller skate case, and became inseparable after that night. They married seven months later, on Nov. 13, 1948. Earl was 20, Alberta was 19, and they embarked on a life together.

Earl Erickson delivered milk up and down the North Shore for years before the family moved to Grand Rapids. They raised a couple of children and loved each other. Somewhere in all those decades of marriage, Alberta's roller skates went missing, though she still had the silver case.

"She was a wonderful wife," Earl Erickson said. "I took real good care of her while she was here."

But Alberta's body wasn't as enduring as their marriage. Alzheimer's disease was robbing her memory and heart disease was robbing her health.

The couple had long thought of returning to the bowling alley, perhaps on their 60th wedding anniversary. But Earl Erickson was afraid that Alberta wouldn't live that long, so they made the trip on the anniversary of the day they met, April 9. They had a lovely time, Earl said, and met a dozen or so Duluth Typewriter employees, who now sell office furniture, like Stebner. They strolled through the old bowling alley, brought along that silver roller skate case, and good memories came flooding back to Alberta.

Earl had been right about his wife's health; Alberta Erickson died on Aug. 23 at age 79.

As their 60th wedding anniversary approached, the couple's daughter, Anita Ketola, suggested that she and her father go back to the bowling alley on Thursday anyway.

So they did just that. They visited again with company employees, wandered again around the old bowling alley, again brought along the silver skate case.

"It's quite the love story," Stebner said.

And it was a bittersweet way to mark nearly 60 years of marriage.

JANNA GOERDT covers the communities surrounding Duluth. She can be reached weekdays at (218) 279-5527 or by e-mail at