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Love is Golden: Scranton couple recounts 50 years of marriage

It was definitely not love at first sight for Jodi and Mike Green of Scranton. In fact, the two disliked one another when they met.

By Bryce Martin | Pioneer Editor | bmartin@countrymedia.net

It was definitely not love at first sight for Jodi and Mike Green of Scranton. In fact, the two disliked one another when they met.

Fast-forward 50 years and you will see that has completely changed.

When they first met, Jodi and Mike Green didn't like each other. But they will have been married for 50 years as of May 26. The couple lives in Scranton and has four children, five grandchildren and eight step-children. (Photo by Bryce Martin | Pioneer)
When they first met, Jodi and Mike Green didn’t like each other. But they will have been married for 50 years as of May 26. The couple lives in Scranton and has four children, five grandchildren and eight step-children. (Photo by Bryce Martin | Pioneer)

Jodi, 70, and Mike, 74, share a relatively quiet life together in Bowman County. Their door is always open to friends and family and Jodi’s penchant for home cooking has brought many to their dinner table over the years. Her stove is always cooking up something so she’s ready at a moment’s notice to feed the hungry masses. Whenever the two go out to run errands or have a meal they are stopped by people wanting to say hello and have a little chat. From observing the two, they seemingly know everyone around Bowman County. They insist, however, that they do not. Nonetheless, the Greens have become a well-established part of the community.

While they now seem to serve as the ideal definition of a typical rural couple, it was not always that way—the couple’s love story begins on a rather unconventional note.

Jodi (Koczorowski) and Mike Green stand with Father Knopik on their wedding day.
Jodi (Koczorowski) and Mike Green stand with Father Knopik on their wedding day.

Originally from Illinois, Jodi Green née Koczorowski moved to Bowman in 1959 at the age of 14. She was seriously injured a short time later in a head-on car accident. During her recovery, Jodi was able to attend a dance at the home of her parents’ good friends, Marlene and Stanley Palczewski, near Bowman-Haley Dam.

That was in November 1963.

Mike Green had just returned home to Harding County—where he was born and raised—after three years being on the west coast. His brother left the family farm so his mother asked Mike to return home.

Mike also had plans to attend the dance at the Palczewski’s home, where he and Jodi would soon meet.

Mike walked over to Jodi and quaintly asked her if she would like to dance. But she couldn’t due to a blood clot in her brain as a result from the accident. She declined and considered Mike rude because she wasn’t able to dance and he shouldn’t have asked.

“I told him I couldn’t and he thought I did it just to be smart so he didn’t like me either,” Jodi said.

Mike thought he was just being polite and was surprised by her standoffish attitude.

“I didn’t think very much of her either,” Mike added with a heavy laugh. He said he didn’t know at the time about her accident.

“After he asked me to dance and I thought he was a horse’s butt, I had my dad take me home,” she said.

Their first meeting was a bust.

It wasn’t until almost a year later that the two would get a second chance. It came rather unexpectedly for Jodi.

A year later, in 1964, Jodi turned 20 years old, worked at the hospital and lived in an apartment in Bowman—it was the same year that Nikita Khrushchev was deposed as leader of the Soviet Union and popular British pop group The Kinks released their first album.

On Oct. 12, Jodi received a knock on her door. It was Mike, much to her astonishment. He asked to take her to a matinee at Bowman’s theater.

She obliged.

Following a short courtship, Jodi casually said to Mike a few months later, “Don’t you think it’s about time you proposed?”

“So he asked me to marry him,” she added with a hearty laugh.

The two wed on May 26, 1965 in Scranton amidst a huge blizzard that wreaked havoc on southwestern North Dakota. They had their reception in Gascoyne, where the couple plans to hold their 50th wedding anniversary celebration this spring.

Mike said the winter prior to their wedding day was a tough one. The only reason he got to see Jodi—at the time they lived almost 50 miles apart—was because of a pea-green Jeep Gladiator that Mike’s father had purchased. It routinely broke down and had to be taken to Bowman to be fixed. Mike made the trip and got to see his beloved Jodi.

Since their wedding almost a half-century ago, the two have lived happily together. They raised four children, have five grandchildren and eight step-grandchildren.

“We’re very happy,” Jodi said. “We’ve had very few battles. Usually we’re smart enough not to battle at the same time.”

There have been difficult times in the couple’s life together, but Mike and Jodi both said they figured that as long as they were together, they could overcome anything. Their children always knew everything that was going on within their familial unit and each worked together.

“We were a close family. I think we were just lucky,” she said.

Considering married couples today, Mike said he feels one of the biggest problems they face is their unwillingness to spend time talking and working out their problems.

Yet, some problems are often out of their control. Such is the case for news the couple received just before Christmas last year.

In December, Jodi discovered a lump in her breast. She had it biopsied and the results came back to say it was cancer.

She took only a few days to lament over the news, but then turned hopeful.

Jodi is now scheduled to undergo a lumpectomy and receive radiation therapy in the coming weeks. The doctors are optimistic for a positive outcome.

While that news would be enough to overwhelm most people, Jodi said hearing that she had cancer wasn’t the hardest time of her and Mike’s life together.

While the two were raising their small children several decades ago, Mike suffered from serious problems with his back. He had parathyroid disease, which Jodi said affected the calcium in his bones.

After surgery, he spent 18 days recovering at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., and that put a heavy burden on Jodi back home.

The two were struggling at that time. With four children to take care of and calving season ongoing at their ranch south of Bowman County, Jodi was forced to stay home while Mike was in Minnesota. She was in anguish not being by his side.

In the spring of 1982, the Green family’s home and most of their possessions burnt in a fire on their ranch. A while later they had to leave the ranch, which belonged to Mike’s father.

Despite the hardships, Jodi said the two are always happy to be together. Though, the time they spend together is sometimes fleeting due to Mike’s job as a truck driver. She cherishes their time together and said her favorite thing is to sit in their living room and see Mike sitting in the recliner alongside her. “Just to know he’s home,” she said.

Over the last 30 years there have been long stretches of time that Mike has been gone on the road driving truck. Jodi used to accompany Mike on some of the routes, but it became too taxing on her health.

While Mike was away, people kept Jodi company while she returned the favor by doing what she loved: providing down-home hospitality.

“When I was driving over the road, I’d come home and there’d be two, three, four extra people around the table that I’d never seen before,” Mike said. “So often there were kids that their parents had kicked out or friends of our own kids that, for some reason, needed a house away from home.”

“Or they needed a boot in the butt,” Jodi interjected with a wink.

Along with her grandmotherly charm, welcoming smiles and loving embraces, Jodi is quite protective over her loved ones—she makes sure people know their place and doesn’t hide her sentiments when the going gets tough. Mike, on the other hand, is more laidback and offers the traditional been-everywhere stories expected from somebody with so much life experience. Together, the two compliment each other in nearly every way and, perhaps for them, that’s why their love has proven true.

“We’re so fortunate where we live,” Jodi said. “I love the people here.”

The two live in a modest home in Scranton with a red roof and gray siding, along with their Shih Tzu named Binky.

Their four children—Todd, Dane, Britt and Camille (Norton)—each in their forties, live scattered around southwestern North Dakota.

“I think we raised our children well—they’re very respectful and very good people and our grandchildren are wonderful kids,” Jodi said. “We’re just lucky we have a wonderful family.”

When asked why she agreed to go on a date with Mike all those years ago, considering their previous resentment, Jodi couldn’t answer for certain. She joked that maybe she just wanted to go see the movie.

But had Mike not shown up that day in 1964 it “would have sucked,” Jodi said bluntly. “But I think we were meant to be together.

“When I met Michael, I didn’t like him the first time, after that I loved him,” she said and looked over to Mike with a heartfelt smile.