Harry and Marge Nygard celebrated 65 years of marriage in November 2016. They are one of the longest-married couples on the Key Peninsula.
He was raised in Rochester and she in Wenatchee, but they met when both attended Stadium High School in Tacoma.
“We left Wenatchee when I was 10,” Marge said, “and Harry moved to Tacoma when he was 14 or 15.” She learned who he was when she reached high school, as Harry was one of the star athletes. Harry graduated in 1946, Marge in 1949.
Their first meeting happened when a young man who’d dated Marge’s sister called to ask for a date.
“I don’t think she’ll go out with you because she’s engaged,” Marge told him on the phone. He asked Marge instead to accompany him on a three-couple date, with Harry being one of the other fellows.
Later, when Harry called for a date, Marge was surprised and thrilled that this school hero would call her.
Harry’s lifetime goal was to be a professional baseball pitcher. Playing in a state championship his senior year, he struck out 17 batters to win the game. The following night, the manager thought he shouldn’t pitch, afraid he might injure his arm. The athletic director thought otherwise, so Harry pitched another winner, but did damage his arm. He said it was never as good again.
He joined the Tacoma Tigers as soon as he was out of school and later played with the Brooklyn Dodgers, Vancouver Capilanos and some other minor league teams. He thought his best year of pitching was with the Idaho Falls Russets in 1949. In 2006, he was inducted into the Tacoma-Pierce County Sports Hall of Fame.
Harry and Marge married in 1951.
Harry considered what he should do as a profession after baseball. His father co-owned a plywood company and he tried that for a while.
“Old Swedes work with their hands, not their heads,” but that business didn’t suit him, Harry said.
He applied to become a Kirby vacuum cleaner salesman and loved it. He became one of the top salesmen for several years and was awarded a 26-foot travel trailer one year. The Nygards sold it because they had no vehicle big enough to pull it. The next year, he won a Chevy Blazer. He was the No. 35 top Kirby salesman worldwide.
The Nygards live on a historic home site in Longbranch, south of Filucy Bay. Charlie Jaeger, a concrete man, lived in a small cabin along a trail used by Native Americans. The Nygards bought the property from Jaeger’s niece. He built three concrete arches, which still exist, along the now-vanished trail. The sidewalks included some concrete bearing the date 1906. When the Nygards replaced the walks, they left those pieces and had some of the new ones inscribed 2016, the year they were added.
A fire two years ago burned down the cabin and storage building. The Nygards rebuilt the cabin and built their own garage and workshop in the same places.
“It’s so sad to not have them still there,” Marge said. She loved the historic aspect of the old buildings.
Their home is filled with memorabilia from their travels and Harry’s various awards, both from baseball and Kirby, including his Gold Kirby Award, all special reminders of their 65 years together.
UNDERWRITTEN BY NEWSMATCH/MIAMI FOUNDATION, THE ANGEL GUILD, ROTARY CLUB OF GIG HARBOR, ADVERTISERS, DONORS AND PEOPLE WHO SUPPORT LOCAL, INDEPENDENT NONPROFIT NEWS