As she walked down the street, Janice Robinson felt a tug on her dyed-green hair.
She didn’t know him then, but she’d eventually marry Roger “Buck” Bettcher, the boy who’d pulled her hair. Dubuque couple Janice and Buck have been married for nearly 66 years.
“I remember walking down the street to a place that sold ice cream cones, and I had dyed my hair green for St. Patrick’s Day, and he went by and pulled my hair,” Janice said. “But I did not know it was him. He told me about it later.”
Janice and Buck officially met later, when she was 15 and he was 14. From opposite sides of the street, both Janice and Buck noticed a mutual friend parked in his car.
They each decided to stop and talk with the driver, meeting in the middle.
“We met on the street like that, and we all got in the car and went to Eagle Point Park,” Janice said.
After that afternoon, Buck asked Janice to see a movie with him.
“She looked so pretty,” Buck said, recalling the long skirt she wore.
“I thought he looked like Rory Calhoun,” Janice said, in reference to the 1950s actor.
On Aug. 20, 1955, Janice and Buck were married at St. Patrick Church in Dubuque. Both were 17.
Soon after the wedding, Janice’s mother helped Buck buy himself a guitar. Since then, music has been a large part of life in the Bettcher family.
“I always loved music,” Buck said. “I came from a big family. We never had any money. But then I got married, and her mother paid for half of the guitar.”
Over the years, Buck played and Janice sang with friends. They even played as a family band with their children, Larry Bettcher and Taña Schmidt, entertaining at wedding receptions and supper clubs.
“Not every kid gets to do that, for sure,” Schmidt said. “That’s something you always keep with you forever.”
Schmidt quit the band in her teenage years, but her brother stuck with it. He is still a musician today.
Before the pandemic, Buck and Janice performed downtown at the farmers market and at area nursing homes. The duo prefers country music. It doesn’t take much encouragement for Buck to pick up the guitar or for Janice to sing.
In addition to music, Buck also entertained as a clown.
Buck is from Dubuque, but Janice’s early childhood was spent moving around. She remembers living in Oregon where her father worked in shipyards, and she also lived in Missouri.
Janice’s family moved to Dubuque for work when she was in elementary school.
Buck worked at Dubuque Packing Co. for 40 years, but his dream always was to own a farm.
After spending several years living in Dubuque and Peosta, the Bettchers moved to Balltown, Iowa, where they raised cattle, pigs and sheep.
“That was my dream,” he said. “I got it, too. I used to listen to positive tapes, and they said, if you’ve got a dream, chase it.”
While Buck and Janice were chasing the dream of a farm, others didn’t think they would ever get it. They lived on the Balltown farm for many years before retiring and moving back to Dubuque.
“The first tractor he ever got, he didn’t even know how to drive home,” Janice said.
In addition to coon dogs and horses, the family also sheltered a crow named Joe.
“He was quite a pet,” Buck said. “My daughter would take the horse right down the highway, and that crow would go from sign to sign.”
The Bettchers have five grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.
“They had us when they were young,” Schmidt said. “They raised us, and then, they got to have their childhood again.”
The Bettcher marriage hasn’t always been quiet.
“Don’t give up if you start fighting,” Janice said. “My husband and I have fought since the first day we met until now.”
According to Janice, life isn’t always easy, but if you walk out the door and don’t come back, the marriage won’t last.
“Go back and face it,” Janice said. “You can’t just walk away.”
Schmidt says she has seen this in her parents’ relationship.
“They like to argue, but they love each other so much,” she said. “They played music all their life. They’re always there when you need them. I don’t think anybody could ask for better parents.”
It’s been worth it, Buck said.
“We’ve had a good life, me and her,” Buck said.