“We got engaged last May, and I didn’t want to wait a whole year until next spring to get married, but fall was too soon.” So Kim Kufner and her fiancé, John Arth, chose Jan. 22, 1982, as their wedding day — a day that would go down in history — Minnesota’s as well as the Arths’.
Let’s set the stage: the winter of ’82, one of the most wicked in recent memory. Ice storms, windchills and lots of snow were only the prelude to the heavy-duty stuff.
Wednesday, Jan. 20 was the day we had 15 inches of snow dumped on us, after the weather forecasters had promised only one to four.
The morning of Friday, Jan. 22 dawned, and Kim was getting married that night. About 200 people had been invited to the wedding in White Bear and reception in Maplewood. By 10 a.m., snow was falling at an alarming rate, and businesses and shops were closing up, sending their employees home.
By noon everyone at State Farm had cleared out, and the radios kept droning: more snow, more snow.
In White Bear, Kim was calm, but her mother was frantic. The guests, she worried, wouldn’t be able to make it. She was right. Less than half of those invited made it to the church for the 6:30 p.m. wedding. Kim and John exchanged vows and rings, and became Mr. and Mrs. Arth. Everything had fallen into place, including the snow.
By the next morning, 17.1 inches of snow had fallen. Kim and John had planned to leave for a skiing honeymoon, but postponed it for one day.
Sunday morning they started off, driving in their Chevy Nova, for Whitefish, Mont.
By Sunday afternoon, the wind picked up, whirling the snow across the highway. “We couldn’t even see a half-mile ahead,” Kim recalls.
“There were 3.5-foot drifts under some of the bridges that we just had to plow through.” Stopping was dangerous, as no one from behind would see them until it was too late to stop. They finally found an exit and pulled off the road at Richardton, N.D.
After checking with the local cafe/hotel and finding it full, Kim and John were directed to The Abbey.
After getting directions, they arrived in front of a large, old church. They went inside and looked around, but there didn’t seem to be anyone there.
Suddenly, they were approached by an old man, wearing a long, black robe with a hood. ‘Do you need a place to stay?” he asked. They said yes. “Follow me.”
Kim was frightened, being in a strange place with a raging storm outside and a spooky man inside.
“There are two other couples stranded here tonight,” the man announced.
Slowly the man led them from the church, down into an underground tunnel with high, arched ceilings and lights fixed upon the brick walls. His black robe flowing behind him, he led them to the sleeping quarters, located in another building.
At any moment, Kim expected him to turn around, baring his fangs, Dracula-like, in his garments. She wanted to leave. John convinced her to stay.
They came into another building, and were greeted by another black-garbed man, and another. Slowly it dawned on Kim and John that these men were monks. The Abbey was a monastery!
Kim and John were led to their room, which turned out to be like a hotel.
They had dinner with the monks and the other stranded motorists. Later, a deck of cards and some bottles of champagne were opened up. They drank a toast to the newlyweds, and sang some wedding songs to them. It was quite a party!
The next morning the storm had stopped, but the wheels of their Nova had frozen to the ground. After having some breakfast and thawing out their tires, they were on their way to Montana.
Things went well for awhile, but soon after they entered Montana, an ice storm hit. Called “black ice” because its thin layer allows the highway’s color to show through, it’s highly dangerous to drive on. All along the highway, Kim noticed, were small grave markers, commemorating the spots where traffic fatalities had occurred. They quickly decided to pull off into Browning, Mont.
By this time, Kim was pretty sick of winter, and she wondered if she’d ever see Minnesota again. However, after spending the night in Browning, they continued on, and reached Whitefish with no further incidences.
The remainder of their ski week was great — good weather, nice accommodations, excellent skiing. It seemed that their honeymoon might turn out to be fun and relaxing after all.
On the way home, Kim and John ran into five different snowstorms as they drove, but none were bad enough to force them to stop where they hadn’t planned.
Kim returned to State Farm a day later than originally planned. Her mother had phoned Kim’s supervisor the day before, explaining why she would be back a day late. So, when Kim came to work on Tuesday morning, her co-workers already knew the full story, and have been teasing her ever since!
As for Kim and John, they feel that anyone who can survive 17.1 inches of snow on their wedding day, and have to spend their third married night in a monastery, ought to be able to survive any of the everyday marital troubles.
Kim also has some words of advice for future brides: “Don’t ever plan a wedding in January!’
(Editor’s note: The preceeding article was published in The Pine Aire, a company newsletter put out by State Farm where Kim Arth worked at the time of her wedding.)