A classical love story
Faith, friendship, skiing, music and love
Roger Schwer and Marjie Toepffer’s story is one of resilience in the face of loss; hope in a time of uncertainty; and of faith in the renewing powers of love. They celebrate 12 years together, while jointly having nearly 100 years of marriage between them. The golden years of their lives were initially marred by the loss of their partners: Marjie had a marriage spanning four decades and Roger shared life with his first bride for nearly 50 years.
Marjie was 50 years old and Roger 60 when they met at Big Sky Resort ski school orientation in 1992. Margie had been teaching skiing there for one year and Roger was new. They would both retire from the profession 24 years later.
“Roger sat down next to me and he said, ‘It looks like we’re the only OFs (old folks) here.’ And I looked around and looked at him and said, ‘Speak for yourself, buster!’ It was funny,” Marjie recalled of their first meeting. “We got a big laugh out of it.”
The two became friends and introduced each other to their spouses. They would join a handful of other couples for skiing, attend Brad Lartigue’s church services on the mountain on Sundays and go out to dinner afterward.
It’s wasn’t long before they discovered another shared interest: classical music. So, the couples purchased tickets to the Bozeman Symphony.
“We’ve had the same seats at the symphony since 1992. That’s something that bonded us together as couples and as individuals – was the love of classical music,” Marjie said.
Roger’s wife, Peggy, died in 1992. Then the three of them – Marjie, her husband and Roger – continued the musical journey through Mozart, Vivaldi, Bach and many other composers. They would find a home for the extra ticket, often inviting Brad Lartigue along.
Not long after Peggy passed away, Marjie’s husband – Carroll – suffered from deteriorating health; in and out of the hospital and nursing home before he passed away. It was an emotional gauntlet for Marjie. She had classical music as comfort as she and Roger still had those symphony tickets.
“I think we both needed a lot of healing time after losing our spouses,” she said.
One evening, after a night at the symphony, and quite unexpectedly, a friend asked, “Hey, is there anything going on with you guys?”
“Me and him? We’re totally incompatible,” Marjie replied.
“And we still are,” Roger continued. They both laughed.
“We’re just both type-A smart asses,” Marjie said later.
One day, Roger asked her if they were going to do anything about their growing attraction and affection for one another.
“It worked out well and we fell in love. I guess it’s not that uncommon for good friends to feel a change in their relationship. It just kind of… I don’t know exactly how that happens, but you just have to get to know each other,” Marjie explained.
Lartigue married the couple in Big Sky Chapel. During the ceremony, he tossed each of them a filthy gardening glove and told them to put the gloves on. He knew them both well and told the crowd something along the lines of, “These two are going to have problems.” And told the couple, “You’re going to have to dig deep.” It was a funny and accurate statement.
“Marjie is really tough to live with,” Roger said. “And so is Roger,” Marjie quickly added.
Lartigue has been involved with nearly every pivotal moment for the couple: he memorialized their former spouses, married them, married their daughter and baptized their three grandsons.
“Brad has been an important part of our family,” Roger said. “But we don’t do the Iron Man with him,” Marjie quipped.
Together, the couple found ways to contribute to the community.
“We’re both proud that we started, operated and ran the Big Sky Resort Master the Mountain Program and helped start the Arts Council of Big Sky's Classical Music Festival,” Roger said.
They also memorialized their spouses with the Peggy Dicken Schwer Memorial Fund and Carroll Toepffer Memorial Fund, combining efforts two years ago to start the Schwer-Toepffer Fund with Big Sky Arts Council which brings chamber and classical music to Big Sky. As “donor advisors” they get to suggest musicians.
“We’ve brought a number of groups here and also sponsor the director of the Classical Musical Festival,” Majorie said.
They’re proud of what they have accomplished together.
“We’ve only been married nearly 12 years, so we’re still beginners in this relationship,” Marjie said while noting that what they’ve found is a symbiotic relationship which has benefited the community.
Marjie is supervising broker for Roger, who is a real estate agent.
“It’s not been easy, let me tell you,” she said.
As for making a relationship work, they had a few ideas, but quickly categorized them as cliché: communication, shared values, shared experiences, physical attraction, common interests, be nice to each other, be flexible, compromise when you need to compromise.
Roger said chances of success are increased “if you have something that bonds you together beyond just building a home together or physical attraction.”
They agreed that their foundation of solid friendship has helped.
“Things happen, if you don’t have enough of a commitment to your partner, it’s a challenge to deal with those,” Marjie said, noting that viewing marriage as a lifelong commitment is important to its success, though she acknowledged there are times when a marriage isn’t good for anyone involved. Still, people often have more incentive to try to make things work when they have children.
“We knew we weren’t going to have children,” she said.
“We keep trying though,” Roger quickly interjected.
“Do you see what I have to deal with?,” Marjie asked while laughing.