Marvin “Marv” Titterud, 89, has a broad and steady perspective, like the Great Plains of North Dakota where he grew up. Standing where he stands now, when you hear him talk about his life, you sense he clearly sees what’s important.
While he’s journeyed far from an unforgettable beginning, he holds that beginning closely in his heart.
“We all lived through the Depression years and it was a struggle,” he said of his childhood years. “We not only had the Depression, but we had the drought, [too].”
Marv’s mother, Cora Newell, a schoolteacher and principal, married his father, Marius Titterud, a Norwegian immigrant, widower and homesteader in the northwest part of the state. He helped build Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in McGregor and was a charter member. Marv said his parents worked hard together to make a go of it to stay there and hang onto their farm, where they raised wheat and cattle.
His mother had a profound influence on Marv’s spiritual development. He explained, “My mom was so concerned about our moral environment. She would have us learn a bible verse every day and things like that. We were regular churchgoers.”
“My mother died quite young,” Marv recalled, noting she passed away in 1937 at the age of 49. “She left the four of us [when we were all] under the age of 14. On her deathbed she wrote me a letter — I guess that letter keeps reminding me of what [is] important.”
He continued, “She was so concerned about my future as her oldest son, so she did anything she could to help me think about being a Christian person. She also asked me to look after my younger sister and brother.”
Marv said in the early 50s “I farmed the family farm for six years and it seemed like we lived on hope and saying, ‘It’s gonna be better next year.’” Married with two children, he said, “I finally decided I would try something else.” In 1955, he began selling Lutheran Brotherhood life insurance.
“I was in Great Falls, Montana, driving hither and yon and listening to the car radio and I heard this Midas Muffler ad. I kept hearing [it],” he recalled, laughing. He added, “Although I was in [the insurance business] for five or six years, I didn’t really feel I was cut out to be selling life insurance — it seemed like it was much easier for other people.”
After doing some research, “another Lutheran Brotherhood agent and I decided we’d go into business…” They started out in Spokane and the business grew to include locations in Seattle and Tacoma.
It was a good fit, Marv said. “I grew up on a farm, so of course, I was a little mechanically educated, and after being in the insurance business, I kind of liked to talk to customers … everything just seemed to click.” He added, “You know, sometimes, a guy is more lucky than he is smart. I think I was lucky.”
When he retired in 1988, Marv owned 12 Midas Muffler stores. “[The business] was quite successful,” he said.
In 2006, Marv established the Marius and Cora Newell Titterud Seminary Scholarship, which is administered by the ELCA’s Fund for Leaders. He said, “I thought it would be nice to honor my parents in this way,” adding, “It seemed to me there was a need to keep providing support for young people.”
“I’m not a Rockefeller or a Ford, but I [thought] I could do a little thing like this that would be helpful,” said Marv.
“I have three [scholarship] recipients that keep in contact with me and tell me how important it was to receive the scholarships. One of them is a lady pastor – about a year ago, she got her first call, and the other one got married and had babies [first] and now she works as a chaplain at a [Native American] school in North Dakota.” He added, “I’m sure those scholarships are a good investment.”
Marv lives with his wife, Dorothy, in Bellevue, Washington, “just two bridges” away from Seattle. They are active members of Holy Cross Lutheran Church there. With the help of a caregiver three days a week, Marv takes care of Dorothy, who is affected by some dementia.
“I’ve got my big 9-0 birthday coming up [in December],” Marv mentioned, adding he walks a mile every day with his dog, Doodles, along with working out three times a week with Dorothy and eating well. He credits regular exercise with keeping them healthy.
“[I’ve] had a nice life, and I just feel good about where I am,” said Marv.
Above all, Marv’s focus is on remembering his parent’s legacy and what’s important in life. “Even when your parents pass, you think about them a lot.” He said their example had inspired him to be philanthropic, explaining, “Just by them supporting the church – trying to do the best they could for helping [their] neighbors.”
“I couldn’t think of a better way of [honoring my parents] than helping the Fund for Leaders,” Marv said. “The way civilization is now we need all the positive steps we can make.”