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By Missy Klatt
WHEELER — On Wednesday, September 2nd, Eldie (Eldon) and Marilyn Stevens of Wheeler celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary.
Due to the Coronavirus, their original plans for a celebration got cancelled and they had a drive-by celebration instead.
Marilyn stated that it was a surprise and they didn’t know anything about the drive-by until it came out on Facebook. Eldon said they had 60 vehicles come thru the alley behind their Village of Wheeler home including firetrucks, an ambulance and two sheriff’s cars.
“One of our granddaughters was driving a big rescue truck but I didn’t realize it until after she had gone by,” said Marilyn.
Eldie who just turned 90 was born in Boyceville and raised just north of Wheeler. He said that they lived in the second home on his grandparent’s farm. Marilyn, just a youngster at 88, grew up in Army camps as her father was an Infantry Captain in the Army. They moved back to Menomonie in 1942 so they could be closer to family while her dad was overseas during World War II. Marilyn’s mother’s family were McIntryes from Wheeler. Marilyn’s dad who served alongside of General McArthur was unfortunately killed in 1945.
Marilyn’s misfortune about losing her dad became Eldie’s fortune as Marilyn’s family stayed in the area. When asked how they met, Marilyn deferred to Eldie to tell the story.
“I was driving a gas truck in the Wheeler Fourth of July parade in 1947. I had another guy riding with me and he said ‘who’s that pretty little girl?’ And I said that it was Marilyn Davis and he said I’m going to take her home he says. So there was a dance that night and I danced with her and I walked her up the street to her mother’s.” So clearly Eldie’s friend lost out.
Eldie and Marilyn went together for three years before they were married. Eldie modestly states that they have been together for 73 years. They were married at Peace Lutheran Church in Menomonie which at the time was Marilyn’s home church. She noted, though, that the reception and dance were held in Wheeler.
The Stevens were blessed with four children; David, Doug, Debbie and Tracy. David and his wife Carla live in Boyceville. Doug and wife Sandy recently moved to Cumberland. Debbie who was married to Jeff Mittlestadt also lives in Boyceville while youngest daughter, Tracy, and her husband Wesley Holtz live the farthest away in Stewart, MN. Adding to the family are ten grandchildren and thirteen great-grandchildren.
Eldie and Marilyn have lived in the same house in Wheeler for the past 62 years and the house has held many, many family gatherings at the holidays. They claim that there are wall-to-wall bodies in the house when the 40 or so family members gather.
Until recently, the Stevens hosted both Thanksgiving and Christmas but the last three years, grandson Brad has taken over hosting duties for Christmas. Eldie and Marilyn are downsizing and plan to move to Boyceville later this fall so someone else in the family may have to take on Thanksgiving. Marilyn demurs, “I don’t know yet”.
Besides raising a family, Marilyn was a waitress and then she worked at House Calls in Menomonie for thirty years. She tells the story of having fallen and broken her wrist while at work.
“I applied for workmen’s comp and the fella said I never had anyone 80 years old apply for workman’s comp.”
At which, Eldie chimed in with a correction stating that she was 83 when she applied for it. To which she amended her statement saying the guy said over 80. “It was time to quit,” Marilyn conceded.
“She works harder now than she did then,” remarked Eldie.
Eldie has been selling to farmers for over 50 years. Anything from barn cleaners to silos to Harvestores to his current job – yes at 90 Eldie is still working – selling barns and sheds. Eldie was a sales manager for Hedlund Manufacturing in the 50s and 60s, Brave Harvestore in the 70s and early 80s. He also owned a Harvestore business in Minnesota for a short time in the early 80s. When he sold that in 1985 he bought Kenny Dairy in Menomonie and sold dairy equipment.
Eldie’s hobby has been making wine in his basement. At one time, he made twenty different varieties. He always made the wine from fresh fruit that people had given him not any mixes. They had 500 bottles in their basement and gave away many of those to people that drove by during their celebration. He just loves making it stated Marilyn.
When asked what the key to a successful marriage is Marilyn quipped, “We didn’t have an unsuccessful one so I don’t know”.
She continued by saying we’re very polite and helpful to each other. They both concurred that they go their own ways and have different interests but still do some things together.
Over the years, Eldie was active in the Rod and Gun Club and Boy Scouts while Marilyn did Cub Scouts. Both have been very active in the church, Our Savior’s in Wheeler. Marilyn chuckles as she related the story that at one time they were losing members and she ended up being the president, vice president, secretary and treasurer of the women’s group at church.
“We love our family, that’s for sure,” Marilyn commented, referring to another reason for their successful marriage. “They’re all concerned and helpful towards us.” “The family has been the main effort for us,” stated Eldie
When asked if they had any advice for those just starting their married life, “just say yes” was Eldie’s quick response. Marilyn said pretty much what she said before about the success of their marriage.
When asked if they had any future plans besides moving to Boyceville, Eldie replied, “I don’t think so.” Marilyn commented that we’re really downsizing and there’s going to be a lot of things that we won’t be able to do any more, like his wine making. “I have a lot of hobbies and I don’t know what I’ll be able to take.” Marilyn has a large doll collection. She also does ceramics and she used to knit and she does a lot of reading.
When asked if they had any special memory of the past 70 years that they wanted to share. Eldie replied, “I don’t think so.” But, on further thought, he said they were fortunate to win a lot of trips when he worked for Harvestore. He won the trips for being one of the top salesmen in the nation. He went on to say that the trips were always in January. They went to Hawaii, Acapulco, New Orleans, Phoenix, Florida and the Grand Bahamas.
They also spent twenty-seven winters in Texas. Although they haven’t gone down for the last three winters.
The Stevens state that they have been very fortunate to be healthy over the years.
This truly remarkable, down-to-earth couple are an inspiration to many. And we wish them many more years of happiness together.