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Lengthyweds: Couples celebrate combined 130 years of marriage

WORTHINGTON -- Both relationships started with drive-by courtships.

Bob Jans was driving down the street when he first spied wife-to-be Eleanore, who was walking with a friend.

Dorothy Hay was sitting on the church steps with a friend when her future husband, Lowell, happened by in an automobile.

Those incidents occurred more than 70 years ago and resulted in marriages that have lasted 65 years.

Bob and Eleanore Jans celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary Sept. 28. Lowell and Dorothy Hay are anticipating their 65-year milestone on Oct. 15. Both couples currently reside at Golden Horizons in Worthington.

"I was out walking with my friend on Second Avenue (in Worthington)," recalled Eleanore about how she and Bob met. "He drove by, and he knew her and stopped. That's all it took. ... We dated for five years before we got married, and we didn't even know then if we had enough money."

St. Stephens Church in Canby -- that's where Dorothy was sitting when Lowell, who lived in nearby Taunton, went driving by. He remembered the young girl -- Dorothy was 15 at the time and he was 17-- from when he briefly attended high school in Canby, so he stopped to remake her acquaintance.

"I was looking," he admitted about the encounter. "I talked to her for a little while, she got in the car, and we took off. We courted for six years, then we finally decided to get married."

As in any marriage, the two couples have had their ups and downs, hardships and joys, but they all say that time has flown. Can it really be 65 years since they said "I do?"

"The older you get, the faster it goes," reflected Lowell.

Bob and Eleanore farmed for 30 years, 2 1/2 miles south of Brewster. They had four daughters, although two have died -- one in a car accident and one from cancer -- and boast of nine grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

When they were first married, Eleanore owned and operated a root beer stand in Worthington called the Dew Drop Inn, which she gave up for farm life. They worked side by side, and when Bob suffered a debilitating back injury and had to stay in bed for a year, she ran the farm with the help of their daughters and other family members.

But it's a more comical incident that Eleanore recalls from their married life together.

"Bob was taking me to ladies aid, and we were about a mile and a half from home when I saw a mouse on the floor," she remembered. "I climbed up on the back of the seat, and he said, 'Are you crazy, lady?' I said, 'Bob, there's a mouse.' So, he stopped the car and started to look for it, but he couldn't find it. He finally found it under the hood, in the motor. That's when we'd been married a few years."

After they retired from the farm, Bob and Eleanore served as managers of the Atrium High-Rise in Worthington, which was then a facility solely for seniors. Looking back, Eleanore remembers those 17 years at the Atrium as some of the best years of their life together.

They later moved to their own house and now have been residents of Golden Horizons for more than two years. They stay active as members of First Covenant Church and with other volunteer duties, such as making small gifts for the students at Sunny Days Preschool, which is housed in their church.

"We play Skip-Bo every night after supper -- one game," detailed Eleanor about their routine.

"Then we take our pills," added Bob.

The Hays lived in Ortonville for 60 years, where they owned and operated a beer distributorship. They had one daughter, Mag McCuen of Worthington -- the reason they moved here from Ortonville-- and one granddaughter.

"We had a real lively life," said Lowell. "We traveled a lot, partied a lot -- you name it, we did it. ... I made up my mind that we were going to see other parts of the world while we were young enough to do it. Now, we're so content, we sit all day and sleep. ... Now we're content to sit and watch the world go by."

Early on in their marriage, Dorothy asked one thing of her young husband, and he's done his best to fulfill her request for all those 65 years.

"She said when we first got married, 'If you can make me happy and make me laugh, we'll have a good life,' and I've worked hard at that," Lowell said.

One thing that the Hays particularly enjoyed in the earlier years of their marriage is something they can't do any longer. Due to arthritis, Dorothy is confined to a wheelchair.

"Dancing -- we never missed a dance within 60 miles," recalled Dorothy.

"We can still go out, have a few nips, have a steak," added Lowell. "We still enjoy doing that."

After the onset of Dorothy's disability quite a number of years ago, Lowell took on many of the household tasks such as cooking and cleaning. Moving to Golden Horizons has eliminated some of those chores.

Health problems have undoubtedly slowed both couples down. Dorothy has also been diagnosed with dementia, and Lowell has battled prostate cancer. Eleanore has undergone back, heart and hip surgeries and also has arthritis. She gets around with the help of a walker. Heart problems have plagued Bob, and he recently had a large section of skin cancer removed from his skull.

"I know what I can do and can't do," reported Eleanore.

"You get a sudden report when you do something you shouldn't" added Lowell. "But we still have our humor."

So what's the secret to maintaining a healthy marriage for 65 years?

"Stay with the same guy," was Dorothy's humorous quip in response to that question.

"It must be the good cooking," answered Bob.

"The biggest secret is communication," said Lowell more seriously. "Nothing beats that -- no secrets."

"That's right," concurred Eleanore. "We talk everything out."

"Our marriage was good," stated Lowell. "We never argued. We did have loud debates, but we never argued."

"You're sure about that?" retorted Dorothy, a big smile on her face.

Beth Rickers

Beth Rickers is the veteran in the newspaper staff with 25 years as the Daily Globe's Features Editor. Interests include cooking, traveling and beer tasting and making with her home-brewing husband, Bryan. She writes an Area Voices blog called Lagniappe, which is a Creole term that means "a little something extra." It can be found at  

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