5 highly esteemed qualities in a living 80-year-old example

Agweek publisher Katie Pinke writes how we could all use more of the traits that her father-in-law Eldon exudes.

Eldon Pinke, right, alongside his son Nathan, celebrates his 80th birthday this month. Katie Pinke shares five qualities that anyone can glean from Eldon's living example from his 60 years of construction work and family life.
Contributed / Two Pines Photography

An avid reader of this column turns 80 years old this week. He reads my rambles and the column name bears his surname, Pinke.

The patriarch of the Pinkes is my father-in-law, Eldon. My mother-in-law, Carol, makes us a Sunday supper at their house weekly, usually a German-Russian heritage family recipe.

The Pinke family gathers Sunday evenings for shared family suppers. Photo taken in August 2022 at Northwood, North Dakota.
Two Pines Photography / Contributed photo

At a recent family supper, I asked Eldon what he’d like to do for his 80th birthday this month. He said with a chuckle, “Make it there.”

Everyone needs an Eldon in their lives, a mentor who others follow and model their lives from his living example.

I’ll spare you (and him) a list of 80 reasons why we all need more of his qualities in the world. Here are five traits and attributes I appreciate and see passed down in my husband and now impacting our three children, ages 13, 15 and 25.


  1. Quiet presence. Eldon shows up and doesn’t miss our kids’ activities. I know work and small business commitments kept him away from his own kids’ activities at times in his younger years. In this season of life he doesn’t miss a game, concert or meet. You may not notice he's there but he always shows up and his presence gives value to his family. Eldon's quiet presence remains valuable to his construction customers he's been showing up for since the early 1960s.
  2. Loyalty. Later this spring, Eldon and Carol celebrate 58 years of marriage. When I met Eldon many years ago, I quickly learned there are three people he would do anything for, his wife, his daughter and his son. Then, came along my son, Hunter, and me. My husband Nathan adopted Hunter. Before that was affirmed legally, Eldon said at our groom’s dinner when Hunter was a young elementary-aged kid, “there’s our boy,” pointing to Hunter, not Nathan. Hunter and I became his family when Nathan and I married. I’ll never forget that little moment. I became intensely loyal to my father-in-law and so did my family.

    Eldon, Nathan and Hunter Pinke represent three, four and five generations of builders in the Pinke family. Hunter is an architecture graduate student at the University of Arizona. Nathan started a home building business and now owns and operates the lumberyard his dad, Eldon operated since the 1970s, after many years of being a carpenter. Both Eldon's grandpa and father were carpenters.
    Two Pines Photography/ Contributed photo

    I think many carpenters and other tradespeople who have worked with Eldon spanning decades in rural communities feel his same loyalty to their work and his partnership with them. Former Boy Scouts and North Dakota National Guard members still come up to Eldon at events we attend and share with him the impact he had on them decades ago through his service and leadership. The loyalty Eldon has to others is returned by many.

  3. Have a plan. Not everything needs to be analyzed and engineered in life, but in Eldon’s life, everything has a plan. Whether he’s building with Lincoln Logs or Legos with his grandchildren to planning a large scale custom home or farm shop, Eldon has a plan.

    Eldon’s plan might not be exactly what you were thinking, but guaranteed, his plan will work. He’ll say, “There’s more than one way to do this, but this will work.” As a family, we're more successful from Eldon's planning.

  4. The work speaks for itself. Eldon doesn’t do anything the easy way. He always works the right way. He also won’t share with you about his work, unless you ask him. But his work stands firm across hundreds of homes and farm buildings in rural North Dakota, and a few in South Dakota, Montana and into Minnesota. His work demands no shortcuts. The example set a standard in his carpentry, lumberyard owning and building work for the past 60 years.
  5. Love is a verb. The grandson of a German immigrant farmer and carpenter, a first-born son who grew into a third-generation carpenter, Eldon built up his way of life to advance and grow the next generation, his kids, and now his impact extends to his grandkids. Love permeates through his presence, plans and work. The honor is mine to be in the bleachers, at concerts or eating a shared family meal to witness Eldon love his grandchildren.

    Eldon represents a generation of loyal men who thankfully raised up a next generation to show and demonstrate their love through acts of service, hard work and once in a while sharing their words of affirmation that they are proud of you.

We won’t all make it to our 80th birthdays. You've made it, Eldon. Thank you. I’m taking lessons with me in my 40s from your 80 years of life well lived to impact my present day.

Pinke is the publisher and general manager of Agweek. She can be reached at, or connect with her on Twitter @katpinke.

Katie Pinke serves as Agweek and AgweekTV's publisher and general manager and since 2015 has written a weekly column. Pinke resides in rural North Dakota with her husband and children where she is a 4-H leader, active community volunteer, and a proud fifth-generation farmers' daughter.
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