Married for 80 Years

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
    After 80 years, a central Illinois couple are still together.

    Elza Moses' two left feet landed him one devoted wife.

    Way back when, Aletha Freese offered to teach him a few steps. They never had to look for another partner for the dance floor.

    Elza, 101, and Aletha, 97, are still in each other's arms. They recently celebrated 80 years of matrimony. Take a look at photos of the couple here.

    Though they're still active -- both still work around their house and hold a driver's license -- the celebration was a low-key affair, though one jam-packed with memories.

    As far as long marriages go, 1930 was a good year for central Illinois couples. Earlier in September, Phines Murphy, 99, and wife Lela, 97, of Carthage celebrated their 80th anniversary. They wed Sept. 20 of that year.

    With both couples, this kind of marital longevity is a staggering achievement. There doesn't seem to be a definite source as to the longest marriages of all time. But Wikipedia lists only 113 unions worldwide that have lasted longer than 80 years.

    The longest cited on the site is for an upstate New York couple that supposedly lasted 91 years and 12 days, beginning in 1772. The longest verifiable marriage is for a Taiwanese twosome who lasted 86 years and 133 days, until the wife died in 2003.

    Elza and Aletha have a ways to go to reach that record. Still, they show few signs of slowing down.

    They both grew up in rural Nebraska, near the burg of Fullerton. He had seven sisters while she had three brothers; all have died.

    They first met at a dance in Fullerton about 1928. Aletha, a smooth dancer, was a friend of one of Elza's sisters. Aletha mentioned that Elza didn't move too well to the music. So the sister introduced the pair, and Aletha offered to show him a thing or two.

    They tried a few steps that night, then another night, then another. Eventually, they grew close during endless waltzes, two-steps and square-dances.

    Did Elza get better?

    "Eventually," Aletha says with a laugh.

    They wed Sept. 15, 1930. They worked the soil there until 1939, in the Dust Bowl era. Farming kin raved about land in north-central Illinois. So the Moseses packed up their car and relocated to rural Tiskilwa, an old ag town of several hundred residents near Princeton.

    They raised crops and livestock for a few years. During World War II, they moved to nearby Mendota while Elza worked for a defense plant there. After the war, they moved back to rural Tiskilwa to farm for the next 25 years, all the while raising five daughters.

    In 1970 at age 62, Elza retired from agriculture. Not that the pair stopped working. They both drove buses for the local schools for years.

    They still drive, usually just short jaunts like five miles to Princeton for groceries. They remain in good health, though Elza's hearing has faded and Aletha sometimes needs a walker for assistance.

    They don't get to dance much anymore. But they still take care of their house and lawn. She does all of the cooking, even cans fruits and vegetables. He works in his workshop everyday, building bird houses, napkin holders and other projects that adorn every relatives' home.

    That's a lot of homes. They have nine grandchildren, 31 great-grandchildren and 22 great-great grandchildren.

    Five years ago, the family held a blow-out celebration for the 75th anniversary. This year, they'll fold their party into another big familial event: Daughter Bonnie Halberg and her husband, Gary Halberg, will mark their 50th anniversary. They'll hold a dual party at the end of September at the Halberg home in Peoria.

    After so many anniversaries, the Moseses don't mind sharing the spotlight.

    "We've celebrated a lot," Aletha says with a chuckle. "It's our daughter's turn."