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70 years on, Olivia couple's marriage is still going strong

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news Willmar, 56201
West Central Tribune
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Willmar Minnesota 2208 Trott Ave. SW / P.O. Box 839 56201

OLIVIA -- It was many years ago when Leone Wittman first danced with Earl, but she remembers it like was yesterday.

It was at a one-room school house north of Olivia, and a band was playing a tune for the school dance.

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A young man came in from a neighboring school wearing a red sweater, and she thought, "Oh, here's another one." But he asked her to dance, and the rest is history.

The couple celebrates their 70th anniversary today.

They've both spent their entire lives in Olivia, living a quiet life on the prairie through the tumult of a great depression, a world war, and the dawn of an information age.

The secret to their lastingness, they say, has been to keep on dancing, and to stop small arguments before they turn into big ones.

"If you get in an argument, somebody has to give in, because life is too short," said Earl.

The two lived at their home in Olivia for much of their lives, raising four children and selling fruit and vegetables under the name Wittman's Produce for many years.

Their produce business fell on hard times, so Leone later took a job at Lietzke's Bakery, and Earl with the city sanitation department. He settled into a long retirement in the early 80's.

Their daughter, Joan Schultz, now 69, said she didn't know exactly what led to her parents' longevity, but that growing up in the depression and the frugal lifestyle that ingrained in them was likely a contributing factor.

"They worked hard their whole life," she said. "They would go out dancing now and then, have a few drinks, but never to excess."

In 2005, after suffering two strokes, Leone moved to the Golden Livingcenter, a nursing home in Olivia. Throughout that time, Earl was visiting three times a day. He moved in permanently 5 weeks ago, after a bout with pneumonia and congestive heart failure.

They both said they never imagined making it this long, but last year, celebrating their 69th anniversary, it seemed only natural to go for another one.

"I said we might just as well shoot for it," said Leone.

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