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Reunited after 50 years, Montevideo area sweethearts dating again

Beverly (Enger) Kissner, left, and Russell Hoff had dated for a few years after their high school graduations, and reunited after 50 years. Both had married, raised children, enjoyed careers and lost their spouses to cancer before circumstance brought them back together. (Tribune photo by Tom Cherveny)

REDWOOD FALLS -- Friendships are forever.

Theirs just happened to be interrupted by 50 years.

"We were both scared,'' said Russell Hoff of what it was like when the two old sweethearts reunited for their first date after all of those years.

They had lots of catching up to do. Both had married, raised children, made their careers, and lost their spouses to cancer before finding one another again.

Russell Allen Hoff and Beverly Joan (née Enger) Kissner are ages 75 and 72. They had first met on Jan. 25, 1957, at the Fiesta Ballroom in Montevideo. Russell drove her home to Echo that night.

They continued to date, but Uncle Sam called. Russell went off to Germany with the U.S. Army. They continued to write to one another. When he was home on leave in August of 1958, Russell made a point of taking Beverly to the car races in Montevideo and dances.

But his letters from Germany failed to convey something. Beverly said she thought they were "pen pals.'' Ronald Allen Kissner of Danube caught her eyes. They married on July 23, 1960.

It was just a few months after Russell had returned home from service.

Was he disappointed?

"Yes,'' said Russell.

He married Kay Beverly Erlandson of Dawson on Nov. 16, 1960. He farmed outside of Montevideo and they raised three daughters, while losing a son at age 8 to leukemia.

He lost his wife to cancer on Jan. 2, 2007.

Beverly enjoyed a 47½-year career with Tiffany Insurance in Redwood Falls, becoming a licensed agent at age 60. Her husband was a carpenter. They raised a son and daughter.

Her husband died of cancer on Nov. 16, 1999.

Beverly said she decided not to let sadness over the loss get the better of her. She went to single dances, visited with friends, and of course, devoted lots of time as a grandmother.

Beverly was at a dance in May in White, S.D., when an acquaintance introduced her to two women from Montevideo. She mentioned that she had once dated Russell Hoff. One of the women knew him and said she would say "hi'' to him for her.

She did, but got Beverly's last name wrong.

Russell didn't know her married name, but did some sleuthing and learned it and how to contact her. He called her on Sept. 4. They chatted for over an hour. He asked if she would go out with him. He expected her to hem and haw, but not so.

They met at Prairie's Edge Casino and Resort near Granite Falls, and soon made plans for a second date to go dancing at Glencoe.

They've been dating ever since. He keeps his home in rural Montevideo, and she keeps hers in Redwood Falls, but they get together often. They go to casinos, auctions, old-time music dances, and restaurants, and they love to spend time together at each other's home.

They make it to a few family events too. They celebrated Christmas three times over.

"Grandpa brought a new grandma home,'' one of Russell's grandchildren announced.

"Companionship'' is how the two describe their relationship.

After they were reunited, Beverly took from hiding a box she had kept secret since 1958. Russell had sent it to her from Germany. It held a red satin apron, a red satin pillow cover, and a scarf with a map of Germany.

She also pulled out her diaries from the years 1956 through 1960, and shared with Russell the many passages in them about their dates.

They like most the present, and how well they get along.

"We can tell each other anything. That's what I like,'' said Russell.

He said his son-in-law had told him: "Don't give up this time.''

Beverly said they have not had any disagreements. She appreciates having someone to confide in and to lend her moral support.

And yes, they certainly sound like a couple. "I'm a redhead and he thinks I have a temper,'' said Beverly. "Russell doesn't like to be told what to do either. So I give him options,'' she said. They both laughed in unison.

Tom Cherveny

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.

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