After 65 years, John and Lucille Nechanicky still spark the twinkle in one another’s eyes
LONG AND WINDING ROAD — John and Lucille Nechanicky have enjoyed 65 years of mostly wedded bliss. They raised four children on the 40-acre piece of land near Ellendale and have 10 grandchildren and 14 great grandchildren. (Star Eagle photo by Kathy Paulsen)
They were sweethearts, she and John
In a time long past.
They were young and handsome
When they found love at last.
Each time she saw him coming
Her heart was all aglow.
She felt she couldn't love him more
How little does youth know.
Though sixty-five years have passed
And now their hair has turned to gray;
But when you see them coming
Their hearts glow in a different way.
Young love's a stream of dancing gaily,
A ripple of constant delight;
While old love's a deep, steady river
That flows with strength and might.
With the passing of youth and its pleasures
Many hearts feel love is done,
But old love brings a new beauty
That makes up for not being young.
By KATHY PAULSEN
My grandmother always said, "Nothing is so bad that it isn't good for something," and the love story of John and Lucille Nechanicky might never have happened if there hadn't been a war. When World War II loomed on the headlines President Roosevelt felt the National Guard would be needed to fight for the cause, but that left a void in the needs and security back home.
Ellsworth (Speed) Nelson came one day and suggested to John that he and four of his friends would be good volunteers to take part in a newly formed State Guard. The guard unit was patterned after the old National Guard and Ed Broulick, Otto Nielsen, Allen Burshem, John Nechanicky and Olaf Nelson all agreed to the job and went to take their physicals.
Due to health reasons at the time, Olaf wasn’t inducted, along with the rest of his friends. Ed, Otto, Allen and John were later inducted into weekly training at the Owatonna Armory. Harlan Buelow was one of the officers and became a good friend of all the men, but especially to John. When John was drafted into the Army, instead of joining “the guys” and “going out on the town” on Saturday nights, he stayed behind and wrote letters, among them letters to Harlan Buelow.
One wonders why — if it was lack of time, ability or laziness — but Harlan never answered back. He turned the job of answering John’s letters over to his oldest daughter, Lucille. John had met this beautiful blond girl in passing and he had just slightly sized her up when they first met.
For over two years, he and Lucille exchanged letters while he was in the service. When “Johnny came marching home,” this friendship and knowledge of each other as portrayed in their letters evolved into another three years of courtship and then, with no dramatic fanfare, John proposed.
The couple married May 5, 1947 at the St. Hyacyinth Church in Owatonna with family and friends attending. Lucille still has the white satin dress, hung respectfully on a hanger and as beautiful as the day it enhanced the beauty of this blond who enticed matrimony in the helms of dark-haired in-laws.
John and Lucille honeymooned in Chicago, going by plane, to John’s sister’s for a week or so and eventually settled on a 40-acre piece of land near Ellendale that had belonged to Leon Augst.
John and Lucille went on to have four children: Teresa, Marcie, Michael and Susan, 10 grandchildren and 14 great grandchildren. John and Lucille went on to say that one member of their family is a doctor, one is a lawyer, one is in real estate, and they also have a bill collector.
One of their daughters shared memories of her "growing up years" with her parents at the time of their 50th wedding anniversary: "We lived surrounded almost entirely by woods that continually needed to be cleaned. We lived in a simple, weather-beaten house, affectionately termed a shack on more than one occasion by our dad. In the beginning, it had no running water, no toilet, and no bathtub. We are not so old that we forgot the trips to the water pump, the baths by the wood stove and the pail under the sink. We can also recollect the curtain-drawn bathroom.
"We slept upstairs with beds in every corner and bats in the chimney. Wind howled through the walls and bales of straw helped insulate us in the winter. This was the beginning. This was our home. By today's standards, we might have been considered poor. By 1950s standards, we may also have been. But ours was not poor by any means. Outside, there was room for improvement. Inside, there was laughter, warmth and love. No amount of paint, brick and mortar can buy that.
"All the years that we lived in that tiny little farmhouse on those few acres, did any of us feel less than proud of who we were or who we could become? Actually, we felt more wealthy than most. Mom made our clothes and stocked the cupboards and freezer and we can never remember a time when our needs were not met. Notice that I didn't say our wants weren't met! We'll get to that in a minute."
She remembered her dad working hard at her Uncle Frank’s and the family saw little of him. John’s daughter goes on to say, "Dad was at Uncle Frank’s before we got up and usually didn't get home until after we were in bed, but he never represented fatherly abandonment to us, but dedication to providing for his family. This also meant that Dad had a strong family bond to his own roots and what better way to live than by example."
She also said, "This is where we got our roots: that love is not taught, it is felt. ‘We love you’ isn't just a phrase — it is what living a good life in respect and good intention means."
Lucille graduated from Owatonna High School in 1943 and worked for the A & P grocery store in Owatonna before she and John married. She later worked at Lerberg’s in Ellendale for a few years before working at the Ellendale School. Lucille spent 44 years cooking and preparing hot lunch meals "to die for" because she included ingredients like consideration, love and thoughtful advice, all on a warm shoulder that fed the emotional soul along with the empty stomach. Kids and adults knew they could depend on Lucille to fill their needs. Lucille retired as school cook in 2007, but she will never really retire from the kitchen. Lucille also had a great garden and her donuts at the Owatonna Fair were something to come for, and there's still a big void in that area she used to make them in.
She was very active in her church, a proficient cook and an understanding and faithful neighbor and friend.
John was not only a farmer, but he also worked as an auctioneer for 33 years. He was an effective city council member, a job he took seriously while enjoying Ellendale city living. He was an active volunteer and also took time to make an almost daily visit to Whispering Oak to visit, play cards and games with the residents. He was also a good storyteller, sort of a Bill Cosby character who could put meaning behind escapades that said more than any joke or story implied. John was also a great friend to many.
John will be remembered for his ability to teach so many their first driving lesson, for getting that last bid auctioneering a friend or neighbor’s sale or remembering some of the things well done and having a pocket full of fun and tricks that mystifies and glorifies all kids to this day.
John and Lucille farmed north and east of Ellendale until they retired and moved to Ellendale in 1994 and later moved to Owatonna in June of 2012.
For their 50th anniversary their family gave them a “gold mine,” a book filled with golden memories and stories that they and others had written of some of the things that had made them the sweethearts they have been over these past 65 years.
Theirs has been a love that only grew stronger and better through the years as they shared their love for living and their never-ending kindness to others.
They started with what most people would say was just a little and worked and weathered the things that not only made them strong but more capable and were good role models to their children and children's children, as well.
That doesn't mean it was always perfect. It means they were always willing to try, that hard work never bothered them, and everything they did for others was spontaneous. They are the neighbors everyone wished they had.
Their lives were not always about work and being orderly because they made work fun and blessed each day by being available to give it goodness.
Add up the things they did for others that ultimately pleased each other and it was outstanding.
They shared life with others, in laughter and dancing and tears of emotion.
John and Lucille’s stories are never ending. Side by side, hand in hand, friend and friend make two: forever and always.