The first time Reuben Giebelhaus met the girl who was to be his future wife he accepted a dare from his cousin and asked her to a dinner being put on by the country church that they both attended.
He was an extremely shy teenager and it took a lot of nerve to pop the question, but, much to his surprise she accepted his invitation.
And so began their romance.
When Elsie moved to Edmonton to attend Alberta College and Reuben stayed on the farm near Holden, they continued to date, often communicating the old fashioned way through love letters.
Finally Reuben asked Elsie to be his wife, nervously awaiting her reply.
Much to his delight, she said yes.
Now, only a few days before their 70th wedding anniversary, as she serves coffee and some of her delicious homemade carrot cake in her homey kitchen Elsie remarked with a laugh that she was supposed to marry a doctor or a lawyer. She had suffered from rheumatic fever when she was younger and her folks were worried farm life would be too hard for her.
As fate would have it, she did not take their advice.
“She ended up marrying a farmer,” joked her husband.
The couple was married on Nov. 7, 1947 in a candlelight service. Even though it was the start of winter, it did not matter to the newlyweds. They were young and in love and ready to start their life together.
They moved onto the Giebelhaus family farm near Holden and got down to the business of farming.
“Dad had built a new house in Holden that year in preparation of me getting married and taking over the farm. Fortunately, he left a few cows to milk plus a flock of good laying hens so with a bit of cream to sell plus a few dozen eggs each week things went along fairly well. Dad also left a fair sized herd of his Angus cattle which we looked after on a share basis.”
As a new bride, Elsie faced her own challenges in the kitchen. She recalled making scrambled eggs in a double boiler the way she had learned in home economics.
Her husband came in to the kitchen looked at the concoction on the stove and remarked “that’s not the way mom did it.”
His younger brother, Earl who was staying with them at the time came into the kitchen later and looked at the eggs and said the same thing.
“I could have thrown up my hands right then and there,” she said.
As the years went by the couple worked and laughed and played together and in 1950 their first child, a girl they named Carolyn, was born.
In 1953 a baby boy named Glen arrived and in 1955 Rodney was born. Five years later Rowena was born and in 1964 Dale Edward made his appearance into the world. Now the family was complete.
Before their youngest two children were born, Reuben and Elsie and their three older children moved to Kelowna in the hopes of providing a better climate for their son Glen’s asthma. They were in Kelowna for about a year and Reuben recalls it as an experience with its own challenges.
“When I got my first paycheck in Kelowna I had a wife, three children and five dollars in my pocket. Now I look where I am today and shake my head in disbelief. Honesty and hard work never hurt anyone.”
The family moved back to the farm and remained there for 10 years.
In the spring of 1966 the Giebelhauses moved to Stony Plain where Reuben was employed as a parts man for a machinery dealership.
The dealership sold and bought Martin Farm Equipment in Edmonton and Reuben worked for that company for about a year and a half. To be closer to Reuben’s work, the family moved to Sherwood Park.
Another chapter in Reuben’s life saw him going back to help his brother Harold on his dairy farm in Holden. he came back to Edmonton in 1971 to begin a stint as a carpenter.
He worked on houses, apartments and warehouses and installed cabinets.
The family moved to Rimbey in 1974 when Reuben received an offer from his brother, Earl to work for an embryo transplant company he was a partner in.
“It took a lot of talking to convince Elsie to move to Rimbey,” he said. “Yet when I look back over the years, it’s the best move we ever made.”
Eventually, Reuben specialized in raising registered Simmental cattle, showing and selling breeding stock.
“They were a fair amount of hard work and long hours, but very rewarding. Elsie always said they were my first love and she was my second.”
He also helped start Tidewater Lumber and was involved in the company for three years.
“I’ve always liked playing with wood,” he said, a statement which certainly holds true today. Rueben built a brand new house for himself and his wife in Rimbey when he was 78 years old.
Now, 70 years after that fateful day in 1947 when a young man and woman named Reuben and Elsie solemnly exchanged wedding vows, the couple talks candidly about their life together.
“We are complete opposites,” said Elsie. “We argue, but we balance one another.”
While Reuben was busy making a living, Elsie provided a warm and loving home for her husband and her children and became an excellent homemaker. She also realized the importance of education and continued to encourage her children in that area.
The couple both came from large families. Reuben was the second oldest in a family of eight and Elsie had 10 siblings. Both were used to hard times and knew what it was like to live during wartime.
Both were used to working hard and, as it turned out, both of them loved music and have often sang duets together.
In 1995 they traveled with a twenty-five-voice choir to Europe for a 50-year V-Day celebration. On of the highlights of the trip was singing in an English speaking Anglican church in the heart of Rome.
It is true they have faced bad times along with the good times. Reuben has ended up in the hospital a few times, once because of a serious encounter with a bull and once when a 2 X 10 20 foot long piece of lumber hit him across the head.
Hardships and knocks in life help you appreciate the good, he said. “And with age, everything improves.”
The couple continues to enjoy entertaining and working in their yard. They have fruit trees in the back and Elsie especially loves the apple trees.
“I love sitting under my apple tree,” she said.
The couple, who now have 14 grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren, agree the journey they have embarked on together has been fun, challenging and a real adventure.
“If I had to live my life over again, I think I would make the same decisions,” said Reuben.
“It’s been very good,” said Elsie. “We have been blessed.”