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Reeses celebrate 75 years of togetherness

Kenneth and Dorothy Reese are pictured in their Hastings living room. The couple has been married for 75 years, and credits doing things together as a big reason why they've been so happy for so long. Star Gazette photo by Chad Richardson

Errands had to be run, so Kenneth and Dorothy Reese left their nice home on Eighth Street in Hastings, drove out Highway 55 and walked into Walmart.

The day was like many others. They walked hand-in-hand as they approached the store and were eventually stopped by a kind woman.

"It's so nice to see a couple like you guys holding hands," the kind woman said.

Ask the Reeses, and they'll tell you it's that kind of little stuff that makes marriage work for them.

It's a recipe that has held up well over the years. All 75 of them.

Long, long ago in a small, Baptist church in Woodville, Wis., Kenneth and Dorothy were married. There were no flowers. No photographer. Just a simple wedding. It was Oct. 19, 1935.

"We had a simple wedding, but it lasted," Dorothy said Tuesday.

Whether it is doing dishes, doing laundry, or running errands at Walmart, you will likely see the couple together.

"Where you see one of us, you see the other," Dorothy said. "We try to do things together."

The Reeses have traveled to Australia twice, Europe twice and even visited Ecuador.

"We have just gotten along so good," Dorothy said. "He has spoiled me rotten."

As the Reeses prepare to celebrate next week, their family members are hard at work, readying for a big party on Oct. 24 to celebrate the anniversary.


Kenneth Reese and his family moved around a lot when he was a young boy. His father, employed by the railroad, moved the family from Hammond to Elk Mound and then, Woodville.

The move to Woodville turned out to be a good one. It was in high school at Woodville where Kenneth and Dorothy met, but there was one problem. Dorothy had a boyfriend.

That was no problem for Kenneth, though. He had religion on his side.

Dorothy's old boyfriend was Catholic. Kenneth, like Dorothy, was a Protestant. She liked that about him.

It also didn't hurt that he quickly developed a reputation at his new school for being an all-around good guy, Dorothy said.

"He was just so friendly," Dorothy said. "He was so kind. There was something different about him."

"It must have been my good looks," Kenneth joked.

During his sophomore year, Kenneth dropped out of school and got to work to help his family through the Depression. Not long after, Dorothy dropped out, too, to help her family on the farm.

Just a few years later, the two decided they were ready for marriage, but before they could make any real progress on that front, Kenneth's father had to sign off on the marriage - literally. Since he was under 21 he needed his parent's permission to marry. They granted him the permission. That was when Dorothy and her father had one of many conversations about marriage.

"Has he got a nickel in his pocket?" he asked her

"I don't know," she replied.

The two talked then about finances, and he left her with some important advice.

"Don't go into debt," he told her. "If you can't pay for it, leave it."

She listened, and so has Kenneth.

"We've been married 75 years and we haven't had to borrow a nickel, and we don't have any debts today," she said.


Kenneth was born in 1915 and is now 95 years old.

Dorothy was born in 1916 and is 94.

The two moved to Hastings in 1936. Dorothy's brother and sister-in-law, Ken and Bernadine Trapp, had just given birth to twins and the Reeses helped the Trapps raise their seven children.

Kenneth worked at the Lund ski factory here and was eventually drafted in 1943.

He was stationed briefly in Tacoma, Wash., and encouraged Dorothy to come out and visit him. She asked her father, who told her it was simply too far away. Soon, Kenneth asked again. Dorothy again told Kenneth that, no, she wouldn't be able to come as it was too far away.

"You're not married to your father," Kenneth told her. "You're married to me."

Soon Dorothy had a rail ticket and was arriving in Tacoma. When Kenneth went to sea, she stayed in Tacoma, rented a small room and worked.

He served with the Navy for two years, spending much of his time aboard the U.S.S. Alpine near the Philippines.

In 1944, as the Alpine was unloading troops in the Leyte Gulf, it was attacked by Kamikaze fighters, one of which crashed into the Alpine. Five of his fellow seamen were killed and 12 injured.

Through his time aboard the Alpine, he did his best to stay in touch with Dorothy back in Tacoma, but it wasn't easy. Letters for Dorothy stopped arriving, and she was getting concerned that he had forgotten about her. She wrote several to him before receiving a reply.

"Remember," he wrote. "There's no post office out at sea."

"I never gave that any thought," she said with a laugh.

In the late 1940s, the Reeses returned to Hastings.

Kenneth got to work at O' Connor and Kranz plumbing and heating, where he worked for 32 years.

Dorothy worked retail, from Olson's variety store to Meyer Co. to the fabric stores operated by Bert Goderstad. She also taught Sunday school for 25 years, first teaching at First Baptist and then at Calvary Baptist.

Faith is an important part of their relationship, too, they say.

Kenneth and Dorothy are in great health, still living in their own in their home on Eighth Street. The same children who they helped raise 60 years ago are now watching over them in Hastings.

"We have helped them, but they are just a blessing to us in our old age," Dorothy said. "They are there to help us, and to inspire us. We are so thankful we are in our own home yet."