Leonard Daleiden, 97, used to make his way from his third-floor room at the Villages of Lonsdale to the main level memory care unit to visit his 98-year-old wife, Lydia, who is experiencing dementia.
He would take her chocolates, hidden in the pockets of a towel that often hangs on his walker, and then just sit with her.
“He would acknowledge her immediately, and say, ‘Hello, Lydia. I’m here,’” said Joe Daleiden, their son, who owned Lonsdale Painting and Decorating in Northfield through 2005. “She would shake her head and possibly say something and that’s where it would end. At this point, there’s not even conversation … He’ll be sitting there, cross his hands over his belly and take a nap with her.”
The husband and wife — who marked 75 years of marriage on June 9 — will no longer live under the same roof. On June 8, the Daleiden matriarch was injured in a fall and has since been moved to a nursing home in New Prague.
On Sunday, the family went ahead with an anniversary party to celebrate the two Lonsdale residents that met one another as kids and their three-quarters-of-a-century marriage.
More than 80 years ago, Leonard Daleiden was in grade school at what’s now referred to as the 3-R Landmark School in Lonsdale with Lydia Landa, who was born in St. Paul.
After completing eighth grade, she worked as a housekeeper in the Twin Cities and Faribault. He carpooled with some friends to attend Faribault High School, he said, sometimes in his dad’s 1926 Chevrolet car, and worked at his father’s hardware store in downtown Lonsdale.
At one point, they reunited.
“She happened to come home,” the Lonsdale native said. “I asked her if she would like to go to the movies and she didn’t say yes. She had to ask her folks.”
They allowed it. During the few years after that, she was gone a lot, he said, working.
“After I got to drive the car, I started to go and follow her wherever she worked,” he said. “After about seven or eight years, we decided to get married.”
“I suppose that I was getting fond of her,” he said.
He bought a ring from his best friend. He said he didn’t have the money to pay for it, so he played in the local orchestra — on slide trombone to begin with, then trumpet and tuba — to pay it off. After about three years, he made up the about $80 for the ring.
As far as the proposal: “She probably asked me and I asked her,” he said. “When she got the ring, she already had the date.”
They married at the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Lonsdale on June 9, 1938 at about 9 a.m. Following the ceremony, they and about 60 guests had breakfast at the downtown hotel.
They left the next day for a trip with stops in Chicago, Milwaukee and a brief stop in Canada.
Around the time of the Great Depression, the 97-year-old said he also worked at a local creamery and for the city as the manager of the liquor store.
After he got married, he asked his dad for a raise. He was then paid about $80 per month.
He eventually took over Lonsdale Hardware. He owned it for about 27 years, starting in about 1950, he said. He retired in 1977.
He recalled how the store changed as the town changed.
“When I started in the hardware store, most of the guys who came in were grandpas, so I had to learn their names,” he said.
When he owned the store it was their sons that walked in.
“Some of them I knew,” he said. “Then, later on, the sons had sons and I didn’t know them.”
When he came home after work, his son said he would sit in the basement, while his wife was upstairs.
“When my father would work everyday, long, long days in the hardware store, because he was basically alone for many years, he would come home exhausted. Instead of dealing with people face to face, he wanted quiet time,” Joe Daleiden said. “And so, he would, at times have a TV down there or a radio and he would turn that on and all we’d know is dad’s downstairs and he would listen to music or just chill out.”
Starting out, they lived near the Lonsdale Feed Mill. They eventually moved to Main Street and then in the mid-90s to a rental complex in Northfield.
The couple gardened and traveled and ate simple Czech dishes. They had five children (two of whom have died) and have 13 grandchildren, 18 great-grandchildren and one great-great-grandchild, according to their son, Joe.
Joe said his mom practiced art and quilting. His dad played baseball and still watches the Minnesota Twins games religiously and, when the Twins aren’t playing, whatever’s on the MLB network.
For the past few years, the couple has lived at the Villages of Lonsdale. They started in an independent-living apartment and were put in separate rooms in October, when she fell and later had other health issues.
Now, the children are trying to get their father used to another change.
The son, Joe, said that he took his dad to the new facility in New Prague on Tuesday and his father brought the usual tucked-away treats.
“We got into her room and she was sleeping,” he said.