Seven decades later, love still fills home
When Thell Dean married Beaulah Yother in 1931, there was no Cinderella gown, no limousine and no "Macarena"-playing disc jockey But frills have never been a part of the Deans' married life, which will culminate Wednesday with their 70th anniversary. Although they don't have any big plans, the Deans expect family and friends to visit.
"We didn't have a big old wedding," Beaulah said as she, her husband and a few other family members reminisced at the chapel in the Eudora Nursing Center, 1415 Maple Street, where the couple live.
The Altus, Ark., wedding took place in a justice of the peace's house. His wife, wearing an apron, stood up as a witness.
When the Deans' daughter Lois Breithaupt asked her parents if they had a song at their wedding, Beaulah chuckled and said, "No, the justice of the peace didn't sing."
The Deans walked to their wedding ceremony, where the costuming was simple. Breithaupt keeps her father's striped tie and a piece of her mother's simple gingham wedding dress. Musing about 1930s fashion, Breithaupt recalled her parents referring to a picture of themselves as "Bonnie and Clyde."
Following the ceremony, the Deans had a shivery, an activity where family and friends beat pots and pans and tease the newlyweds on their wedding night.
The couple has their marriage license hanging on the wall of the room they share at the center. After almost 70 years, Beaulah said she couldn't imagine living any other way.
"They wouldn't stand for it; I don't think we would either," Breithaupt said of possibly living in separate rooms.
But their years of marriage are only part of their experiences together. Because Beulah's uncle and Thell's cousin were married, and because they lived near each other, the Deans knew each other long before marriage.
"We played together as kids in the yard," Beaulah, who remembers first seeing Thell cutting wood as a small child, said. "We was nothing new when we started going together."
Thell later took up woodcarving as a hobby after retiring from a variety of jobs. Wooden geese and birdhouses decorate the yard outside the Deans' window.
"I had a lot of jobs," he said. "I had to make a living for my wife and kids."
Thell started out as a coal miner and farmer in Arkansas. The war effort brought the family to Eudora in 1945 when Thell worked for Hercules, now Sunflower Army Ammunition Plant. A housing shortage forced the family to convert a chicken house into a home on a farm outside Eudora.
After layoffs at the plant, Thell started a construction business through which he built several area churches and houses, often enlisting help from his six children.
"I think we helped paint that," daughter Mary Sharp said of a Eudora house Thell built. "We painted many a barn."
Thell's jobs sometimes proved dangerous. Before he married, Thell was trapped in a coal mine for 16 hours. At Hercules, he left only 20 minutes before an explosion at the plant' roll house.
"They remember more about me than I do," he said of his family. "Some of that I'd like to forget. Lots of memories bring tears to your eyes."
Meanwhile, Beaulah was a homemaker caring for six children, gardening, canning and quilting.
"You provided for us; love and all of our needs," Sharp told her parents. "We were raised in a Christian home."
Looking back on 70 years, the Deans said they didn't view their lives or longevity as extraordinary.
"We've had our ups and downs, our good and bad; nothing much to grumble about," Beaulah said. "We had just as much as anybody else. We still do pretty good."