Joe and Helen Aberle Celebrate 75 Years of Life
Burke, Allan. "Joe and Helen Aberle Celebrate 75 Years of Life Together." Emmons County Record, June 2006.
Joe and Helen Aberle said
they have had a good 75 years of marriage because they work
things out as they happen. (Photo by Terry Schwartzenberger,
There were about 130 family members present Saturday evening, July
8, 2006, when Joe and Helen (Mitzel) Aberle of Napoleon celebrated
their 75th wedding anniversary at the Golden Age Hall in Napoleon.
The family gathered following a special Mass celebrated in their
Father Joe Goering of Fargo at St. Boniface Catholic Church, rural
Kintyre. They both grew up in the Kintyre area and attended St.
until they retired, moved to Napoleon and built a house in 1970.
Joe, 97, and Helen, 94, were married October 31, 1931, and they
celebrate in July to accommodate family members who had to travel
There was no significance in their having a Halloween wedding other
it was after harvest and fit into everyones schedule. Also, Halloween
not as much of an event in those days.
It helps us remember the date, Helen joked.
It was the custom at St. Boniface for the priest to announce an
marriage for three Sundays to give anyone an opportunity to object.
We paid $5 so that we didnt have to wait, Joe said.
They met when they were children attending summer religion school
Boniface and took a liking to each other.
I can remember Helen when she was four years old, Joe said.
Later, Joe would ride his horse over to the Mitzels, using the
he wanted to visit Helens brother, Pete.
Their wedding at St. Boniface was a small event nobody but immediate
family was invited. Peter Schumacher and Tony Werlinger stood up
There was no money it was the beginning of the Great Depression,
did not have a formal wedding picture taken. Three years later,
their picture taken at a carnival in Napoleon.
Joe and Helen Aberle couldn’t
afford a wedding picture in 1931, so they had this picture taken
at a carnival about three years later. They were married at
St. Boniface Catholic Church, rural Kintyre.
The couple bought a $10 wedding ring for Helen at the Napoleon
drug store. She wore it everyday until it became too loose after
she became ill three years ago.
Asked about being married three-quarters of a century, Joe quipped,
"It wasnt easy." That prompted Helens retort, "You
had your choice." They both laughed.
They agree the most difficult time of their marriage was trying
to survive on the farm raising a family during the Depression years
when there were no crops and low prices for what little could be
Their greatest joy has been their family. They have 10 children,
grandchildren, 48 great-grandchildren and two great-great-grandchildren.
The Aberles may have set a record. In 75 years, they have lost
only two family members: a child in infancy and one son-in-law,
and there are no divorces in the family.
Joe and Helen said their lives have taught them to take the good
bad, the bad with the good.
"My mother told me if I didnt like it, lump it," Helen
The Aberles said they have worked out differences when they have
"There is no other way," Helen said. "Otherwise,
you suffer for it."
In recent years, too, the Aberles have had their challenges. Helen
suffered two strokes in the past three years and now lives in the
Nursing Home while Joe lives in the family home. He does not wear
and drives, so he visits Helen everyday. He also takes her out whenever
that works out.
Their love for each other is evident in their smiles when they
together and the affection they exhibit.
Helen is one of the 10 children of Sebastian and Helen (Kraft)
she grew up on a farm near Kintyre. The Mitzels were both born in
United States, but their parents immigrated from Russia.
Helen's grandparents, Peter and Barbara Mitzel, farmed at Zeeland
donated the land for the St. Andrews Catholic Church Cemetery.
For a short time, Helen's family lived on the farm with Sebastian
and Helen before moving back to Kintyre.
Sebastian and Helen's children included Peter, Helen, Fred, Emma
Wolf of Linton, Frank, Claudius and Barbara (Mrs. Joe) Leier of
Kintyre. Helen, Emma and Barbara are the only surviving Mitzel children.
The Mitzels lost two children in infancy and a third, Irene, who
died at age 10.
Helen attended farm school Weigel District No. 1 with about 30 other
She left school after the third grade to stay home to help take
her brother, Frank, who had been paralyzed by polio.
She helped out in the house as well as with farm work. She shocked
milked 8-10 cows, helped put up hay and did other chores. Her brothers
the heavier farm work.
"I did more work after I was married than I did when I was
at home," Helen joked.
"We had only the bare necessities when I was growing up, but
everybody was poor, so we didnt know we were poor," Helen said.
"We were poor in money but not poor in love." During the
Depression years, that also proved to be the case with Joe and Helen's
"Sometimes when my mother went to the store, she would buy
a bag of candy for five cents," Helen recalled. "She would
make a little pile of candy for each of us kids, and we thought
we had the world."
Joe was born to Joseph and Clara (Schumacher) Aberle on a farm
County just three miles south of what is now Highway 13.
His grandparents were Sebastian and Marian (Black) Schumacher and
The family attended St. Aloysius Church where Joe was baptized.
"We moved to a farm in the Kintyre area (near St. Boniface)
when I was seven," Joe explained.
The family included Joe, Catherine (Philip) Fettig, Jacob, Peter,
(Balzer) Weigel, Regina (Leo) Weber, Thomas and Tony. Catherine,
Jacob are deceased.
Joe grew up helping his dad on the farm, and became very good at
handling horses that were used to pull farm equipment, from a two-bottom
plow to a rake.
Like Helen, he also milked his share of cows.
Their first year of married life was spent farming and living with
Helen's parents. Then, Joe's dad rented a small farm (two quarters)
for them about a mile and a half from St. Boniface.
They spent the next winter with the Mitzels and then rented a farm
McKenna Lake. In 1942, they bought their farm from Alois Weigel.
The Aberles farmed with horses, starting with three given to them
by Joe's dad.
"I borrowed $200 from the First National Bank in Napoleon
to buy a horse in the early 1930s," Joe said.
Joe used four horses to pull a two-bottom plow and could do five
acres in a day, so it took a long time to plow the farms 200 acres
All of the horses had names, and some of them Joe recalls were
Nellie, Peach, Shorty, Butte, Babe, Cap and Mollie.
Joes first tractor was an old Case. It had rubber tires and a crossways
During the drought years (1930-38), crops were scarce to none,
and prices were very low 11 cents a bushel for rye and 25 cents
for wheat. Pigs sold for 50 cents.
Joe would butcher a hog in the fall and carry it on his back for
and a half mile walk to Napoleon where he sold half to Louie Mitzel
half to Bill Draeger.
To bring in some money for the family, Joe worked about two years
federal Works Progress Administration (WPA), starting in 1935.
"We built roads by hand with shovels," Joe said.
He plowed up country road beds with two horses and worked on the
St. Boniface road. "Those drought days were hard times, but
we always had enough to eat," Joe said.
The Aberles remember the summer of 1934 when grasshoppers invaded,
the sky black and eating every plant and blade of grass that was
Large Army Worms swept through the area another summer, and they
There was little or no feed for livestock, so the government shipped
hay by rail from Minnesota, and farmers picked it up at the depot
The Aberles used some of Joe's WPA money to buy flour. Joe hauled
it to the mill in Burnstad, using a car and a trailer.
"We were happy to have enough flour to get through the winter,"
Helen said, "I could cook and make bread."
The handful of cows provided milk and butter for the family, and
beef and pork.
Chickens were a primary food source in the summer and fall, but
for the winter Helen preserved pork in brine, and they smoked salt
The Aberles had a dog that would catch chickens and hold them down
somebody got there.
"The dog was much better than using a leg catcher," Joe
Helen said she made soup out of the older hens for Sundays.
"The chicken soup cooked while we were at church," Helen
explained, "and I added the noodles when we got home."
The Aberles always had a big garden, so Helen canned vegetables.
canned sausage and beef.
A tradition in the Aberle family was for the kids to get the garden
before the 4th of July so that they could go to town to shoot off
fireworks and go to the carnival in Napoleon.
For years, Helen used a cookstove, and their was very little wood
area to burn in it. That meant the family had to gather cow chips
sacks. Fresh manure was packed down into what was called mischt,
was kept in layers of straw in a shed for use during the winter.
Helen said she was excited when they bought their first kerosene
Helen helped Joe, and later the boys, with farm work. She milked,
pigs, chickens and turkey and cut and raked hay.
During the good years, they raised rye, wheat, oats, barley and
"That was long before anybody raised sunflowers in this part
of the country," Joe said.
Joe and Helen have 10 children. They include Marie (widow of Mike
A.) Mitzel of Coalinga, Calif., Adeline (Bill) Glatt of Bismarck,
James (who died when he was three months old), Sebastian (Betty
Schatz) of Napoleon, LeRoy (Carmen Brandner) of Herreid, S.D., David
(Judy) of Mechanicsville, Iowa, Lawrence (Sue) of Edwardsville,
Ill., Steve (Pat) of Gerald, Mo., Joseph (Lorraine Vetter) of Wishek
and Helen (Markus) Franck of Kintyre.
Helen Aberle and eight of their children posed during their
75th wedding anniversary celebration in Napoleon on Saturday.
In the back row, left to right, are Sebastian, Joseph, Larry,
Steve, Helen Franck and LeRoy; front row, Adeline Glatt, Joe
and Helen and Marie Mitzel. David and his wife, Judy, were
unable to attend. (Photo by Terry Schwartzenberger, Napoleon
Reprinted with permission of the Emmons County Record.