Craig couple celebrates 70 years of marriage
A lifetime of love equals an eternity of happiness, and that’s the life that Lorence and Raeola Ellgen have lived the past seven decades.
The Craig couple celebrated 70 years of marriage on March 5, and tears of joy filled their eyes when they sat down with the Craig Daily Press to tell their love story.
The devoted couple met at the local Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and their dedicated faith will forever keep them married — even after they leave this colorful earth.
Lorence, 90, and Raeola, 89, have somewhat different memories of how their loved evolved before they said “I do,” but each of their stories are special in their own right.
“I think where I fell in love with you was at the bee tree,” Lorence said to Raeola the day of their 70th anniversary surrounded by family. “That Sunday afternoon I took you out to a wild bee tree.”
The couple recollected events of the past in front of their family, and their oldest daughter Lorna Pearce smiled as her parents spoke of their love.
“Did you get the honey, Dad, or did you get this honey?” Lorna said, pointing to her mom with adoration.
One thing is clear, Lorence got a lifetime of sweetness by marrying Raeola.
Lorence’s roots run deep in Moffat County. His family has a homestead in the Roundbottom area at the end of Moffat County Road 30 where he was born on April 13, 1924 to Herman and Elizabeth Culverwell Ellgen.
Raeola was born July 10, 1925 in Richfield, Utah, to Luray and Eva Pace, who relocated to Craig during her teen years. She graduated from Moffat County High School in 1943.
The lovebirds dated for two years before they were married on March 5, 1945 in the Salt Lake City LDS Temple. Six days after they wed, Lorence joined the Army and was shipped off to Korea for 18 months.
Raeola was heartbroken to see her husband go.
“I cried and cried and cried,” she said.
To ease the pain and loneliness, the couple wrote love letters back and forth during his deployment.
“We wrote letters every day, and we still have them. I wrote to him more often than he wrote to me,” Raeola joked.
Those letters are locked away in a safe place, and the couple prefers that the written correspondence stay sacred and hidden from the eyes of others.
Luckily, Lorence’s time in Korea was before battle broke out.
“They hadn’t chartered the war yet,” Lorence said, noting that he enjoyed his time abroad, running tractor dozers. And when he had time, he sent sweet, affectionate notes to his wife.
When Lorence returned to the United States, he started working on the family ranch in Moffat County, which is when the couple started having children. They had nine kids, all of whom grew up in Craig.
“Thinking back to when I was a kid, Dad spent a lot of time on the ranch… Mother would fix him a picnic breakfast that we’d take to him,” said their son David Ellgen.
In 1953, they bought a house at Sixth and Barclay streets so their kids could attend school in town. They lived in that house for 50 years before they relocated to a home near Moffat County High School.
The husband and wife have been very hard workers all of their lives, Lorna said.
Raeola was always awake before anyone else in the family and always was the last to go to bed, their oldest son, Gary Ellgen, outlined as a testament to how hard she worked to keep on eye on her loved ones.
“They’re very dedicated to their church and helping others,” Lorna added.
Lorence and Raeola now have 36 grandchildren and 54 great-grandchildren. Their granddaughter Jennifer Ball sat with them on their anniversary, reminiscing all the wonderful gifts her grandparents have blessed her with over the years.
“They’ve been a wonderful example of dedication, love and commitment,” she said.
Raeola made a quilt for each of her grandchildren when they graduated high school, Jennifer said, adding that she couldn’t wait to graduate so that she would get a quilt. She also finds it fascinating that they’ve been married 70 years.
“I just turned 35. They’ve been married twice as long as I’ve been alive,” Jennifer said. She proceeded to outline all the wonderful attributes that her grandparents have taught her, including learning how to cook, throw great parties and how to show unconditional love.
Their love has seen many hardships too. The couple lost their daughter, Beth Ann, to a car accident in 1971.
And, despite their dedication to their marriage, Lorence and Raeola currently don’t live under the same roof.
About a year ago, Raeola fell, and she now resides at Sandrock Ridge Care & Rehab. Lorence lives in the couple’s home near the high school, and to help with the transition, the couple’s daughters Barbara and Lorna, have given their time and love to help their parents.
“It’s worth it,” Lorna said.
The couple put everything they had into raising their kids. Each year, the family comes together for a reunion, and this year, friends and family will gather to celebrate their 70th at an open house in June.
“There’s not a lot of couples anymore that can say they’ve been married for 70 years,” David said.
Contact Noelle Leavitt Riley at 970-875-1790, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @noelleleavitt.
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Next week, Colorado Northwestern Community College and Moffat County are hosting a free day-long seminar for local ranchers and agriculture producers.