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Hand in hand -- for 62 years

Wednesday, February 12, 2003

Hand in hand -- for 62 years
By Kathy Nelson, editor, Eden Prairie News

Abbie and Al Picha, members of Eden Prairie’s Class of 1930, have been sweethearts since high school. If Al Picha hadn’t been ready to catch Abbie Tuckey, the story of the longtime Eden Prairie couple might have gone a different direction. Last week, from his recliner, 92-year-old Al told the story of when the Pichas had the lead roles in the Eden Prairie class play, “The Arrival of Kitty.” In one of the scenes, his character was to give Abbie’s character some bad news, causing her to faint. He joked with Abbie that one of those times he just might not catch her. “I must have caught her,” Al quipped, “because we’ve been married for 62 years.”

Abbie, 91, smiled from her spot on the sofa.

Although several decades have passed since high school, they still remember the days of knowing everyone in your class, skating on a rink east of the school, and going to movies in Shakopee on a dime – literally.

Abbie said the two of them were friends through school. Al came to Eden Prairie schools starting in eighth grade. Abbie, whose family owned land that is now part of Olympic Hills Golf Course, started out at the Wolf School, the one-room school in southeastern Eden Prairie. The Consolidated School (now Administrative Services Center and Kindergarten Center) opened in 1924.

At first, the couple’s class had 32 people. By the time graduation came, the class of 1930 was down to 16.

Although the couple dated throughout high school and had an “understanding” with one another, it would be 10 years until their wedding day – June 29, 1940.

These were the times of the Great Depression, hard for established families to get by much less new couples to start out on a life together, Al explained.

He worked for a $1 a day, cutting a cord of wood that would sell for $6.25.

Of course, the hard work didn’t stop once the two of them married and bought a farm off Birch Island Road.

Al and Abbie, living in the same house for the past 62 years, told of how they raised two wonderful sons – Ken and Dwight – while also raising dairy cattle, fruit, vegetables, and chickens.

“At one time, we had five acres of raspberries,” Al said. “One day, we picked 100 cases in one day.”

The couple worked six days a week, resting on Sundays. That was the day for church and possibly a trip into Minneapolis for dinner.

Secrets to happiness

Growing up in simpler times might have worked to their advantage.

Coming from similar backgrounds, both from Presbyterian farm families, was another plus. And knowing each other through school also meant there weren’t any surprises.

Plenty of other ingredients are part of their life together – understanding, faithfulness, laughter, common sense, and of course love.

“Love. It couldn’t be anything else,” Al said matter-of-factly.

And, there was so much work to be done that there probably wasn’t time to fight with each other.

As Abbie explained, “it was a different world. They don’t even realize how hard it was.”

Nowadays, Al said couples can sometimes get into trouble by growing too independent of each other – with their own money and own careers.

Even though the Pichas may have lived through simpler times, that’s not to say they haven’t had plenty of experiences.

The two have stayed active, as charter members of the Eden Prairie Senior Center and members of the EP Historical Society. Abbie taught piano lessons from their home. Al served on the local planning and zoning commission for several years. When Abbie’s sister was alive, they would go visit her in San Diego to escape Minnesota winters.

Up until age 80, Al was doing some farming. His last crop was gourds, raised from seeds that came from France. Al sold those gourds at places like the Minneapolis Farmer’s Market.

Although Eden Prairie has grown up around their home, the Pichas still own five acres of land. Al was still mowing the lawn up until about a year ago, when his eyesight became too poor.

Valentine memories

What has Valentine’s Day typically been like for Al and Abbie?

In school, the two said it wasn’t much different than today – exchanging Valentines with classmates and having parties. As they got older, teenagers would gather at someone’s house or at church for a Valentine’s Day party.

Once married, one of the traditions was having Valentine’s cake. Abbie would pull out a heart-shaped pan and bake a special cake, “usually pink.”

Nowadays, the couple usually checks the mail for some Valentine’s Day cards. Al’s eyesight is bad these days, so the two of them don’t get out as much as they used to.

But, they can still celebrate Valentine’s Day. “I can still tell Abbie that I love her,” he said. And Abbie can still get out the heart-shaped pan.

Copyright 2003, Eden Prairie News

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