A couple of years ago, when the Live Better, Live Longer (LBLL) movement was just getting started in Morrison County, I went looking for someone who could exemplify the organization’s goals.
I found Arnold and Margaret Duevel, then 93, but they were too busy at the time. Last week, however, Margaret called me and so we got together to discuss their fascinating lives and see if they had any tips on living better and living longer.
Now 95, Arnold and Margaret still live independently in their own home just north of the Royalton School.
Arnold was born in Melrose, but grew up on the family farm near Flensburg. Margaret grew up three miles away in Culdrum Township, but they never met until around age 20 at a party in Little Falls.
Arnold went to District 31 country school, and completed the eighth grade exam after seventh grade. With the Great Depression under way, he went to work helping area farmers for 50 cents a day. He also helped his dad, Henry Duevel, who did carpentry on the side.
Meanwhile, Margaret went to school in District 60 and then graduated from Swanville High School. At about that time, her father, Carl Lindborg, died of cancer at age 50, so she stayed home to help her mother for a couple of years before going to Minneapolis where she attended Minneapolis Business School for a year.
After they met, their romance blossomed, but Arnold had moved to Duluth to work at the steel mill in Morgan Park, heaving 300-pound bundles around until he was called to active duty with the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II. He served three and a half years, the first two in Florida, and then in England, as a crew chief repairing and maintaining B-26 bombers with the 391st Bombardment Group. While he was gone, Arnold and Margaret wrote to each other every day.
Margaret stayed in Little Falls, got a job at the courthouse, and served as deputy treasurer until they married May 6, 1946, six months after Arnold was discharged.
Although marrying at age 28 doesn’t seem “old” by today’s standards, the Duevels wondered if they were too old to have children. Turns out, they had seven in 10 years: Christine (Baron), who lives in Williamsburg, Va.; Edward of Little Falls; John of Willmar; Leonard of Stavanger, Norway, Mike of Royalton; Mary (Banoub) of Broken Arrow, Okla., and Elaine (Kramer) of Corcoran. They have also been blessed with 23 grandchildren and “over 30” great-grandchildren.
After marrying, they lived in Duluth, where Arnold went back to the steel mill and Margaret worked at the Morgan Park State Bank. Their first three children were born there, but then they bought a farm near Royalton, in Langola Township, Benton County.
They were hailed out their first year, but survived by living on what the farm produced. Arnold also went back to carpentry, which he worked at until last year. A master woodworker, he estimates he built 40 or 50 homes in the area, including the one they live in.
Margaret went back to the courthouse in 1970 working in the register of deeds (now County Recorder’s) office, and then for Larson Abstract.
Asked how they made their marriage work for 67 years, Margaret said, “The thing is we respect one another, and we respect one another’s opinions.”
That includes religion. They both go to church regularly, but attend different churches. Arnold attends Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Royalton while Margaret goes to Graham United Methodist Church east of Rice, and previously was the church organist at Grace Episcopal Church in Royalton for 30 years.
As to their longevity, it has included overcoming ailments through the years. Arnold had typhoid fever as a child, rheumatic fever when their children were small and suffered a stroke last year. He now uses a cane.
Margaret has lived with diabetes for the past 37 years, taking insulin twice a day. She’s also a breast cancer survivor and has had both hips and one knee replaced. “I attribute it to willpower and doing as the doctor tells you,” Margaret said. “In recovering, you have to do exercises, and it’s very important to do them.”
Arnold received plenty of physical exercise working in the steel mill, farming and working as a carpenter. Margaret said she also had a physically active life on the farm and with raising seven children.
Educating their children was important to them, and most of their children went to college.
Another key for the Duevels was that they believed in giving back to their community. Arnold organized the Morrison County Horseshoe League in 1958. He was a township supervisor for many years. They both served as leaders of the Loyal Royals 4-H Club. Arnold served a couple of terms as commander of the Royalton American Legion and Margaret was president of the Legion Auxiliary.
Arnold also earned his pilot’s license to fulfill his passion for flying. In her free time, Margaret likes knitting, crocheting and photography.
In their later years, they spent 24 winters in Texas and have traveled the United States in their camper.
Arnold said his philosophy of life is, “Have an objective every day; accomplish something every day.”
None of us is guaranteed 95 years, but Arnold and Margaret Duevel offer a great example of how to do it. Staying physically active, believing in a higher power and giving back to one’s community are three LBLL principles that they followed long before the LBLL even existed.
Tom West is the editor and general manager of the Record. Reach him at (320) 632-2345 or by email at [email protected].