By Starrla Cray
DELANO, MN Ambrose and Leona Yantes of Delano celebrated their 72nd wedding anniversary May 2, and their love is still flourishing, as vibrant and strong as ever.
Ambrose is “quite a romantic guy,” according to Leona. He leaves her love notes everywhere in frying pans, burned into wood, and even on the roof of their garage.
The inspirational couple met when they were teenagers at a Delano Fourth of July Celebration.
“I was on the Ferris wheel,” Leona said. “When I got off, he asked if I’d walk around the park with him, and that was it. It was love at first sight.”
Seeing Leona and Ambrose together, it’s clear that the years haven’t dulled that love one bit.
“We’re happy,” Leona said simply. “I never envy anybody else.”
Ambrose and Leona constantly show kindness in little ways holding hands, laughing together, and surprising each other with homemade gifts.
“I make benches,” Ambrose said. “If she sees one she likes in a magazine, I’ll make it for her.”
Ambrose has also made more than 25 birdhouses for his wife, most of which are in the Yantes’ 220-foot flower garden.
Leona enjoys baking, and often makes pies, cakes, and cookies for her husband.
All of the love that the Yantes couple has for each other has spilled into other people’s lives, as well.
When their four children were in school, other students often came to the Yantes’ house for meals. That act of kindness was remembered decades later, at the Yantes’ 70th wedding anniversary.
“We had an open house with 300 people, and one of my children’s friends made a cake for everyone,” Leona said.
Giving generously is a natural part of life for the Yantes. Leona canned about 200 jars of jelly last fall, giving most of it to friends and family members. She also makes beautiful knitted purses, as well as adorable cloth dolls.
“She’s an artist she’s everything,” Ambrose said.
Ambrose has his share of talents as well, and is an accomplished carpenter, mechanic, electrician, and woodworker.
“Between the two of us, we can do anything,” Ambrose said.
The Yantes started their marriage during the Depression era, and Ambrose said they are used to making the most out of what they have.
“If you had 35 cents in your pocket, you were lucky,” he said.
Lack of money didn’t make their early years of marriage any less joyful, however.
They made each other handmade cards, and the tradition has continued to this day. Leona still has a card from 11 years ago that Ambrose made, which features a “bouquet” of real dandelions.
Music has also been a highlight for the Yantes. The couple often went out polka dancing three nights a week.
Through their polka group, the couple had the opportunity to travel to several US states, as well as various parts of Europe.
“Now, we dance around the table,” Leona added, laughing.
When asked what advice they have for younger couples, Leona said, “Love one another.”
The Yantes, who are a deeply religious couple, went to church in Long Lake the morning of their anniversary this year.
“The priest cried,” Leona said. “He said there are very few that you see who are married this long.”
After church, the couple went out to eat at D’s Grille in Osseo, which is one of their favorite restaurants. They’ve been going there, and to Red Lobster, for more than 50 years.
“Keeping busy” and “working together” are two of the ways the Yantes keep their marriage alive.
“Work together and play together that goes a long way,” Ambrose said.
Ambrose worked at various creameries for 43 years. When he retired in 1985, he and Leona created wooden crafts, which their family helped sell.
Leona and Ambrose have 10 grandchildren, 34 great-grandchildren, six great-great-grandchildren, and several other extended family members.
After five years of crafting, the Yantes spent the next 14 to 15 years keeping up cemeteries and mowing lawns. Ambrose had a paid position, and Leona volunteered her time.
The couple has been living in the same house for 66 years.
“It’s one of the first three houses in Delano,” Ambrose said, adding that it was built in the 1850s.
Leona said she remembers putting in a bathroom and running water.
“We’ve remodeled everything,” she said.
Throughout their lives, the Yantes have been quick to find the good in all situations.
“We’ve had so many miracles,” Leona said.
In 1987, for example, Leona happened to stumble on a cement block and injure her elbow.
When she went to the doctor, they discovered that she had ovarian cancer.
“If she wouldn’t have stumbled on that block, they wouldn’t have found it,” Ambrose said.
Thankfully, the cancer was caught early enough, and Leona is now cancer-free.
That was 23 years ago, and the couple is now enjoying good health.
“I don’t know what we did to deserve so many years together,” Leona said humbly.
With the amount of energy the Yantes have, it’s hard to believe it’s been 72 years since their wedding day.
“I haven’t slowed down yet,” Ambrose said with a smile.