Marriage and Longevity (of the marriage!)

Although this article is not about stepfamilies per se, it is about marriage. When I completed this article for the Eau Claire Journal, I witnessed the work that marriage involves. It is not the “marriage” itself that holds two people together as I speak of in my conferences, it is the tenacious deliberateness of two committed people as husband and wife!


It’s Not Just About Toys and Antiques

 I fully intended to arrive at the Toy & Antique Museum near Chippewa Falls to do a story on a 25+ year treasured combination of amazing toys and artifacts. Because of health issues and “it’s just time” as Al and Irene Przybylski put it, they are selling their collectible toys and antique artifacts. I thought a museum article would help them advertise that they were downsizing and selling out, but we enjoyed a completely different interview.

I walked into the shop with Al and took a good long sniff. “I love musty smells”, I said. “Ha, you are just like my wife; she loves the smell of things too.” Irene soon joined us.  As we settled into our chat, the marital banter between Al and his wife Irene became engaging and I began to realize this couple had worked very hard at everything they did together. We were on our way to reminiscing about their kaleidoscope life and marriage of fifty-nine years they will celebrate July 25th.

It began in 1958 when they moved to the area. They were in their 20’s, young and poor, purchasing a dairy farm with old ramshackle buildings. “But everyone back then was poor; we were all on a level playing field.” Irene said. They had a barn fire, sold the cows, and ended their dairy farming. Al then went to work at Uniroyal at the same time they were beginning to build the campground next door.  By the age of 26, Irene had given birth to six children with no running water or toilet facility in the old farm house. Irene said she and the kids all gathered around in the bathroom the day this thing called a “toilet” was getting installed.

In 1972 they began selling motorhomes. Al worked sales for the company and he did so well, that the entire family went on earned bonus trips such as Hawaii, Italy, China, France…basically around the world.  They in turn went into their own RV business which is now owned by their son and is called Countryside RV outside of Tilden. Al and Irene agreed that life here in America was the best compared to life in foreign countries. They also owned a mini storage business.

They bought land in Donna, Texas, and developed an RV campground. This town is near the Mexican border, so they began to coordinate and offer Mexican tours for RV vacationers. Al said they’d have up to twenty-five RVs, take the tour convoy through site-seeing places in Mexico and then return to the campground. Al and Irene would always be the “tail gunners”, bringing up the rear to be sure everyone was in the group. All six children were young at this time, and for ten years they travelled back and forth during the winter months to operate and maintain their Texas business. When the kids got older and into their teens, Irene said the times and memories were good, but it was time to sell that business.

Then they bought three other farms and rented out the buildings and the land. Al said with a twinkle in his eye, “I don’t know how we did it, we didn’t have any money.” They also bought and managed home rental properties. One day Al said he wanted to build a new house (where they now live). Irene said it was very difficult to leave that old farmhouse which had a lot of character and memories of all their children being raised there.

Family includes twenty grandchildren and twenty-three great-grandchildren. As they both reflected, they thought they might have worked too hard, too much, and probably missed out on some things. Irene said the kids all worked at the O’Neil Campground and museum. Their children were raised with the concept that if they wanted spending money, they needed to work. Pride shown on both of their faces as they spoke of their kids.

When I asked what their most favorite memory was, they both responded, “the game farm”. They began to buy various animals and kept them near the O’Neil Campground. Groups, kids, and adults all enjoyed coming to view and pet the animals for free. The animals included elk, deer, buffalo, antelope, camels (two were named Bonnie and Clyde); however, pot-bellied pigs stole the show. There was a time when these little creatures were worth a lot of money. Al mentioned anywhere from $5000-$7000 per baby pot-bellied pure-bred piggy. They raised these cuties for fifteen years. Irene described how she would mid-wife the birthing moms and how one time even their ten year old son assisted. Interestingly, pot-bellied pigs can be house-broken because they only eliminate in one place, such as a litter tray.

Al said animals were wonderful, they loved you no matter what, never talked back, and were always happy to see you. Irene said the animals provided free “therapy” on many occasions. They also said the pot-bellied pigs were never a money-making goal, but a real labor of love. And that is exactly what I listened to for about an hour. A labor of love that encircled their marriage, their children, their adventures….their lives. I listened to a story about commitment, hard work, love, forgiveness, and plenty of fearlessness to living.

“The kids have told us recently, NO MORE PROJECTS!” Irene said. She and Al had a good laugh. The museum is located 4.5 miles north of Chippewa Falls next to O’Neil Creek Campground. You now have to call for an appointment to view the collection at 715-829-1104, because they are going to be enjoying time off and travelling. Call, visit, and buy that one piece or many pieces that you’ve been looking for.

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