Dean and Ruth Shiflet reflect on 75 years of marriage

Dean and Ruth Shiflet

~by Luann Waldo, The Scranton Journal

“We’re just coasting now,” explains Dean Shiflet about his 75-year marriage and life with Ruth. The Kansas natives moved to Bagley in 1955 to build their lives around their family and farm. They haven’t regretted that decision.

Dean met Ruth after he graduated from high school in Udall, KS. He was taking his kid sister to school when he chanced to meet a pretty girl. Ruth only attended Udall during her junior and senior years of high school. They started dating and decided to get married.

Then came Pearl Harbor in December of 1941. Dean knew he would be drafted into the service soon so the young couple took two other couples with them to Oxford, KS, where they were married in the minister’s home on Jan. 3, 1942.

They began farming, raising wheat in Kansas. Dean was ordered to report to the Air Force in 1943. Ruth followed him from town to town, base to base as he was being trained. She would rent a small apartment and find whatever jobs were available in the area. When he had some time off, they were together.

One of the jobs she recalls fondly was a stint as a welder, earning her the Rosie the Riveter moniker. “I was making real good money then!” laughed Ruth.

Dean was a nose gunner on a B-24. His ten-man crew flew 40 missions out of Italy, working to end World War II in Europe by bombing targets as ordered. All ten of the crew members returned to the United States without any serious injuries.

For his service, Dean was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross as well as the Air Battle Medal with five oak leaf clusters.

“I’m the only one left out of the crew,” reminisced Dean.

While Dean was overseas, Ruth went back to Kansas, awaiting his return home which came in 1945. They went back to farming but wanted something more.

In 1955, they heard about a farm west of Bagley. They were offered the opportunity to move there and work the farm for the Kansas owners.

“We didn’t know a soul when we moved to Bagley,” recalled Dean.

“That first Sunday, we somehow found our clothes and went to church,” laughed Ruth. “The rest is history.”

The Shiflets quickly became ingrained in the Bagley community, joining organizations while raising their family.

“Things were so busy,” recalled Ruth.

They don’t remember all the organizations they were involved with but Dean was on the YJB school board for six years; American Legion and Bagley Lions. Ruth was active in the United Methodist Church along with the garden club and other clubs.

“That’s just part of it, being part of the community,” Ruth explained.

Dean joked he had to learn how to raise corn and soybeans on their 400-acre farm, being a Kansas farm boy. They raised a lot of cattle over the years. The Shiflets were seed corn growers for Farmers Hybrid, O’s Gold and Asgrow.

They purchased the farm in the late 1950s and lived there until moving into a condo in Perry in 1998. Dean retired from farming in 1992. They still own the farm ground but sold the acreage to Dan Chapman who farms 50/50 with the Shiflets.

The couple wintered for many years in Dustin, FL, in a condo on the beach. Now daughter and son-in-law go there.

Over the years, they’ve enjoyed many activities. They went to dances, walked, exercised and played tennis.

“I played a lot of tennis but I finally gave it up. I noticed the women I was playing with were always getting the tennis balls for me,” laughed Dean. “I decided it must be time for me to quit.”

Ruth enjoyed a variety of hobbies: painting, calligraphy and quilting. She still crochets every day, making numerous afghans. She’s currently working on a Hawkeye colored afghan.

One interesting hobby for Ruth was weaving baskets out of long-needled pine needles picked up in Dustin area. “It was a lot of work, washing them and getting them ready to use but I really enjoyed it.” She has made numerous baskets for all of the family and many friends. The Shiflets have a cabinet displaying many of her beautiful designs in their home.

Dean enjoyed an investment club many years ago. Paul McCool, now of Guthrie Center, was one of the instigators for about 10-20 men from the Bagley and Bayard areas during the 1960s. Every month, two members would research and make recommendations on a stock.

“I learned a lot through that club but we started at a poor time and quit at a poor time,” explained Dean. “I kept investing after the club folded.”

They celebrated their 75th wedding anniversary on January 3. Their family sponsored a card shower and they received bunches of cards.

“I quit counting after 106 but I know there are more,” related Ruth.

“We’re hanging on pretty good. I’m chief cook and bottle washer now. It’s a lot more work than I thought it was,” Dean noted. “The biggest problem is deciding what to cook.”

Dean is almost 96 years old and she is 95.

“We get along pretty good but our friends are all gone,” said Dean. “It gets kind of lonely thinking about that.”

Their family of three has grown to include three grandchildren and three great grandchildren. Their children are: Deanna and Ted Garwood of Boone; Ron and Nancy (Grassmeier) Shiflet, who live near Mesa, AZ, and Connie Culbertson of Perry.

The long-married couple doesn’t have special advice for newly-married couples. “You just struggle along, work together to resolve your differences,” explained Ruth.

“I like to make decisions quickly and do it,” said Dean. “She prefers to take her time. That kind of evens things out.”

Ruth agreed, “There were good times and bad times. It’s different than when we were living it.”

“We’ve had a good life,” added Dean. “We’ve traveled and we’ve got everything we want and need.”

They enjoy getting out when the weather is good, taking a short drive every day. They used to travel the country roads but decided it would be safer for them to stick to the main roads. Sometimes they’ll drive to Dawson or Minburn; just short jaunts to get some fresh air and see the country.

They’re in good health, although Ruth uses a walker and doesn’t always remember things as well as she used to. But she remembers and appreciates the important things, like the love and caring manner of her husband.

“I think we do pretty good,” Dean. “We’re very fortunate. We’re in good health. We’re comfortable.”

“Yes,” agreed Ruth. “We’ve had a good life.”

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