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Ptaks celebrate 60 years together

“We had talked about getting married, but didn’t want to burden each other until after the war.” Stella and Ed Ptak were raised around Dante, South Dakota, during the “Dirty Thirties.”

Ed was a country school teacher when he was drafted into the military. “When I was drafted, it was supposed to be for one year, but Uncle Sam forgot to tell me which year that was,” he said. While he was heading to Italy by way of Ireland and northern Africa, Stella was working on munitions in Iowa. Action was winding down in Europe and the outcome was evident. Ed received his very first furlough. It came with a string attached; he was being sent home with the anticipation of then going on to the Pacific Theater.

On that furlough, Stella and Ed were married. “We tied the knot before he was discharged,” said Stella, and Ed finished, “then the U.S. decided they didn’t need me anymore.”

He took over a local business. “It was a job and something to do,” he explained. They survived off of that while Ed went back to college for a refresher for his elementary teaching accreditation and to also earn a secondary certificate.

In 1962, Ed applied for a social studies teaching job in Philip, and he got it. The intent was to teach here for “just a couple-three years.” Their daughter, Barb, cried all the way to Philip. “One day at school here was all it took and she loved it.”

While Ed worked his way up to being the secondary principal and then superintendent of the Philip school and earning a master’s degree in history, Stella worked at the hospital as a nurse’s aide for over 30 years. “That was fun. Every day was different,” Stella remembers.

First, one of their three children wanted to stay in Philip until graduation, then the second, and then the youngest. The decision was actually quite easy. “I think everyone in Philip is quite friendly. Everyone will help you if you are in need of help. Somebody is always there,” said Stella. “Besides, going to work was easy. I go out the back door, run across a little ways, and I was at work.”

Stella and Ed stayed busy and were part of Philip’s “helping” community. Ed was on the Philip Ambulance Crew for many years.

Ed remembers that after the kids had graduated and he was ready to retire, Stella said, “Well, Dad, now we’re too old to move.” and so they stayed in Philip. Stella pointed out, “Now we move every year; quite a long haul, too.” They go to Texas each winter. Stella exclaimed, “There are a lot of nice people in Texas and here.” Ed said, “You find them everywhere.”

Ed noted, “At our age we don’t do much more that eat, play cards, go sight-seeing ... and dance.” Stella, “... every Saturday night.” Ed, “We don’t square dance, we round dance.” Their friends in Texas get together on St. Valentine’s Day (Sweetheart Day) and celebrate everyone’s anniversary.

Stella enjoys crossword puzzles, hunt-a-word puzzles, and crocheting. Ed enjoys crosswords, “Keeps my mind refreshed,” and gardening. They still drive around town.

Stella doesn’t know yet what they will be doing for their 70th anniversary, “We have to get to live that long first.” Ed remembers an adage that his father passed down, “Some people say that it is tough getting old; ‘Son, be glad you can get old.’” That wise man lived to be 102.

Stella and Ed have three children: Barb Joy in Pierre; John in Newcastle, WY; and Timothy Ray in Minot, ND. They have four grandchildren and one great-grandchild.