Backenstoes celebrate 65th with tractors, family and friends
The house on the hill was beautifully decorated with natural flowers. A row of tractors indicated this was the home of Lester and Nancy Backenstoes, who were celebrating 65 years of married life on Aug. 24.
Nancy met her future husband at Bindnagles Lutheran Church, Palmyra, Lebanon County, when both were being confirmed. At the time he lived in Grantville. She lived at Hershey Farms.
The Backenstoes were married the year Nancy completed high school. Lester had just turned 21. His birthday is the day before their anniversary.
In 1967, they moved to Allentown due to Lester’s job with Bell Telephone. Two years later, they moved to Memorial Road and then bought the schoolhouse on Sawmill Road in 1988, which was attached to their Memorial Road property in Germansville.
Lester did all the renovations adding a balcony, garages and two bathrooms.
There was a big garden and 20 acres though Lester later leased another 80 acres.
Five children blessed the union: Karen, with husband Ed, Sharon with husband, Wyatt, Brent with wife, Amy, Wanda with husband, Christ, and David with wife, Renee.
The couple has seven grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
One grandchild lives nearby. Two great-grandchildren are in Italy where their father is in the Air Force. Nancy said they keep in touch with the Italian division of the family via Skype.
Two of the grandchildren drive eighteen-wheelers. When one great-grandchild was born, the Backenstoes spent three months in Alaska.
“They did very well,” Nancy explained. “They certainly take care of us.
“The children helped with the farm work. We raised cattle. We butchered.
“We taught the kids everything so if they had to live on their own, they would know how.
Nephew Norm with his wife, Sue Stein, came all the way from Virginia Beach to attend the anniversary celebration.
After a welcome hug, Nancy told him, “You love to surprise me!”
Three hundred invitations had been sent but no one knew how many attend.
In addition to the anniversary celebration, Lester was able to have the tractor show he had always wanted on the farm.
Roger Kuhns and Woody, David and George Backenstoes, cousins, came to help get the tractors ready.
Lester’s first tractor was one he made during World War II. At the time they were living on Lindberg Avenue, Allentown.
At that time, it was common practice to make a tractor from car parts, a model. His homemade tractor was used to ready the lawn for the church across the street from their home.
His vast collection of tractors, 75 more or less, began in 1988.
One tractor he pulled from a pond where it had been left to rust.
Everything he has is running and some of it is seen at various local festivals and shows. He knew most of what needed to be done only occasionally turning to manuals, Nancy explained.
“All those tractors, they are artwork, each is unique,” daughter Sharon explained. “They are not just a redo.
“If there were a Ph.D. for tractors my dad would get it.”
The Backenstoes children were told which one to get and what gear ratio to use. That is how they learned to drive a tractor.
David and Lester hitched tractors together and had private tractor pulls.
The kids all had motorcycles and, along with mom and dad, went riding during afternoons, frequently to the trails in Potter County.
“We worked in the morning and played in the afternoon,” Nancy said.
Wanda, who is a nurse, said they did the butchering in the schoolhouse. They also had a sawmill and would do custom cutting.
People brought in their logs and told us what wood they needed.
She said they raised the steers from birth so they had to get up early to care for them before work and school.
David said they were raised to be independent starting at an early age.
“Mom told me at 11 that the next year I would have to do stuff on my own such as laundry and cooking,” he said.
“David had a good sense of tools and bought some for his father who has lots in his garage,” Nancy said.
Karen said she was thankful to her parents for all their sacrifices, not only for herself and siblings but for people they did not even know.
“We worked together, we played together, we did everything together,” she said.