Tuesday, January 23, 2018
News Roundup

After 70 years of marriage, couple still believes in love

BRANDON — Near the end of summer 1941, Ted Keiser met a gal who could dance the big apple.

A stunner in red lipstick and high heels, she didn't miss a step to the popular wartime swing dance. In that moment, Ted was glad his brother had brought him along to meet his girlfriend's little sister.

The quick-witted blond flirted openly, accompanying Ted to a nightspot in Ludington, Mich., where a brass band played and she coyly kissed his cheek. As he watched her hips swing, she decided to make him her husband, and church bells rang just three months after their first date.

"I didn't try to resist her very much," Ted Keiser, 93, says, playfully engaging his wife, Ann, 89, who sits across from him at their Brandon home.

"Well, in those days you couldn't have a long engagement," she says. "It was 'Goodbye, dear. I'll be back in a year.' We got married and he was sent right off to military training."

For the Keisers, reminiscing is a lot like putting together a puzzle. They go back and forth sharing whatever bits and pieces they can recall. His days as an Army pilot. Her becoming a mother.

After 70 years of marriage, dates and times get mixed up, but they still remember the love, the intangibles that held them together through tough times. Starting over after the second world war. Disagreements about finances.

Just last year, they lost their oldest son to cancer. They helped each other grieve.

"We've always been a team," Ann says, "ever since the beginning. That's what makes a marriage work, togetherness."

• • •

Ann Keiser says it wasn't easy starting a marriage during the war.

Ted, a pilot in the Army Air Corps, rarely spent a night at home. For a brief period in 1942, he and Ann shared a Chicago apartment. When Ann became pregnant that year, she returned to their Michigan hometown to live with her sister, whose husband, Ted's brother, was also away.

After the birth of Ted Jr. (nicknamed Thad), Ted Sr. left on a mission based in Italy, where he manned bomber planes throughout Western Europe. Letters and phone calls were exchanged, but Ann often worried. She didn't want to raise a child alone.

In 1945, she received word by messenger that her husband's B-17 had been shot down over Yugoslavia. Other airmen parachuted to safety; Lt. Ted Keiser was reported missing in action.

Ted recalls jumping from the plane as it crashed into an endless wilderness of snowdrifts.

"A Yugoslavian nationalist found me entangled in a tree and saved my life," he says. "Back then there were friendly and unfriendly forces. I was lucky to be found by friendly forces."

When Ted was treated for injuries at a Red Cross station, his family still didn't know he was alive.

"It was horrible," Ann says. "For six weeks, no one ever told me that he was all right."

Another time during combat, Ted was hit with shrapnel and consequently awarded a Purple Heart. Ann kept newspaper clippings detailing the events. When Ted returned home a war hero in 1946, he struggled to overcome memories of lost friends and fiery skies.

"I was relieved and happy to be back with Annie," Ted says, "but the first year back was tough."

Ann reflects on those days with a sigh.

"We had no money," she says. "We had so much time to make up for."

• • •

Ted, a Michigan State graduate, decided to go to dental school after the war on the GI Bill, a government education assistance program for veterans. The Keisers had a second son, Rod, and in 1950, the family moved to Florida. For 25 years, they lived in St. Petersburg.

Ted practiced dentistry at the Don CeSar hotel in St. Pete Beach. Ann was a homemaker and worked part time with mentally disabled people. The couple loved to cook and entertain friends and enjoyed hiking and sailing.

A back injury prematurely ended Ted's dentistry career ("he just couldn't bend to treat patients," Ann says) but he never stopped being active. At one point, he and Ann were avid golfers.

To this day, they bike 3 miles every morning.

"Exercise is important," Ann says. "It keeps us moving."

Back in the 1970s, the Keisers ventured into real estate. Through the years, they bought, renovated, lived in and sold homes in St. Petersburg, Tampa and Brandon. His brother and her sister worked with them to design and build the homes.

The house the Keisers live in now, off Durant Road, was purchased decades ago by the family. Nieces, nephews and other relatives have all lived there at some point, leaving behind an eclectic collection of furniture and artwork.

An antique green blender sits on the kitchen counter. School photos of great-grandchildren are plastered on the fridge. Keepsake boxes are stuffed with pictures of the Keisers growing old together.

Their niece lives in the house behind them and looks in on her aunt and uncle. Their son Rod visits often. Friends come by for coffee.

• • •

The rare nature of their relationship surprises the Keisers.

"I don't understand divorce," Ann Keiser says. "Kids these days are so quick to quit when the littlest thing happens. You've got to give it a chance."

Ted looks at Ann today and says he still feels smitten. Her white hair is curled and sprayed. Her lips are painted red. She cuddles next to him on the couch and he kisses her forehead.

"She couldn't have been any better anywhere along the line," he says.

Sarah Whitman can be reached at (813) 661-2439 or [email protected]

   
Comments
Today: Death penalty decision coming in Seminole Heights murders

Today: Death penalty decision coming in Seminole Heights murders

TAMPA — Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren is set to announce Tuesday whether he intends to seek the death penalty for the 24-year-old man accused of killing four people southeast Seminole Heights last year. Warren scheduled a 10:30 a.m...
Updated: 1 minute ago
What you need to know for Tuesday, Jan. 23

What you need to know for Tuesday, Jan. 23

Catching you up on overnight happenings, and what you need to know today.• Those Monday evening showers could linger to saturate Tuesday morning’s commute, according to 10Weather WTSP. They’ll move out by the afternoon as a cool — not quite a cold —...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Romano: Once again, state education leaders fail this simple test

Romano: Once again, state education leaders fail this simple test

Want to annoy an education leader in Florida?Tell them they’ve turned your child’s school into an assembly line of tiny test takers. Tell them innovation and imagination and excitement are rapidly disappearing in favor of teaching to the test.And whe...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Pinellas to look at high school start times today

Pinellas to look at high school start times today

Pinellas County school district officials have spent weeks analyzing bus routes and brainstorming ideas to see if later high school start times could be a reality this August.Today will tell how far they have come.Clint Herbic, associate superintende...
Updated: 9 hours ago
What’s your most romantic food story? We want to hear it

What’s your most romantic food story? We want to hear it

Calling all romantic foodies: We want to hear about your tales of love and food. For Valentine’s Day this year, we’re looking into some famously adorable dishes, like Engagement Chicken, a roast chicken first published in Glamour magazine in 2004 tha...
Published: 01/23/18
Andrei Vasilevskiy, Lightning shut out Blackhawks

Andrei Vasilevskiy, Lightning shut out Blackhawks

CHICAGO — Turns out, Andrei Vasilevskiy is all right.And, believe it or not, so is the Lightning’s penalty kill, which was the unlikely hero in Monday’s streak-snapping 2-0 win over the Blackhawks at the United Center.Vasilevskiy, 23, played like the...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Back to work: Government shutdown ending as Dems relent

Back to work: Government shutdown ending as Dems relent

New York TimesWASHINGTON — Congress brought an end to a three-day government shutdown on Monday as Senate Democrats buckled under pressure to adopt a short-term spending bill to fund government operations without first addressing the fate of young un...
Updated: 7 hours ago

Male bicyclist struck, killed by vehicle in Pinellas Park

PINELLAS PARK — A male bicyclist was struck and killed by a vehicle on U.S. 19 on Monday night, according to Pinellas Park police.The incident took place at about 8:30 p.m. along the 8000 block of U.S. 19 N, near the Walmart Supercenter.The driver wa...
Updated: 7 hours ago

High school scoreboard for Jan. 22

Monday’s scoreboardBoys soccerPalm Harbor U. 3, Clearwater 0Boca Ciega 3, Indian Rocks Christian 1Girls soccerClass 4A, District 10: Countryside 7, Clearwater 0; Dixie Hollins 2, East Lake 0Class 3A, District 10: Osceola 14, Gibbs 0...
Updated: 7 hours ago

Lottery resultsNumbers drawn after 9 p.m. are no longer available by our deadlines. For results, go to tampabay.com/lottery.Pick 2, 3, 4, 5Mon., Jan. 22, midday:49 851 5049e_SRit11446Mon., Jan. 22, evening:05 733 5365e_SRit06330Fantasy 5Mon., Jan. 22...
Updated: 7 hours ago