Siblings Erwin Ruesink, 99, and Esther Rindels, 97, celebrated their birthdays this September with a party filled with family and friends.  SUBMITTED PHOTO
Siblings Erwin Ruesink, 99, and Esther Rindels, 97, celebrated their birthdays this September with a party filled with family and friends. SUBMITTED PHOTO
Siblings are the people we practice on, the people who teach us about fairness and cooperation and kindness and caring, quite often the hard way. - Pamela Dugdale

The special bond between siblings is one to be cherished. For Erwin Ruesink and Esther Rindels they have been blessed with 97 years together. The siblings celebrated their birthdays this month, Erwin turned 99 and Esther celebrated her 97th year. They enjoyed a party surrounded by their family and friends, and of course, double the cake.

The children of Gerrit and Grace Ruesink, the siblings grew up in rural Preston. They spent their younger years attending country school near the Cherry Grove area, eventually graduating from Preston High.

Those early years were a time of great fun for the duo. They both liked to play ball in Greenleafton on the old ball diamond. Esther played third base for the girls' team, while Erwin played on the boys' team.

They would sneak watermelons from neighbors' patches and Erwin reveled in his Halloween pranks.

"He used to be naughty," Esther laughed, though, with an impish grin, Erwin denied it.

After graduation Erwin headed back to country school where he taught grades first through eighth. On cool mornings he would leave early, riding on horseback, to start the stove that heated the one room school before the children arrived. The paying wage for schoolteachers in those years was $40.

"It's hard to visualize that now. Of course, $40 went a lot farther, also. We used to pay a dollar for a gallon of gas," Erwin remembered.

On Aug. 2, 1938 Erwin married his wife, Carmen, on her grandparent's 50th wedding anniversary. Soon after the family moved to the Cherry Grove area and began farming. The couple raised two sons, Arlyn and Robert, during this time. Erwin explained farming was quite different than it is today and although they did not have many cows, he had to milk them by hand every day.

"In spite of the difficult times that we had, we had a happy family. There was a lot of love there," he concluded.

After 10 years of working the land, he was offered a manager position at Bloomfield Mutual where he remained for 30 years. For 25 of these years he was also working part-time for Grinnell Mutual as a field person.

Erwin spent his spare time singing in a men's chorus. They would give concerts in Lime Springs and other local towns. They even joined with other choruses from Rochester and Wisconsin to give a special concert in Winnipeg, Canada.

"It was quite an experience," he remembered.

After she finished school Esther enjoyed working for local families, including Erwin and Carmen's while they were teaching. She would help clean the house, cook and care for the children. It was during this time that she was taught to make bread and the buns she became well known for in the community.

She wed her husband, Chester, on Aug. 1, 1941. They were blessed to have 71 splendid years together and raise two children, son Roger and daughter LuAnn.

Erwin and Esther have been life-long members of the Greenleafton Church, in fact Erwin can still be found in a pew there every Sunday. He shared his memories of the first church that was destroyed by fire. It is said the members would take caravans to Mayo Clinic to donate their blood in order to pay for the rebuilding of the structure.

The pair is now enjoying the comfort of having each other so close. Erwin now resides at Spring Valley Estates and Esther is living in the Spring Valley Care Center.

"It's good to have my sister here. I'm so happy I have my sister around who is only two years younger than I am," Erwin said.

Esther agreed, "It's nice when I can come visit him."

It is clear the siblings are immensely proud of their families and care deeply for one another, even if one of them is a little naughty.