The combination of true love and hard work has given Robert and Alice Fechter 65 happy years together, along with the blessings of a big family and vigorous health in their ninth decade as they continue to work their Saukville farm.
Having raised six children in addition to tons of produce on their Town of Saukville vegetable farm, Alice and Robert Fechter could have been profiled separately for Mother’s Day or
Father’s Day, but that would be only half the story.
The couple celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary on May 8, which was also Mr. Fechter’s 89th birthday. Mrs. Fechter will turn 85 on May 29.
The couple not only look younger than their years, but also act it, and the love they share is apparent in the way they treat each other.
Granddaughter Angela Steffen said she’s inspired by her grandparents’ loving relationship.
“It really is a picture-perfect definition of true love,” Steffen said. “I couldn’t help but see it in their eyes during their 65th anniversary celebration. It is truly inspirational.”
When you work alongside each other all day, you have to get along, Mrs. Fechter said.
“We’ve had our ups and downs, but it seems it always works out,” she said, smiling at her husband in the kitchen of their farmhouse.
The former Alice Zeckmeister grew up two miles from the Fechter farm, but the two didn’t know each other. They met at a polka dance at Schmidt Pavilion in the Town of Grafton when
she was 17.
They danced almost every dance, and still love to dance.
“I knew right away he was the one,” Mrs. Fechter said. “I don’t know if he did, but I did. There was something about him.”
Mr. Fechter said her beautiful blonde hair initially attracted him and still does.
“Her hair always had to be perfect, like now,” he said. “She always looks good.”
The couple still operate the farm, but now share the workload with their youngest son John, who is a partner in the family corporation. Their grandson Jason Carmody also works on the
Mrs. Fechter said she knew nothing about farming until she got married and became immersed in the vegetable farm that was started by Mr. Fechter’s father Alois Sr. about 80 years ago.
After growing crops for a cannery for several years, Alois Fechter decided there was a more lucrative market in growing produce for area grocery stores and selling vegetables at the
former Hay Market in Milwaukee. He had a delivery route that his son later took over.
Mr. Fechter still does much of the fieldwork on the 160 acres that will be planted with corn, wheat, oats and hay to feed the steers and feeder pigs his son raises and with pie pumpkins,
fall squash, gourds and dill they will sell to grocery warehouses.
“Sometimes, I get in close to 10 hours on the tractor,” Mr. Fechter said. “We’re late this year, and you have to make up for it, so you work when you can get into the fields.
“I still deliver to the Piggly Wiggly warehouse in Sheboygan. I’m the oldest delivery man they have coming.”
Mrs. Fechter, who used to be one of the fastest pickers on the farm, said she now oversees the harvest and packs vegetables, but doesn’t go into the fields anymore.
“She says that, but all of a sudden she’s there helping to fill the bushels. She’s supposed to just hand out the bushels,” her husband scolded, but she only smiled at him.
When she was 15, Mrs. Fechter started working at the West Bend Woolen Mill, then made wallets at Amity Leather in West Bend. She was living with her sister in West Bend when she
met her husband.
The couple were married at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Newburg, where Mr. Fechter was baptized and where they have celebrated key anniversaries with a Mass.
The first few months of marriage was an adjustment, Mrs. Fechter said.
“I thought I would go crazy,” she said. “I was lonesome because I was usually with my sister and her family. Being alone and not knowing the neighbors was hard. We didn’t have a
telephone until our first daughter was born, and I couldn’t drive.”
However, when it was harvest time, Mrs. Fechter showed she could pick corn with the best of them.
“I remember the first time she snapped corn. She could snap corn quicker than I could,” her husband said.
Years of doing piecework taught her to work fast, she said.
Mrs. Fechter learned to drive a tractor long before she could drive a car and spent many hours in the fields picking vegetables, often with a child or two tagging along or in a baby
She soon grew to love the farm and planted flowers that her husband sold at the produce markets.
“I might come home with a few bags of potatoes left, but all of Alice’s gladiolas would be gone,” Mr. Fechter said.
Their three daughters, Susan, Jean and Linda, were born a few years apart, then came three sons, Robert Jr., Scott and John.
Mr. Fechter taught his children and most of his grandchildren to drive a tractor before they were old enough to drive a car. They all worked on the farm.
“I loved it because I got to know my kids,” Mrs. Fechter said. “I could be one-on-one with them. There was a closeness working with them out in the field, and I could really communicate
with them. Each one is so different. I think that’s what I liked about it the most.
“I don’t know if the kids would agree with me — I have three daughters and none of them married farmers — but they never complained.”
Daughter Linda Wilkens said she and her siblings also ran a vegetable stand at the farm.
“We all had a job and learned the value of a dollar early on and how much hard work it took to get the vegetables on the table,” she said. “We were a very close family and did everthing
Her father gives her mother wonderful gifts, she said.
The best gift, Mr. Fechter said, was a housecoat for their 45th anniversary. In the pocket, he had tucked tickets to Hawaii.
Because the Fechters’ anniversary is during the spring planting season, the couple rarely can celebrate on May 8.
“Every year on our anniversary and his birthday, he worked until late at night,” Mrs. Fechter said. “If you’re a farm wife, you understand what he has to do to work with the weather.”
Mr. Fechter said he and his wife share a deep faith in God that they hope they passed on to their children and grandchildren. They have 13 grandchildren, three step-grandchildren and
“Somebody above loves us,” Mr. Fechter said.
“We have been blessed in so many ways with our family, our good health and still being able to work every day. That’s a blessing we don’t take for granted.”