A marriage of 66 years seems a worthy topic to write about on Valentine’s Day.
I started researching a column for the holiday focusing on Norman Ballheim, a talented violinist who formed a commercial orchestra in Cedar Rapids about 1910.
He fell in love with and married the orchestra’s talented pianist, Norma Peddycoart, in 1912 in a ceremony in her parents’ living room.
The Ballheims’ orchestra was successful, playing two evenings a week for public dances and hiring out for private events at the Lattner Auditorium, 213-217 Fourth Ave. SE, the rest of the week.
They played for social events and department store promotions, and Ballheim headed the Coe College conservatory’s violin department.
The couple had a little girl in 1914. Two years later, Norman became seriously ill and died of heart disease before the couple’s fifth anniversary, bringing a sad end to that Valentine story.
In the course of that research, though, I discovered that Norma’s parents, Allen and Elizabeth “Lizzie” Peddycoart, were married for 66 years, a remarkable feat, particularly given that era’s shorter life expectancies.
Allen Archer Peddycoart was born in Cedar County on Nov. 14, 1846.
He came to Cedar Rapids from Independence in 1860. He and his brothers, Nelson and John, became well established in a brickmaking business. Their bricks became part of some of Cedar Rapids’ early landmarks, including the old Adams School and the old Gazette building on First Avenue and First Street East.
His bride-to-be, Elizabeth “Lizzie” Slocum, was a native of Swan Creek, Ill., born on Nov. 25, 1852.
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In a Gazette interview, Elizabeth related how, as a teenager, she’d wanted to meet this “man with the weird sounding name.” When the meeting was arranged, she was impressed, but her friends tried to discourage her from seeing him again.
“He’s practically engaged to another girl,” they warned her.
“But it wasn’t long before she was taking that ‘weird sounding name’ for her own,” The Gazette story said. “And her daughters insist it’s just further proof that the get-your-man formula is not a modern one.”
Married in 1871
The pair were married Nov. 3, 1871, in Bloomington, Ill., and immediately left for Cedar Rapids. Their first home was in the woods along Mount Vernon Road where they watched the first house go up in Vernon Heights.
They lived in two more homes on Mount Vernon Road over the years. The last one, built at 2101 Mount Vernon Rd. in 1885, was considered the family home.
At their 50th anniversary in 1921, Elizabeth and Allen recalled in an interview when Cedar Rapids was a fast-growing village “shooting up like an overgrown boy that couldn’t keep step with his clothes.”
They remembered when the only span across the Cedar River was a toll bridge on First Avenue, and when everything below Eighth Avenue East was cornfields.
Elizabeth filled their home with her braided rugs, needlework and pieced quilts.
The home also was filled with music. Most of their six children played instruments or sang.
On the occasion of Allen’s 59th birthday in 1905, his daughters, Maude Peddycoart Lutz of Marion and Norma Peddycoart, performed instrumental solos, while son Albert C. Peddycoart sang. Elizabeth was assisted in serving a four-course supper by her daughters and daughters-in-law, and the party lasted until midnight.
Daughter Nellie Peddycoart Miller sang at her sister Norma’s wedding to Norman Ballheim and gained fame as an opera singer. Harry Peddycoart was a tenor in the United Brethren Church choir.
One habit Elizabeth and Allen developed was walking. Twice a week, they walked the 22 blocks from their home to the downtown business district.
They said they looked on marriage as a 50-50 proposition. When interviewed for their 60th anniversary, they said they were looking forward to their 75th.
On their 61st anniversary, they “spent the day quietly, receiving cards and calls from their many friends, and the climax of the day will come with a family dinner at their home, which will be attended by three of their six children and four of their 16 grandchildren,” The Gazette reported.
The couple also had 13 great-grandchildren.
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Their walking habits changed in 1936 as they celebrated their 65th anniversary. They reduced the number of blocks they walked to 14 to end up at their son and daughter-in-law’s home on Camburn Court SE. Elizabeth still did her own housekeeping, baked her own pies and washed the couple’s clothes by hand.
The Peddycoarts made it to their 66th anniversary before Elizabeth died on Nov. 19, 1937, a week before her 85th birthday. Allen followed her two-and-a-half years later on June 10, 1940, at age 93.
They are together still, buried in Oak Hill Cemetery.