'Walk Away, But Not Too Far' Secret Of Long Marriage

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Lester and Lela Jones have been in the Rim Country nearly 40 years. Four decades is quite a long time, but it is a drop in the bucket, compared to the years they have been together.

The couple celebrated their 63rd anniversary on March 8 at the Payson Care Center where Lester is staying for awhile.

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Lela and Lester Jones celebrated their 63rd wedding anniversary last week at Payson Care Center.

He surprised his wife, Lela, and their party guests by walking into the Center's dining room under his own steam, instead of arriving in a wheelchair.

Before Lester arrived, Lela talked about their life together.

The couple married in Claremore, Okla. -- the birthplace of Will Rogers --- and lived there about three years while Lester worked with the crews building the Will Rogers Turnpike.

Lela is a native of Oklahoma, born in Adair. Lester is from Yardell, Ark.

When the job in Oklahoma was done, the couple moved to Martinez, Calif., northeast of Oakland. Lester worked in construction and as a boilermaker and welder.

The couple had four children, three daughters and a son. In 1965, relatives who lived on Bonita Creek needed some help with a few projects and the Jones' son, Bill, offered to help, becoming the first of the immediate family to come to the Rim Country.

"He just fell in love with the place and said we had to come see it," Lela said.

They visited the area in the summer of 1966 and became believers.

"We bought two lots, sold out in California and moved over here," Lela said. With two empty lots to call home -- but no house -- the couple pulled a 6-by-14-foot U-Haul trailer over Fossil Creek Road.

The Jones' son, Bill, graduated from Payson High School and still makes his home in the Rim Country. The couple's daughters are still in California, as are most of their 9 grandchildren and 16 great-grandchildren.

After almost 40 years in the Rim Country, Lester and Lela have seen a lot of changes. For Lela, the biggest changes are the high prices and too many houses for the available water.

"I would have been a rich man if I'd invested (in land)," Lester said and laughed.

When asked what their secret to a long and happy marriage is, they said when things get tense and they are angry with each other, they know to walk away, but not too far, and always walk back.

"I love her," Lester said.

"I love him," Lela added.

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