Lift and Learn

After fifty years of marriage, their love remains strong. Very strong.

"He always put us ahead of himself," says Brian, a pharmacist in Newton and the oldest of the kids. "He always put his marriage before himself. He had very high standards. There was no smoking, no drinking, no cussing in our house. If there was any place he and Mom couldn't take the kids, they just wouldn't go. We learned the family comes before your own needs."

Ed and Juanita bought this chunk of Colorado paradise a quarter-century ago. In 1980, they began building their retirement cabin by themselves. When it came time to lift the cut logs -- some ten feet long and more than a foot in diameter -- Ed lifted every one of them into place himself, hauling them up the ladder on his shoulder or heaving them into position while Juanita kept the other end in line with a broom handle. It took a few years, but he built everything in the house -- from the walls to the cabinet doors.

Ed and Juanita Steventon are comrades in arms.
Ed and Juanita Steventon are comrades in arms.

There's not much involving work and discipline that Ed has shied away from, and everything he's done, he has seen through to the end. A few years back, a friend told him he ought to try running. "There's a race coming up," the friend said. "You don't have to run the whole thing -- you could walk some of the way."

"Well, maybe you don't have to," Ed replied. "But I do."

He started off running a single block, then three, then a mile. During building breaks, he would run the four and a half miles down to the mailbox, then back up. Then down again and up. Then down and up again. "He'd work on the house all day, and then he'd go out running and it'd get dark," Juanita remembers. "I'd start to worrying." Still, on weekends Juanita followed him in the car, to make sure he got all his miles in.

Ed ran the Pikes Peak marathon seven times before giving the sport up for good to return to weightlifting. He didn't break any records, but, he points out, "I never did walk no races."

Just being around Ed has been healthy. In 1999, Juanita was cleaning out the garage during one of Ed's workouts when she picked up one of his bars and moved it aside. "It was in the way," she explains.

"Do you know who much you just lifted?" Ed asked. It was eighty pounds. Juanita was about to turn seventy.

After nearly a half-century of marriage, Ed had discovered something new about his wife. So he started training Juanita. And after a while, she began entering power-lifting competitions, too. In her second meet, she dead-lifted nearly 200 pounds. At the moment, Juanita holds Kansas and Colorado records for her age.

It's not all about records, though. At one Kansas competition last year, Ed, Juanita, Brian and Brian's son all competed -- three generations of power-lifting Steventons. That was nice. Last spring, when Juanita was diagnosed with colon cancer, her surgeon was worried about inflicting a brutal operation on an elderly woman -- until he X-rayed her heart and saw that, at 72, she was as fit as an average 45-year-old. She astounded everyone with her quick recovery.

"When I see other people with their oxygen tubes and walking bent over," says Ed, "I think how fortunate I am -- that even though I get discouraged that I can't do what I once did, I am blessed that I can do what I do."

A couple of months ago, Ed ran into a local volunteer ambulance driver in Salida. "When are you two going to move off that mountaintop?" the driver asked.

"That's why I continue to work out," Ed says. "If the day ever comes where I can't take care of myself or Juanita, well, I dread that day. So I told him, 'We're gonna be up here until you have to drive up and carry me down.'"

That will mark the first time in Ed's life that he hasn't done his own heavy lifting.

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