Charles “Charlie” Eisleben, a sprightly nonagenarian, will be riding atop a white Porsche Carrera convertible in Rancho Santa Fe’s Fourth of July parade. The car belongs to his daughter, Barbi Krome, and her husband, David, who will be driving.
Eisleben will be proudly wearing his naval officer’s dress uniform decorated with ribbons earned from his service in the South Pacific during World War II.
He and his wife, Jean, moved to the Ranch in 2011 to be close to their daughter, “to live out our days” in a beautiful setting, he said.
The couple’s story reaches back into a past that includes almost seven decades of happy marriage; they will celebrate their 70th wedding anniversary on Nov. 1.
It also includes when they met at age 16 in 1941. Both were students at Roosevelt High School in St. Louis. Eisleben was on the school track team and Jean was the marching band majorette.
As a teenager, Jean was selected to represent the state of Missouri for the Miss America Beauty Pageant in Atlantic City. “She doesn’t allow me to say what year that year was,” joked Eisleben.
It was love at first sight. “I asked her to marry me the day after we had our first date,” recalled Eisleben, but marriage had to wait when the U.S. entered World War II in 1941.
When Eisleben turned 18, he attended Engineering School at Missouri University but enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1943 and was sent to the Navy V-12 Officers Training program at Iowa State University in Ames. There he completed an accelerated course for his degree in mechanical engineering.
He was then commissioned as an ensign and sent overseas, where he joined the ship USS PCE-886 operating out of Guam.
The ship was a Patrol Craft Escort, 164 feet long with 35-foot beam, that carried 121 sailors and nine officers, said Eisleben, who served as engineering officer.
In June 1946, he received orders to return to the U.S. and received his honorable discharge at The Great Lakes Naval Base, but continued to participate as a reservist, being promoted to lieutenant junior grade in 1957.
After his naval service, Eisleben was hired by a company that made and installed critical piping systems in electrical petroleum refining plants. He moved with Jean in 1953 to California for a job beginning an engineering career that spanned 43 years.
The couple moved to Bermuda Dunes, Palm Desert, after Eisleben’s retirement in 1987 “to enjoy the sunshine and the golf.”
Together they have raised three children: Richard, Barbara and Nancy. Now the Eislebens have seven grandchildren; five are married and there are 11 great-grandchildren.
“One of them is a Marine based in Okinawa, the oldest one, and the youngest one just arrived,” said Eisleben, who was born May 16, 1925.
A native of St. Louis, Eisleben’s father was vice president of a store that he inherited from his father, in downtown St. Louis. Eisleben had an older brother who was also in the Navy. The three family members are now deceased.
Eisleben ascribes the couple’s long, healthy lives to their devout faith. “The good Lord has been very gracious to my wife and I. We are still both very active and our minds are alert and our bodies are doing well,” he said.
“My grandfather told me early on that the secret of marital success is, ‘Don’t ever both of you get mad at the same time,’ which is a little difficult to do, but it seems to work pretty good,” he commented.
The couple are very proud that each of their adult children are still married to their respective first spouses, said Eisleben.
“My parents have been steadfast role models to me, my brother and sister,” said Krome. about her parents’ commitment to each other and to their faith.
“They still love to dance in the living room together, garden, and laugh with the grandchildren and great-grandchildren,” she added.
Adapting to the changing times, the Eislebens use iPhones and spend plenty of time on their laptops each day, “even at a remarkable 90 years old!” said Krome.