Bethel and Clarence Boss, both born and bred in Ellsworth, are confirming the details of their upcoming 60th anniversary party, which they’re holding at The Front Porch. Dairy and corn farmers who just got out of farming last spring, when they were 80 and 83 years old, they have never eaten processed food in their lives. Says Bethel: “At noon on Saturday, our four kids and grandkids will come. They’re making pork loin, dressing, mashed redskin potatoes, applesauce, salad and a brownie. Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?”

Besides 60 years of marriage, they have something else to celebrate: They’re going to rebuild this spring on the farm where they’ve lived for 59 years. A couple of months ago, a fire burned their 100-year-old farmhouse to the ground. “It was one o’clock in the morning,” says Bethel, steady and matter-of-fact as she tells the story. “We just barely got out. And we didn’t get the cat out. They took us into the ambulance and a girl on the Central Lake fire department heard Kitty howling and she rescued Kitty. They gave her oxygen in the ambulance, too.” At daybreak, the Bosses waited for the vet to open. “Kitty was pretty well smoked up,” says Clarence. “We went to K-mart to get a few clothes then we came here, for breakfast.” The house was still smoldering.

It seems hard to imagine the void that would be here if the diner hadn’t opened when it did. If instead people stayed in their houses, didn’t come make pie after basketball practice, sit at the counter and not talk about the Korean War, if they couldn’t come be around their neighbors just for its own sake, hug the car dealer after he brought them pot roast, take comfort in the conviviality of it all.

“If another individual bought it and tried to make a go of it, they really would have struggled through the winter. I don’t think it would have made it,” says Jan Rasmussen. “They’re coming because they know it’s theirs.”

And those coffee guys who had nowhere to go when the bait shop closed? Now they come here every day at 2:30. The diner closes at 2 p.m. sharp, but Jan stays until the first one comes in, through the side door, and just asks that the last one out turns off the coffee pot. They sip coffee, sit elbow-to-elbow and try to solve the world’s problems. And bets are, since they are from Ellsworth, they’re already off to a good start.

Emily Betz Tyra half thinks there might be a rainbow over Ellsworth every morning.

Photo(s) by Todd Zawistowski