The YMCA, Ensuring a Brighter Future

Leon & Arlene Franck

Couple Works Out at YMCA For Over 40 Years

Married for 62 years, Leon and Arlene Franck could offer a strong testimony that exercising together helps keep couples together. They've worked out at the Y since the early 1960s in downtown La Crosse. They fondly recall getting their memberships in the new building on Main when it opened.


As Leon and Arlene sit next to each other in the Y lobby, they seem like a loving couple married for six decades. They often finish one another's sentences and give each other compliments. Arlene says their secret to a long marriage isn't exercise, although it's obviously contributed to their healthy relationship. "Our secret is that he was the 'boss' the first half of our marriage, and now I'm the boss in this half of the relationship," she says, and Leon nods in agreement.


Leon turned 81 this June and Arlene will celebrate her 80th birthday in October. They raised five children and have 20 grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren. Leon began swimming at the Y at the suggestion of a friend for his back pain. At that time in the '70s, Leon was even walking with a cane. "Once he started swimming, he started to improve and improve," Arlene says. Leon still swims three times a week, and he hasn't used a cane in decades.


While Leon swims, Arlene has enjoyed a variety of Y exercise programs over the years. She's taken tap and clogging dance lessons. She participates in Zumba, and rides the elliptical bike and works on the strength training circuit in the Wellness Center. "It keeps her in beautiful shape," says Leon, who gives his wife a wink.


Although they don't participate in the same exercise, they always arrive and leave together, on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays when they work out for about two hours. Arlene enjoys the lady's lounge after she exercises, where she can chat with friends over coffee.


"It's a lovely building and such a nice facility here at the Y," Leon says. "The people are always so friendly and the staff and everyone are very helpful." 


Prior to retirement about five years ago, Leon served in Christian ministry for 50 years. He was a pastor at Bible Baptist Church in the community and a chaplain for 10 years for the La Crosse and Onalaska police departments. Based on his vocation, Leon shares other secrets to a successful marriage, "Live a clean life. Pray and go to church together. The Lord is always our foundation."


The Francks also operated an interfaith Christian retreat center - Prayer Valley. Arlene did all of the cooking. She's well-known for her delicious home-style dishes. "These aren't recipes that you can just whip up in a half hour," she explains. "These require time and effort in the kitchen." 


A few of their favorites are Italian spaghetti and roast pork with sauerkraut and dumplings. Arlene has been featured on WIZM radio program Coulee Region Cooks, along with some of the most well-known, professional chefs in the area. "At home, we always have had a cookie jar filled with homemade cookies," Leon says with a smile. "The grandchildren look forward to that now.


- By Kim Seidel, Seidel Ink LLC. 2013