Cresses celebrate 100 years of Sunday school teaching

Not many couples can say they’ve done something for 100 years.

But on Aug. 31, Lewis and Jane Cress completed a combined 100 years of teaching Sunday school. Today each begins a new church year leading their respective classes at St. John’s Lutheran Church.

Jane started teaching Sunday school to children. But after her own children came, she tried the ladies’ class, loved it and became their teacher. Between the two classes, she’s taught Sunday school for 49 years.

Lewis, who started in 1963, has been teaching the same men’s class for 51 years.

Both Jane and Lewis said the composition of their classes has stayed about the same all these years. New members join, and classes merge, but the core remains unchanged. Lewis joked that the only class after his meets out behind the church in the cemetery.

They approach teaching differently. Jane spends a tremendous amount of time preparing; she even makes visual aids.

“She is an organized person,” Lewis said.

He, on the other hand, doesn’t like to over-prepare.

“When I first started teaching, my mind was a steel trap,” he said. “Now it’s a mouse trap, and one spring is rusty and the other one’s broken.”

Another thing this couple has done for a long time is stay married to each other. Though both grew up in eastern Cabarrus County – he on Irish Potato Road and she near Bethlehem Church – they didn’t meet until Jane was a senior in high school and Lewis a student at N.C. State.

Friends had been telling them they needed to meet, and one day, a teacher even brought Lewis out to Jane’s family’s farm. There was no introduction, however. As the two left, the teacher, who had stopped by the house alone, explained to Lewis: “They’re making jelly, and she didn’t look her best.”

The couple finally met on a double date, and last month they celebrated their 54th anniversary.

The Cresses made careers as teachers. Jane taught fourth and fifth grade at Beverly Hills Elementary School for more than 30 years. Lewis was the agriculture teacher at Central Cabarrus High School for 23 years.

They’ve lived in the home they built for 52 years, raised two children, faced challenges with their health, did some farming on the side and are now enjoying two grandchildren and retirement.

Well, they’re not retired from farming; Lewis still tends the cows, and since the time he was knocked over and hit his head on a rock a few years ago, Jane goes along to make sure nothing happens to him.

Commitment is a word that comes to mind when one talks with the Cresses: commitment to each other, their family, their community and their church.

Jane said that she has no plans to quit teaching Sunday school but knows that time will come. Lewis smiled playfully.

“I’d love to go 51 more years,” he said, “but I don’t think I’ll make it.”