Craig and Dianne Zeches have a special place in their hearts for the Alexandria Lakes Area. It was about 50 years ago that Craig proposed to Dianne while staying at a cabin on Lake L’Homme Dieu.

And every year for the last 50 years – except for one – the couple has been coming back to this area to spend a week in the summer. At first it was just the two of them, but has since grown to a group of nearly 30, including their six children and 13 grandchildren.

Last week, the couple, along with their children and grandchildren, spent the week on Lake Ida at Betsy Ross Resort, which is where they have been spending their summer vacations since 2016.

“This year, we had 28 with us,” said Craig. “And we are already looking forward to next year. We are excited to be part of the Alexandria area, if only for a week each year.”

Last Friday, July 17, Dianne and Craig Zeches of Winona, along with their four sons, two daughters and their families, pose for a photo on the shore of Lake Ida at Betsy Ross Resort.  The Zeches family has been vacationing in Alexandria for about 50 year. (Contributed)
Last Friday, July 17, Dianne and Craig Zeches of Winona, along with their four sons, two daughters and their families, pose for a photo on the shore of Lake Ida at Betsy Ross Resort. The Zeches family has been vacationing in Alexandria for about 50 year. (Contributed)

How it all began

It was in 1967 that Craig and Dianne first met while living in Winona, which is where they still reside today. It was also in that same year that Dianne’s parents, Gerald and Muriel Frosch, began staying at what was known back then as Orono Resort. It is now Interlachen Shores and is no longer a resort, but is an association.

After the two started dating, the next summer, in 1968, when Dianne and her family came up to Alexandria for their summer vacation, Craig decided he had to make a trip up to Alexandria for a visit.

“I had to make sure she was OK,” he said.

Craig and a friend of his, with a boat in tow, took off for Alexandria. After arriving and launching their boat in the lake, they floated up to the beach area where Dianne was staying – around 6:30 a.m. Saturday morning. Dianne was just fine, but that was the day her family was packing up and heading home. Dianne wanted to stay with the two boys, but that was not in the cards as her parents said no.

Craig and his friend left and launched their boat at another access point. Because it had been so early in the morning, the two were tired and ended up falling asleep in the boat. When they finally woke up, they found themselves by what is known now as Arrowwood Resort and Conference Center.

As an avid water skier, Craig said they spent time skiing and having fun on the water.

“I had family staying on Lake Miltona, so we showed up at their house to see if we could spend the night,” said Craig. His aunt and uncle, Dorothy and Jack Bittner, let them stay in a tent in their backyard.

Craig said Dianne’s parents, along with his aunt and uncle, are the people responsible for them coming to the Alexandria area each year.

Family members responsible for Craig and Dianne Zeches spending their summer vacations in Alexandria include her parents, Gerald and Muriel Frosch (middle) and his uncle and aunt, Jack and Dorothy Bittner (left and right), who both vacationed here. (Contributed)
Family members responsible for Craig and Dianne Zeches spending their summer vacations in Alexandria include her parents, Gerald and Muriel Frosch (middle) and his uncle and aunt, Jack and Dorothy Bittner (left and right), who both vacationed here. (Contributed)

The following year, in 1969, Dianne’s parents ended up inviting Craig to stay with them for a couple of days while they vacationed in Alexandria and at that time, his parents were also vacationing in Alexandria and the couple would go back and forth between the two cabins.

Starting their life together

It was the summer of 1970 when the couple got engaged. Craig and Dianne had talked about getting married and it was while they were on vacation at Orono Resort that Craig asked Dianne’s dad for her hand in marriage. After he was given the green light with no restrictions, he said, he went right to the lake and did a belly flop in the water.

After he proposed, the couple celebrated with a bottle of Korbel champagne, capturing the occasion on camera with the two of them standing in the cabin on Lake L’Homme Dieu, holding that bottle of champagne.

This year, the two of them recreated the photo that was taken 50 years ago, standing on the lawn where the cabin used to be, holding a bottle of Korbel champagne.

This photo, from 1970, was taken right after Craig and Dianne Zeches, were engaged while staying at a cabin on Lake L'Homme Dieu in Alexandria. Since then, the couple and now their family, have spend one week in Alexandria each summer. (Contributed)
This photo, from 1970, was taken right after Craig and Dianne Zeches, were engaged while staying at a cabin on Lake L'Homme Dieu in Alexandria. Since then, the couple and now their family, have spend one week in Alexandria each summer. (Contributed)

Dianne and Craig Zeches of Winona recreate a photo from 1970 when they got engaged at a resort on Lake L'Homme Dieu. The couple is standing on the lawn in front of what was known then as Orono Resort. (Celeste Edenloff / Echo Press)
Dianne and Craig Zeches of Winona recreate a photo from 1970 when they got engaged at a resort on Lake L'Homme Dieu. The couple is standing on the lawn in front of what was known then as Orono Resort. (Celeste Edenloff / Echo Press)

On Jan. 2, 1971, Craig and Diann were married and that same summer, the two of them spent their summer vacation at the resort on Lake L’Homme Dieu. Every year, until 1978, they spent their summer vacation at that same resort.

Craig and Dianne Zeches on Winona were married on Jan. 2, 1971. The couple were engaged the summer of 1970 while staying at a resort in Alexandria. (Contributed)
Craig and Dianne Zeches on Winona were married on Jan. 2, 1971. The couple were engaged the summer of 1970 while staying at a resort in Alexandria. (Contributed)

Creating memories in Alexandria

In 1978, the week they were supposed to be in Alexandria, the couple’s fourth son was born – on Craig’s birthday – and so the family was unable to make their yearly Alexandria trip.

In 1979, the family moved to a new resort on Lake Darling, which was known then as Viking Trails Resort. For more than 35 years, one week each summer, the family, which kept growing, stayed at that resort on Lake Darling.

They have fond memories of their time in Alexandria and at that resort, which they said they chose because of the calmness of the water. Dianne and Craig reminisced about the little antique cars their kids would ride around the resort on. Each ride would cost 25 cents, Dianne said.

Another memory is when their now son-in-law proposed to their daughter, Rebecca, while in a boat passing by their cabin on Lake Darling. He had three roses for her, Craig said, one that represented the past, one for the present and the third, which had the ring on it, for their future together.

“I was aware of it as he nervously asked me the day before he let me win at golf,” said Craig. “But Dianne had no clue!”

The family stayed at Viking Trails Resort until 2015, at which time the resort was being sold, eventually torn down and a new resort would be built, but not open in time for them to enjoy their yearly summer vacation.

While vacationing in Alexandria over the years, Craig and Dianne Zeches have lots of memories of time spent on and off the water of several lakes, including L'Homme Dieu, Darling and Ida. This photo from several years ago was taken while the couple was jet skiing on Lake Darling. (Contributed)
While vacationing in Alexandria over the years, Craig and Dianne Zeches have lots of memories of time spent on and off the water of several lakes, including L'Homme Dieu, Darling and Ida. This photo from several years ago was taken while the couple was jet skiing on Lake Darling. (Contributed)

So, in 2016, the family found a new resort on Lake Ida and they moved their weekly summer vacations to the Betsy Ross Resort, where they have been spending their summer vacations ever since.

The couple said their whole family plans around their weekly Alexandria summer vacations and that most of the family makes it up for at least some of the time. This year, the family – Craig, Dianne, their four sons, two daughters and their families – rented out five cabins at the resort, where they celebrated not only the July birthdays, but also more than 50 years of coming to the Alexandria Lakes Area for vacation.

“We have a really good time,” said Craig. “And one of our younger ones asked when we got home this year, ‘How soon before we go back to the cabinet?”

His grandchild was told next year, as the dates have already been set and plans are already under way.