As a News-Sentinel reporter and photographer entered James and Margaret DeBoard's home last week for an interview, James asked in rapid-fire fashion, "How is your father-in-law's wife's daughter's husband?"
That's a typical James DeBoard one-liner, who tells jokes and sings church hymns with the enthusiasm of someone half his age.
Nothing unusual about that, except James DeBoard is 97 years old, and his wife is 92.
James DeBoard will not only sing hymns, but he'll sing parodies like "All I Want for Christmas is my Upper Plate." He also tells one joke after another.
Margaret DeBoard plays a steady piano that could rival Elton John or Billy Joel. She sings with her husband as well, on occasion
If that isn't enough, the couple plays board games every night, and James is something of a pool shark. One day last week, he beat the News-Sentinel's photographer — 70 years his junior — in two games of 8-ball.
However, it's music that touches their hearts. They had a music ministry for 40 years in Southern California, and they still sing at whatever church in the Lodi area will have them. They've also performed frequently at convalescent hospitals during the five and a half years they've lived in Lodi.
"They probably know hundreds and hundreds of songs," said Gene Wilburn, pastor of Lodi's Big Valley Bible Church. "It's really quite an amazing thing. She can play the piano as well as anyone you've ever heard."
The DeBoards usually attend Big Valley Bible because it offers a more traditional style of service, and they prefer the music there. However, they occasionally go to daughter Shirley Walker's church, Bethel Open Bible, on Ham Lane.
They've also made some guest appearances, singing at Century Assembly, Vinewood Community Church and several Baptist churches. James also plays Santa Claus every year at Avenue Grill on Lodi Avenue.
Today will be a busy one for the DeBoards. They will perform at Ashley Place in Lodi before heading to Sacramento tonight before a church senior group. Last Friday, they sang — and James told his jokes — at Lodi's Vienna Convalescent Hospital.
"They still want to do things," Walker said of her parents. "They just want to go places."
The couple's music ministry goes back to the late 1940s, when they participated at several churches in Southern California, where they lived most of their lives.
James recalls yodeling while riding a bicycle delivering newspapers when he was about 16 years old. He also sang in college and at the church where his father preached.
Born in a church basement in Shawne, Okla., James DeBoard and his seven siblings moved to East Los Angeles in 1926 — he was 12 at the time — when his father opened a church there.
Margaret was born in Chicago and moved with her family to Los Angeles when she was 4. Her father needed work, and he moved to Southern California to work for his brother, who was a homebuilder.
"I started piano lessons when I was 9," she said. "One Sunday morning, there was nobody to play piano for Sunday school."
Margaret DeBoard then became her church's pianist. She also played in a ukulele band with seven other girls, and played in prisons and other locations.
They met at a church revival camp, but it wasn't love at first sight. Yet they fell in love. As James explains it, "The Lord got this all worked out."
James DeBoard was a tire inspector for many years at BF Goodrich, and they took over his father's grocery store before taking on different jobs. He sold roofs, insurance, paint products and other products.
The DeBoards were born entertainers, having people over to their house on a regular basis in their earlier years.
"When I was a young girl, there wasn't one Sunday we didn't have somebody over for dinner. It was just known as a party house," Walker recalls. "They still entertain."
James DeBoard also prides himself for his shopping skills. Wilburn, his pastor at Big Valley Bible, says that DeBoard will buy several cases of food and give them to people who need it.
Their three children are quite successful. Son Alan is a retired school teacher in Temecula, while another son, Jim, lives in Beverly Hills and owns 53 Taco Bells. Daughter Shirley Walker is a homemaker who lives in a separate house on the same property in south Lodi.
Contact reporter Ross Farrow at email@example.com.