by Rev. John H. Farmer
A 2017 Valentine
This is a story which I shared with you some years ago. It was reported locally, as well as shared with me by email. Since we are homing in fast upon Valentine’s Day I thought it might heighten our enjoyment of one of the better celebrated holiday themes. Out of respect, I have taken the liberty of changing names.
Richard Jones met future wife Elizabeth Wilson in 1930 while on a date with her cousin.
It was love at first sight.
Cousin May brought Richard to Mary’s house to sing hymns around the piano.
“Richard and I had to share a songbook,” Mary said. “We were holding hands under the hymnal.”
“I couldn’t kiss her that night because her cousin was watching,” Richard said. “But I did the next time I saw her. And I didn’t have anything to do with the cousin again.”
Fast forward more than seven decades and the two still hold hands. The couple, both 97, celebrated their 75th wedding anniversary.
“We used to go to the Bahamas for our anniversary. A few years ago, we were walking on the beach holding hands. A girl said to us later, ‘That’s so sweet. I hope I’m like that when I’m old,'” Mary recalled.
Actually, she admitted to the girl, “we were just holding each other up.”
It’s been a good life, they say, and the two are thankful they’ve been able to stay in their Richmond home, albeit with hired help and family members checking in every day. Their daughter lives nearby, as do most of their grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren.
Mary uses a wheelchair after a broken hip several years ago and Richard, whose eyesight is failing, uses a walker. Both are a bit hard of hearing.
“That’s the secret to marriage,” mused Mary. “We can’t hear each other.”
But seriously, she said, “We respect each other. I’d hate to be young again. There are too many temptations today.”
Richard added: “When we were young, we didn’t have a lot.”
Married in 1932, Richard worked in a packing house making $13 a week. Mary earned $9 at Woolworth’s. “We were lucky we had jobs,” Richard said.
“He was a good provider,” Mary said. “We got by as good as anybody then.”
They used to love to dress up and go on dates window-shopping in downtown Richmond.
When they had a bit more money, they’d save up to buy antiques and silver, polished faithfully by Richard.
After the birth of their daughter, he went to work for a life insurance company. Perks of the job included annual trips, which fueled their wanderlust.
“She always had to have a new dress for those conventions,” Richard said. “Of course, I had to wear what I already had.” Even today, the couple still like to dress up, Mary in her pearls and Richard with his carefully shined shoes.
Some favorite memories are the visits they made to St. Augustine, Fla., which included drinks from the fountain of youth. They like to think that helped their longevity.
One favorite trip was to Miami, where they popped over to Cuba for lunch. Other trips have included Europe, Mexico, the Holy Land and several trips cross country by train or driving themselves.
And, by the way, joked Richard, “I can drive now as well as I ever could. I just don’t know where I am.”
Mary interjected, “Richard always thought I drove too fast.”
“She always did,” he said. “I woke up from a nap in the car once and she was driving 100 miles per hour.”
The Joneses still get around, though maybe a little slower. Richard, once an avid outdoorsman, regrets that he had to give up hunting and fishing a few years back.
They attend church regularly, where they’ve been active for decades. Nearly 200 people attended their anniversary party.
Richard has standing lunch dates at Arby’s with grandson Bill, who calls him every night to talk.
Days are spent entertaining family and friends and watching sports on television. Richard can’t see his favorite teams, so Mary has learned the players and the lingo to provide play-by-play.
“One of the reasons I’m so tough is that my mama was also,” Mary said. “She drove a county school bus until she was 80.”
Richard has given up trying to plan pallbearers for his funeral. “I’ve tried two or three times, but they’ve all died. Maybe I should have women.”
Neither is afraid of dying because of their strong faith. But their granddaughter said that behind their lighthearted joking and banter is a fear of leaving the other alone.
“They both sleep badly now because they are always checking on each other. Granddaddy is always worried that Nannie is cold, so he wakes her up to ask her.”
Another couple graced us for years at Irvington. Trucking magnate J. Harwood and Louise B. Cochrane, remained in love for over 80 years. Harwood said that they had made a wedding promise: Louise would make all the small decisions; he the big ones. In all their years together, she’d never needed him to act. His dear Louise left a hole in his heart! Both in ours.
Look around, there are many more reasons to stay in love, than “knott.”
Note this: “Miss” Hazel has put up with me for almost 18 years… I do love that woman!