Cover Story

Readers’ Heart-Warming Accounts of Long-Lasting Romances
Love Endures

There’s nothing quite like a tale of true love to bring inner warmth to a body on even the coldest of winter days. In February, with spring’s verdant vivacity just beyond the horizon, there is the added delight of Valentine’s Day, the lover’s day.

So this month, Cooperative Living offers a sampling of some heavenly, heart-warming accounts of long-running romances. These love stories were submitted by readers during the past three months and are presented here as proof positive that love makes the world go ‘round.

Giles and Janie Johnson

Giles and Janie JohnsonNestled in the heart of Pittsylvania County, there’s a small, white farmhouse and the old, familiar smells of tobacco barns nearby. On a typical morning inside the house, you might find Giles and Janie Johnson reading, taking care of flowers, or visiting with a friend or neighbor. What’s unusual about this country scene is the fact that Giles and Janie have been lifelong companions. Married on December 24, 1925, in a minister’s home in Chatham, Virginia, the couple will soon celebrate their 75th anniversary. When Janie Saunders was just a young 14-year-old girl, she tied a love knot in a small cedar tree in the woods. The tree itself was used to tie the knot as a symbol of true love. The love knot that she tied was for Giles, and if the tree lived it meant that he loved her too. Two years later they were married, and in 1941, they bought the farmhouse that they live in today. The cedar tree that she tied the knot in (shown in the photo) was on this property and remains standing in their front yard today.

They believe one of the reasons for such a long marriage with very few arguments is their deep Christian faith. They live a simple lifestyle, attending church services on Sunday and making a weekly trip into town for groceries. They feel truly blessed by their family of six children, 13 grandchildren, 17 great-grandchildren and three great-great-grandchildren. They are seldom apart; each one seems to sense what the other needs. My grandparents are special people, and when I’m with them I feel a gentle, loving spirit. I am reminded that their years together are a true measure of what a love story can be.

—Tamara Reynolds, granddaughter

Lawrence and Beatrice Dawson

Lawrence and Beatrice DawsonIn June 1948, Lawrence saw me on the bus which I rode to work at Burlington Mills in Altavista. He asked a fellow worker who I was and where I lived. The next day when our bus arrived, this worker pointed him out to me. One Sunday evening in July, who should drive up to our house but Lawrence. Eleven months later we were married. It was true love from the beginning, and coupled with respect for one another, has lasted for 50 years. I think every married couple will face difficult times at some point in their journey and ours was no different, but each valley you travel through together makes the love deeper and the mountain top much more beautiful. The only time we’ve been apart was the two years he was in the army.

We were both raised in Christian homes and were saved at a fairly early age. Shortly after our marriage, God called Lawrence to preach. We pastored for 35 years, including churches in Virginia, Tennessee, and North Carolina. We’ve touched many lives and have been touched and blessed by so many people.

In 1952, our first child, a son, was born. During the next 13 years, 3 girls were born. They have given us very loving grandchildren to further enrich our lives.

Life is wonderful and true love is "a many splendoured thing." It is so mystical.

— Beatrice Dawson

Robert and Marie Brouillet

Growing up in New York City, Marie Reed wanted to do something different, make a difference. She got that chance during World War II. The U.S. Army was looking for women volunteers to join the Army to "free a man to fight." Marie picked up recruiting pamphlets at the subway every day on her way home from work. "My mother even said if she were 20 years younger she would be right by my side," said the Montclair resident. After boot camp, Marie ended up at Fort Riley, Kansas, with the Women Army Corps. There, she became an official Army photographer. And while at Fort Riley, Marie met a young, handsome man who had just returned from overseas named Robert Brouillet. They fell in love and were married in September, 1946. Fifty-three years later, they are still in love and have three children (two in Virginia and one in New York) and nine grandchildren. "Memories enrich your lives and we have many happy ones," says Marie.

— Marie Brouillet

Hilda and David Walker

Robert and Marie BrouilletOur marriage of 53 years has been a real joy, even though it has withstood the trials of raising a family, working long hours, and having a mother-in-law living in the home for 21 years.

A dairyman’s life is not easy, but we both grew up on a farm and knew what it was like to work hard and do with little at times.

Our faith in God and love for each other, and the covenant we made at the time of our marriage in 1946 have carried us through the years. There has never been any thought of giving up on each other and not many cross words or arguments over the years.

We have four wonderful children, 10 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren, and we enjoy every one of them. We have tried to instill in them the true values of life and to love each other and their fellow man. We hope they all follow in our footsteps.

Both of us are blessed with good health and look forward to more happy years together.

— Hilda and David Walker

Velma and Edgar McGregor

Hilda and David WalkerWe were married during wartime, when most everything was rationed, especially gas for cars.

On a Saturday night in December of 1942, my husband-to-be and I went to get a blood test to get married. We had to go about 20 miles to get the test done, so when we got back to my home, my husband-to-be didn’t have enough gas to get home and then come back on Sunday. So he left the car, borrowed my brother’s bike, and rode it home on a dark cold night, about 10 miles.

The next morning when I looked out, the ground was white with snow, and my husband-to-be was pushing the bike back. We were married on Jan. 20, 1943.

We didn’t tell anyone we were married. We wanted to see how long we could keep our secret.

On Valentine’s Day, 1943, we took a picture from the wall in my home and placed our marriage certificate over the picture and placed it back on the living room wall. But no one noticed it. Finally, we told everyone that we were married, but no one believed it.

As of Jan. 20, 2000, we have been married 57 years.

We live near the place where I was born and lived my whole life, on Mountain Road in Gretna.

We have always tried to help each other get through the storms of life as well as the joys of life, and trusted in God to see us through them. We are still very happy and hope we still have some more happy years together.

— Velma and Edgar McGregor

Ray and Mary Townley
Middletown, NJ

Velma and Edgar McGregorIt was early summer of 1939. There were momentous events about to happen, but in one last peaceful moment of time, I sat in algebra class at the high school and contemplated the future. The early morning streamed in the east windows and silhouetted a young girl sitting between myself and the sunbeams. I thought I had never seen such a beautiful girl, but I was too shy to introduce myself. Weeks later, my cousin asked me if I would like to take a walk with her and her friend to become acquainted. To my surprise, her friend turned out to be the girl from algebra class.

The three of us took many walks that summer, but it took me months before I could summon up courage to hold hands with my new friend. The summer passed and I entered college. Within a year we were solid friends. Then the war came along. I enlisted in the U.S. Naval Reserve and served until 1946. During my service I summoned up the nerve to ask Betts to marry me. After a moment of deliberation she said yes, and we were married in 1944.

Three children, eight grandchildren and a lifetime later, we have just celebrated our 55th wedding anniversary. Betts has been my constant companion and continues to care for me since I was diagnosed with multiple myeloma this year. I thank God every day for her existence and have never forgotten the young girl of the silhouette who has been my constant companion for 60 years.

— Ray C. Townley

Kathryn and Raymond Hite

HeartI would like to tell my story of romance. My name is Kathryn Lynn Hite. I met my husband, Raymond Hite, when I was 14. The first time he asked me out I couldn’t go. He later asked me to a homecoming dance. He didn’t drive, so his older sister took us to the dance. After the dance, on our way home, he told me he loved me and would marry me some day. I thought, yeah, right. I don’t even know you. He started calling and we soon started dating. We dated and by the time we were 16 were very much in love. My parents were not very happy with the idea of me having such a serious boyfriend. They tried to discourage us and wanted us to see other people. However, the more they disapproved, the more we wanted to be together.

In December of 1969, he gave me a diamond. His mother would only cosign if he signed a paper saying he would finish school. My dad was very upset and insisted I return it immediately. In April, my dad was finished with us, and insisted we break up. Raymond decided he would show my dad who was boss and asked me to marry him. I packed my clothes, set them outside of my window, and left a note, telling my father of our plans. That night we eloped! We were married on April 7, 1970 in Dillon, South Carolina. His mother cried, and my father tried to have him arrested. The next day, I returned to finish up high school, and he went looking for a job. We now have been married 30 wonderful years and are very proud of our children and the accomplishments we have made.

Marriage is a lot of giving and taking. I thank God He has blessed our marriage. I firmly believe in commitment. We have four children and two grandchildren. If I could give advice to anyone, it would be to put God first in everything and He will direct your path in life.

— Kathryn Lynn Hite

Charlie and Marcia Hall
King George

Ray and Mary TownleyIt was November 11, 1959. A special day because it was a holiday and a day off from work. As usual, when time allowed, I was working on my car, a 1954 Ford. After making a repair, I asked the girl who was waiting for her ride if she would like to accompany me on a test drive. She said yes.

The race was on..."Boy chases girl, Girl catches boy!"

Back then we lived in New England where the winters were cold enough to support outdoor ice skating. As it turns out, this girl had been "noticing" me while ice skating at the local school. Well, the next thing I knew we were married and living in an apartment in Rochester, New Hampshire.

A few years later, we started an exercise program, part of which was running. We fell in love with running as we had fallen in love with each other. It was something we could do together, although not at the same pace. I trained for and ran a marathon. She supported, cheered and encouraged me.

As time has passed, it seems that my race speeds have been slowing. Lately, my partner and I have been running side by side in races.

On September 3, 2000, we will celebrate 40 years of delightful marriage. Good things come to those with patience. Even a "long-running" romance.

— Charlie and Marcia Hall

Les and Sally Logan

Les and Sally LoganThe first time I saw my wife, Sally, she was only a few hours old.

I was almost five at the time. I’d known both of her parents before they had even met each other. Her dad and mine both worked for the railroad. When her mother moved into our neighborhood, it was my mother who played matchmaker.

I clearly remember when Sally’s mom was pregnant with her. And I remember watching as my mother changed her diapers when she babysat her. It was my job to entertain her because she fussed less around me.

When Sally learned to walk, she took her first steps to me.

My family moved away when I was eight. We only saw each other once during the next 16 years. But whenever I dreamed of being married, it was always Sally who was my wife.

We began to correspond while I was deployed to Vietnam with the U.S. Navy in 1966. When I returned I went to visit her at Christmas. We dated for a week or so and then decided to get married. That was 33 years ago.

We now have a 23-year-old son who is a staff writer for a newspaper in Florida where he lives with his wife and our 18-month-old grandson.

We were childhood sweethearts a little over a half century ago. Does that qualify as a long-running romance?

— Les and Sally Logan

Doris and Phil Arrington

Doris and Phil ArringtonTrue romance is a joy and delight. I found that romance in 1955 when I married my high school sweetheart, Phillip M. Arrington. We were both just 16 years old. Without a high school diploma, good jobs were hard to find. So we lived with Phil’s parents for six months. In March of 1956, we set up housekeeping on our own, and became members of Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative. We proudly hung our membership certificate on the wall beside our marriage license (it was all we had).

I would always find little love notes tucked here and there and everywhere from Phil. One morning I went into the kitchen and on the counter he had spelled out "I Love You" with flowering cherry blossoms he had picked from the tree in our back yard. We didn’t have much, but we had love. In 1957, we were blessed with a fine son, and later two beautiful daughters followed. We worked hard, grew up fast, and the years flew by. We had hard times and our share of troubles, but our strong love and prayers always pulled us through.

In 1974, we built Phil’s Garage, and on Nov. 20, 1999, we celebrated 25 years at this establishment. On Nov. 12, 1999, we celebrated our 44th wedding anniversary and we both became 61 years old. Life has been good to us. We still work side by side. We’re still members of Mecklenburg Electric Co-op. and we’re still in love.

— Doris Reese Arrington 

Mary Ann and Larry Muse

Mary Ann and Larry MuseThe "Love of My Life" first walked into my life when I was 13 years old!!! My best friend in junior high school had invited me to a mutual friend’s home for a party — and it was at this party that I first saw Larry. From that night on, destiny was at work!

Several months later, Christmas week 1946 to be exact, the same friend called to see if I could go to an afternoon movie with her and her friend. (I remembered that cute fellow I had met a while back.) My mother agreed — with an early evening curfew. This movie date was the beginning of what is now a love affair that has lasted 53 years!

Larry helped me through high school, encouraging me all the way. College had been in my future plans, but I knew marriage would be in the forefront!! Nine days after my graduation (June 17, 1950), we were married by the same minister who had baptized me as a little girl. I was so much in love — a 17-year-old girl with stars filling my head. Reverend Clark arrived to perform our wedding in his black top hat and tails. What a beautiful day!

We have now retired from our plumbing and heating business of 42 years to spend the autumn of our years in the country in which Larry was born 72 years ago, Middlesex on the Rappahannock River. God has blessed us with three wonderful children and four beautiful grandchildren. We thank God every day for this wonderful life he has granted to us.

— Mary Ann Muse 

Joe and Mae Mills
Colonial Beach

Joe and Mae MillsOur romance began in 1938, under my mother’s quilting frame in our home in Adamsville, Tennessee.

The neighborhood ladies, including my future mother-in- law, gathered at our home once a week to spend an afternoon quilting and visiting. When the quilting frame was lowered from its suspended position to the proper height for working, there was left a perfect area underneath for two three-year-olds to play.

As we grew, we advanced to chasing one another around the yard with a toy lawn mower. But when I was five, my family moved to Washington, DC due to my father’s work.

During the next few years we sent Christmas cards but did not see each other again until one snowy day in 1943. During my family’s visit to Adamsville, Zula Mae taught me the art of playing with paper dolls cut from a Sears and Roebuck catalog. "Never bend them at the waist," was one of the many things my wife of 46 years has taught me.

Our relationship picked up momentum, at least on my part, when at the age of 16, I visited Zula Mae on her birthday and presented her with a necklace for which she gave me our first sweet kiss.

We continued to send letters and cards throughout our high school days. Zula Mae had a lot going on in her life like horses, boys, basketball, and school — probably in that order.

In the early summer of 1953, shortly after our senior year in high school, my friend Donny McDaniel and I drove down to Adamsville. It was during that visit that I came to know a truth that has lasted a lifetime — I loved Zula Mae Seaton.

After a few months, I returned to propose marriage and she accepted! Our circumstances weren’t the best. We had no jobs, no money, no car, and no place to live. But to two 18-year-olds it was exciting. We set the wedding date for Christmas day, only two short months away.

I returned to Washington, DC to earn some money and prepare to move down to Tennessee. When I returned on December 21, we decided to elope right away. We simply couldn’t wait until Christmas. So, we hired a taxi cab, and, with Margaret Littlefield as our bridesmaid, we drove to Corinth, Mississippi and got married. The taxi driver stood up as best man. Two days later, we caught a Greyhound bus to Memphis where we made our first home in a two-room apartment with a shared bath and lots of dreams.

In the 46 years since, Mae and I have been blessed with two children, Relda and Matt; two grandchildren, Robin and Rina; and a fine son-in-law, Kyle. We are now happily enjoying our retirement years in Colonial Beach near our children.

Our theme song was Nat King Cole’s "They Tried to Tell Us We’re Too Young." We may have been, but after 46 years together no one could say that anymore!

— Joe Mills

Paul and Joan Tshirlig

Paul and Joan TshirligIf pressure is what changes a piece of coal into a diamond, then my husband, Paul, is a real gem! Looking back over the 39 years we’ve been married brings a mixture of joy and admiration for the small and grand gestures that make for a storybook romance; ours is one. Like so many young couples starting out, we clung to each other for assurance and hope that the life ahead of us would bring promise, happiness and a rich experience. We were tested from the start.

The blizzard that greeted us that February morning as we married at St. Michael’s Church seemed to foretell the years to come. With as many memories as those snowflakes, I now reflect on the beauty and the courage of my life partner, my best friend and the love of my life.

Standing by my side through three childbirths, several miscarriages, illness, lean Christmases, soup-and-sandwich suppers, nine operations, months in a wheelchair, laying to rest my father, mother and brother in less than a year, and so many other dark days...he was always there for me. His eyes and loving words healed me.

Looking back on the many diapers he changed, bottles he warmed, hours he worked, boo-boos he kissed and bills he paid, he was the quintessential dad. Sitting by their beds, his fatherly love encouraged our daughter through brain surgery and our son through diabetes. He marched proudly by my side, and wore a yellow ribbon for our first-born serving in Saudi Arabia. And now, with the memory of school plays, braces for their teeth, sports practice, college tuition and walking his little girl down the aisle, we move into middle age with grace and laughter...together.

As impossible as describing the taste of chocolate is it to describe our life together to date...but perhaps, the best is yet to be, with my diamond and me.

— Joan Tshirlig 

Lyn and Ed Durrwachter

Lyn and Ed DurrwachterPeople let me tell you ‘bout my best friend, he’s a warm-hearted person and he’ll love me till the end." These are the lyrics from a song back in the ‘60s, but they describe my husband to a "T." Our romance began with an unexpected kiss. He was leaving for a tour of duty with Uncle Sam back in the ‘50s. I kissed him goodbye very shyly and then wrote to him and sent him home-baked cookies. We didn’t know each other well then, but when he came home two years later it was a different story.

On one of our first real dates, we talked for hours! He told me of his abusive childhood and his yearning to be loved. My heart melted and I wanted to be the one to love and care for him the rest of our lives.

We’ve had 42 years together. Like most folks we’ve faced challenges of every sort both emotional and financial. When my father died in 1991, we clung to each other as never before. We both lost "our" Dad.

We are now retired and live in our dream home on Lake Anna. We enjoy these golden years playing with our five grandchildren, visiting with friends, sharing what we have with others and cruising the lake to see the sunset. We’re more in love with each other every day.

— Lyn Durrwachter

Sam and Mary Tropea

Sam and Mary TropeaMary was a charming Irish, blond beauty and I was an Italian, aspiring college senior when I first laid eyes on her in late 1965. I remember it well because she was kneeling in quiet prayer at Christ Church in Washington, DC when I received the divine revelation that I would like to know this devout person better. After a few dates and an 18-month courtship, that genteel, lovely lady became my darling wife. How quickly the ensuing 32 years have passed since we joined our lives together, for better or worse, on September 9, 1967.

Fortunately, most has been for the better. For the better, we have enjoyed a happy marriage, worshiping, working and travelling to nearly every state in our beautiful country. Also we have been blessed with four wonderful children, three special sons-in-law and, so far, four beautiful grandchildren.

During the worse, my dear wife stood faithfully by me when I was diagnosed with chronic lymphatic leukemia in April 1996, and underwent a bone marrow transplant in January 1998. I am now cancer-free thanks to our wonderful Lord, my wife and family, my sister-donor, my oncologist Richard Cambereri of Manassas, the Georgetown University Hospital BMT doctors and staff, plus the support and prayers of our many friends at church, neighborhood, and at work.

Well, honey, the children are all gone so let’s turn out the lights, snuggle up, and enjoy many more years of our marriage made in heaven.

— Sam Tropea

Pat and William Simmons

Pat and William SimmonsWhen I was three, we moved to Aspen Hill in the village of Fincastle. I went out to play and looked across the street. Out onto the front porch came a seven-year-old boy, dressed in brown knickers, a tan button-up sweater, a cap on the back of his head and a shock of beautiful blond curly hair. My heart did a double flip — can a three-year-old really fall in love? When I was a bit older I was allowed to play "Track the Fox" and "Kick the Can" — I was scared of those kids but wanted to be near HIM. I was in the seventh grade when he was a senior — he viewed me as a pest. The Second World War came. He left and got his wings; I had other friends. However, when I was a high school senior, the war was over. I walked upstreet and there he was, leaning against Bolton’s Store with the same curly blond hair. He saw ME! We were married three years later and still live on Aspen Hill. Our three children have splendid spouses. Five "perfect" grandchildren and grand cats complete our family. July 15, 1999 was our 50th anniversary. Bill is always my favorite partner — in church, golf, bridge — all endeavors. God has blessed our union.

— Pat Simmons 

George and Elizabeth McKinney

George and Elizabeth McKinneyMy husband and I met on a Greyhound bus. That was over 30 years ago. My husband was on the bus going home to Virginia from Ohio. I was going home for summer break from college.

My husband looked out the bus window and told his friend that the little blond standing in line at the bus station would be his wife. His friend thought he was joking.

When I got on the bus, it was packed. My husband-to-be told his friend to get up and give me his seat. He introduced himself. He was good looking, friendly and had the cutest smile I had ever seen.

He came to see me that summer. He called often. When I went back to college in the fall, he even called my girlfriend and my apartment. He had gotten the number from my mother. I was graduating in January and was really busy, so we lost touch for a few years.

After a few years, he called and we got together. We dated a few times. I knew that he was the man I wanted to spend the rest of my life with, and he felt the same way. We were married about a month later.

We will celebrate our 32nd wedding anniversary March 1 of this year. I still feel the same way. I want to spend the rest of my life with this wonderful fellow.

Our love is as strong as ever. It seems that we have been married forever. He smiles and says this is the way love was meant to be — forever!

— Elizabeth H. McKinney


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