Tom & Jeanne Rea
My husband and me did not realize what a treat we were in for when we stopped in to see Tom and Jeanne Rea. Although, we remember Tom from when he was a Deputy Sheriff, this was our first time meeting Jeanne. They are truly adorable!
After we were all seated, Jeanne asked, as is the Georgetown southern tradition, “Who is your daddy? Well, more like, who are your grandparents?”
My husband explained whom his grandparents were, which did not ring a bell, but when he started talking about his father, they knew exactly where he came from. I could only laugh and shake my head.
While Jeanne stayed a kindergarten teacher during her career, Tom muddled around in different arenas. He started out as a deejay, or radio host, for WINH, an AM station in Georgetown.
“That’s how we met,” Tom confessed while recounting his deejay days.
“Yes, that’s right,” Jeanne added. “My mother was a secretary there and so I met Tom from her job there. He was twenty-four and I was twenty-one at the time.”
“How old are you now?” I asked.
“He’s 77 and I’m 74,” Jeanne answered. “We’ve been married for 53 years.”
“We met on July 4th and married a few months later in November,” Tom added.
After giving my own husband a look of reprieve as he has trouble remembering dates, I asked my favorite question of couples, “Who knew first, that you wanted to be together?”
They both looked at each other confused before Tom said, “Well, it just kind of happened. I was at the radio station and there was another job that paid $5 more so we just packed up and moved to Chattanooga.”
With a laugh, Jeanne explained, “That’s how things were back then. Five dollars was a lot of money, so when something opened up that paid the extra bit, we would pack up and move.”
After some thought, though, Tom said, “I think I knew before she did that I wanted us to spend the rest of our lives together. Our families quickly put together a wedding and then, we were off.”
“What brought you back to Georgetown?” I asked. “Was it another $5 increase?”
Jeanne shook her head. “No, our son John was born. We wanted to have a more stable life for him to grow up in. You know, you just can’t raise a child moving around like we were doing every time there was a $5 increase in a job so, we decided to come back to Georgetown and raise him here. Nine years later, we had twin girls.”
“We came back and I started working out at the pro-shop in Wedgefield,” Tom added. “Michael Carter was the sheriff back then and he loved to golf. I got to know him pretty good in those days. One day, he asked if I wanted to be a deputy and I said sure so, he told me to be there the next day and he handed me a badge and gun and deputized me.”
With a laugh, Jeanne explained, “That’s scary, huh? But, that’s how things were done back in those days. You didn’t need all this special training and such.”
“That was in ‘79,” Tom continued, “I worked there for a good many years, and then went on to the police station up toward the beach. My favorite job was working security for Santee Cooper. Finally, Jeanne and I just decided it was time to retire.”
“Well, I retired after the doctors told me it was just time,” she said picking up where Tom left off. “I thought about it, and I just decided it wasn’t fair to the children…which I loved so much. I wasn’t able to get around like before.”
We talked about so many things and for so long. Most of my interviews are about an hour long and the four of us ended up chatting for a few hours as if we were old long lost high school buddies catching up.
Tom and Jeanne talked with so much pride about their son, John, who is a pastor in Surf Side, and likewise, beamed with pride speaking of their twin girls, Terry and Erin. They showed us pictures of their family: children and grandchildren and shared stories of them growing up in Georgetown. To say they are proud parents and grandparents is an understatement. My husband and I thoroughly enjoyed the stories, though.
As we started wrapping things up, I asked about their own recipe for a happy and long lasting marriage. Of course God, topped their list, but they did have their own addition.
1). “You need a sense of humor,” Jeanne said simply.
“That’s very important,” Tom added, agreeing with his wife wholeheartedly. “You cannot take things to heart so much.
2) “You can’t argue a lot, either. That just tears you down.”
Jeanne nodded and said with a laugh, “Do like I do, just tune him out.”
3) After a few seconds of thought, Jeanne went on, “I’ve learned you have to have your own friends. You need your friends, his friends, and then friends together.”
Tom nodded, “That’s right. You do things together as a family, but you do need your own friends, too. You know, when we first got married, I was outgoing; an extrovert and Jeanne kept to herself. Then later, Jeanne became the more outgoing one and I became more of the introvert.”
Jeanne agreed. “A friend of mine once told me that if I did not get out of the house, I wouldn’t ever get out of the house so I learned to just get out for a while. I was already independent, but now, I was even more so.”
4) “And trust,” Tom added. “You have to have trust and not be jealous all the time.”
“That will tear you down, too,” Jeanne offered in agreement with her husband.
I set my notebook of notes aside. That was pretty much the end of my interview, but as I said, we talked for a long time. It was such a pleasure visiting with Tom and Jeanne. My husband and I left feeling inspired and in awe of such a great couple.
Happy Valentine’s Day, Tom and Jeanne. May you be blessed with many more to come.