The People of Georgetown

Feb. 13, 2019

Holy guacamole! I just met the most amazing couple of all. These two take the cake, the pie, and the whole doughnut shop. They’ve been married for 72 years, 73 as of 2019! I know people who feel fortunate enough to live that long, much less be married this long.

Jeep Ford is 94 years old and his blushing bride, Weezie, is 91. They have a lot of stories to tell. As Jeep astutely put it, “I’m a walking history book.” He wasn’t kidding either.

As I sat down and opened my notebook, Jeep said, “What do you want to know? I’ve loved her since she had long curls in her hair and riding her tricycle.”

“Her tricycle?” I stammered.

With a laugh, he said, “Yes, we’ve known each other most our lives. I was born and grew up on Screven Street and she moved here when she was about two years old.”

“No, I’ve lived here all my life. I was born over on Broad Street,” Weezie corrected with a laugh.

“Well, I know that,” Jeep stated, “I just meant you moved to Screven Street when you were about two years old.”

Still in awe of his original comment, I asked, “How old were you when she was riding her tricycle?”

“I was about 8 years old, she was about 6. I thought she was the prettiest thing and I’ve loved her ever since.”

“Tell her about the birthday party,” Weezie encouraged laughing jovially. Obviously, Jeep is the storyteller of the two. “Go on, tell her about that.”

“What happened at the birthday party?” I asked as I feverishly wrote notes. “Did he try to hold your hand?”

“No, that was the hay-ride when we held hands for the first time,” Jeep started. “Well, with the birthday party story, I was old enough to drive; I was fourteen...”

In anticipation, Weezie picked up the thread, “...My girlfriend and I were talking about who Jeep would be interested in more; her or me.”

“It was her,” he confirmed. “We dated on and off through high school, and we kept going together even after I went off to the war and she went off to college. I would go visit her and we’d go to dances and dates and different activities.”

Weezie nodded, agreeing. “Most of it was church activities, too. It was during World War II and I was in Winston-Salem while Jeep was in the service. I was a music major.”

“World War II?” I thought that was amazing in itself.

“Yes, World War, II,” Jeep confirmed. “I got drafted in when I was 18 years old and sent to the Pacific for about 23 months and then I came back and was sent to Washington DC for 13 more months. I was happy about that because then I was closer to her while she was in college.”

They talked a little back and forth about how they dated secretively, how Jeep was frustrated that he never got to further his education with his G.I. Bill, their three children, grandchildren, then back to eloping, and Jeep working at the hardware and grocery store on Front Street, then working fifty years at Parrish Motors.

Wait...eloping? Park the Model-T!

“You two eloped?”

Both were laughing now, “Yes, we sure did,” Weezie answered. “The funny thing is one of my girlfriends needed a ride so I asked Jeep if he would mind giving her a ride. It was after we’d gone and eloped and he said it was okay so we gave her a ride and never said a word to her about what we’d just done. When she found out she said, ‘oh my! I was with you on your honeymoon’.”

Jeep talked about working on President Teddy Roosevelt’s yacht while he was stationed in Washington, DC. “The smoke stack had an elevator in it, but you’d never know it. It was so Roosevelt could ride his wheelchair up to the upper deck. After Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman took over the yacht.”

“You worked for Truman?” I asked.

“Yes, I did,” he confirmed. “I was one of four men to work on that boat. I liked Harry. I could talk to him just like I am talking to you and he was a man of decisions, too. I liked that a lot about him.”

I knew Jeep wanted to get his nap and I was holding him up. At 94 years old, he was entitled to it so; I finished up with my final question: “What is your recipe for a successful marriage?”

Weezie answered first – “God is first, always, but outside of that, I’d say communication is a big factor. You should talk to each other about everything; you need to have a mutual respect for one another; and, generosity. I think that’s important, too. If you can’t be giving to other people, you can’t be a giving person to each other so; you should be kind and giving to all. The last thing is you should always be loving and affectionate to one another. Every morning, Jeep gives me a kiss good morning.”

“That’s because she’s still so beautiful,” he said of the curly haired girl who stole his heart while riding her tricycle.

“Now you tell her what you think a good marriage needs,” Weezie instructed. “Those were my thoughts, you tell her yours.”

“God is first. Your faith is the most important,” Jeep began. “Like Weezie said, ‘communication is important, too’. Compliment each other and hold hands and such”

“Responsibility, too,” Weezie added. “You have to be responsible in your life.”

With passion, Jeep included, “And live by your vows! Love one another for better or worse, richer or poorer, and sickness and in health, until death do you part!

“I know that if it wasn’t for Weezie being as strong a woman as she is, I wouldn’t be here today. We both feel very blessed to have lived this long and been together as long as we have. We’re very blessed.”

I closed my notebook and with a sense of reverence at this amazing couple, I said my goodbyes. Before closing, though, I have to say that when I first posted on Facebook about writing these articles for Valentine’s Day, these two became a big focal point. Now, I see why. They are a hoot! I loved meeting them and I will always cherish what they gave me.

Happy Valentine’s Day, Jeep and Weezie. I hope you have many more good-morning kisses to share with each other.

Feb. 12, 2019

As with all of my Valentine couples, I began by explaining that Scott Harper, of GAB News, likes for me to write these type of articles because I am not a reporter or a journalist and I write from a personal perspective. I’m not there trying to dig up dirt to write a story, as they are my story. That being said, Joe and Catherine Lawrimore have become my next subject.

This lovely couple has been married for 53 years. They met in the 10th grade at Pleasant Hill High School. “Pleasant Hill and Choppee High have become Carver’s Bay now. They’ve combined the two schools,” Catherine explained.

“So you’ve both grown up in the same community then?” I asked looking from one to the other. 

“Yes and no,” Joe answered.

Catherine picked up and elaborated, “Joe grew up near William’s Hill, which is at the edge of the county. If you walk through the woods you’ll run into the Pee Dee River. So he grew up there while I grew up on the Rhem’s side of the county, the other side. We often tell people, ‘Joe grew up in the woods, but I grew up in the country,’ since I was across from him.”

“Did you say Rhem?” I asked. “I featured a story for Halloween last year and it was about a Rhem House that is haunted.”

“Yes, it’s the only one left, too,” Catherine stated, knowing the property I wrote about. She even knew the previous owners.

We talked a little more about the Rhem House before I asked (getting back to the article), “Tell me what happened after high school, where did you go?”

“I went to college in Columbia,” Joe answered. “I took a two-year business course and Catherine worked at Baxter Laboratories.”

“Yes, I moved to Columbia and took a job up there. We married a few months later. It was March of ‘66,” she shared. “A few months after we married, Joe enlisted into the Air Force.”

“You enlisted?” I asked, “Not drafted? You did that by choice?”

Joe nodded in agreement. “I knew I was going to get drafted and I wanted to decide which branch of the service I went into so, I enlisted into the Air Force after college. By then, Catherine and I were already married.”

“We didn’t know it then, but when you got drafted they’d line you up and go down the list of names putting people in different branches so as not to flood just one branch,” Catherine explained. “They’d count off, Navy, Air Force, Army, and so on.”

I did not know that, either. To Catherine, I asked, “What did you do while he was away?”

“While he was in the service, I worked on Broad Street in Charleston. I was pregnant at the time...,” she started.

“...I came home from Labrador, Newfoundland from the Air Force after the baby was born,” Joe added.

Catherine nodded, “Yes, our first daughter was a year old when he got out of the service. After Joe got home in 1970, we traveled a little for his work. We lived in Greenville, know, the bigger cities.”

“What brought you home to Georgetown?”

“Family. Our parents were getting older and ailing so we just thought it was time to come home and we’re very happy we did. We love Georgetown,” Catherine gushed. “It’s our home.”

During their marriage, they both worked at Georgetown Steel Mill while raising their two daughters. Joe worked in Production Planning before he retired and enjoyed farming afterwards (he has a family farm). Catherine also retired from working in the sales office at the mill. At 72 years old, they both lead very active lives with family, grandchildren, and just with each other.

I asked what their Valentine plans were (I think I caught them off guard). They look at each other, shrugged, and said they didn’t have any. Like my husband and I, they’ve been married for so long that it’s just another day. We don’t make plans, either.

“Who knew it first?” I asked throwing it in the midst of the Valentine plan conversation. “Who knew first that you were meant for each other?”

“I did,” Joe answered without hesitation.

Catherine glanced at her husband. “I believe it was you because you had told someone that you were going to ask me to marry you.”

“And what would you say is your recipe for a lasting marriage?” I asked as I wrote some notes down in my notebook.

Like past couples that I’ve interviewed, without hesitation, they said the first thing any marriage needs is, God.

“Children,” Catherine added. “Children are great for a marriage. They keep you going. We have a very close family here.”

Joe thought a minute and then added, “Values. You should both share the same values as one another and communication.”

“That’s right,” Catherine agree. “Talk to each other every day.”

I set aside my notebook as we talked for several more minutes. My husband had come back to pick me up. I wasn’t allowed to drive myself over there. Since driving to George and Ruthie Dugan’s around the corner, he has grounded me from driving and hid the car keys until my eyes get better (he can be so unreasonable!).

We talked about our kids and grandchildren and then Catherine pulled me into another room to show me the pictures of their two daughters. On the wall hung two very beautiful young women in portrait pictures. I noticed the radiant smile on Joe’s face. His eyes lit up as he gazed upon his lovely daughters.

Yup. I know they are daddy’s doubt. He probably spoiled them rotten!

When I got out to the car with my husband, I was sharing with him some of the information. One thing I mentioned is their age (72 years old). He did not realize they were one of my Valentine Couples.

“They’re really in their 70s,” he marveled. “I thought they were about your age (50s) and younger than me! Man, I gotta find out which brand of Wheaties they eat.”

On a side note: Before I go, I want to write about this. I usually refused to write about anyone’s health when I feature people. I feel it is not my place to put their privacy out there; it is the families’ place. However, Catherine has expressed that she wanted me to write it and I agreed to.

As a nurse, I can tell you that very few people make it back from brain cancer and/or tumors and most that do survive the surgery and treatments are not necessarily out of the woods, yet. It doesn’t just affect one’s ability to think and process information, but sometimes their ability to walk, or even speak, can be affected.

Joe is a walking miracle. He’s one of the few that have survived and that in itself is amazing and worth mentioning. He’s able to think, process, participate, walk, and speak. If no one had told you, you probably would never know.

I mention this because as he stood admiring his daughter’s pictures on the wall, just the look of pride on his face told me that in addition to Catherine’s love, his daughters were also his inspiration. With that being said, I want to wish Catherine, and especially Joe Lawrimore, a very special Valentine’s Day. Joe, you’ve got this and I think you will see many more.

Feb. 11, 2019

I was so adamant about writing this couple’s story that in spite of my poor vision; I took my son’s truck and headed over there. You should have seen the look of horror on my husband’s face when I told him what I did. That’s nothing compared to the looks from other drivers.

I was excited to meet George and Ruthie Dugan, and likewise, about this interview. Not because there was anything particular about their story that I was aware of in advance (or because I got to drive myself there), but because I have discovered these marriages that have lasted over half a century are completely amazing, and each one is a beautiful, yet, unique story.

As of December of 2018, they have been married for 50 years. Ruthie is 69 years old, while George is a young 71, soon to be 72 in June. They’ve been blessed with two children and several grandchildren, two of which are twin boys.

“We’re very fortunate to have most of the family close by,” Ruthie said of their family. “I mean like they haven’t moved far from us. Sometimes, my twin grandsons, who are in college now, will come to Georgetown and visit. If they stay at our house on Black River, they’ll call to let us know that they’re there, even though they don’t have to do that.”

“They’re all good kids,” George said of his grandchildren.

“George was in the Army when we first got married, and he had an R&R in Hawaii,” Ruthie shared. “We didn’t have a honeymoon and so, that’s where we went. For our 50th anniversary, we went back to Hawaii. Our son lives there so it was a wonderful chance to visit with him, as well”

“I bet that was nice!” I exclaimed. “I heard it was really pricey there.”

Ruthie nodded. “It is. Things cost more there than here. Not long after we came back home from the first time in Hawaii, George got his orders to go to Vietnam.”

“Yeah, it was the last nine months of my tour, too,” George stated recalling those many years ago in the service. “When I got out of the Army, I did a lot of small home repairs and yard maintenance until I finally retired.

“What kind of work did you do in the service?” I asked of George.

“I was a medic,” he answered. “I worked in a hospital in New Mexico before I got sent to Vietnam.”

I thought that interesting. I know several male nurses who first started out as a medic in the armed services. It’s rare that the people don’t stay in the medical field when their tour of duty ends.

The question begged to be asked. “Why didn’t you stay in the medical field?”

“I don’t know. Just dumb, I guess,” he said thoughtfully.

“What kind of work did you do, Ruthie?”

“Well, the first year George was in the Army, I went to business school and then afterwards, I worked as a secretary at Georgetown Steel Mill,” she answered. “I eventually retired after 42 years, but before then I had been promoted to the store room manager.”

Before I could ask what that meant, George spoke up, “She kept the mill running in parts. That was her job.”

I made a few notes before asking, “How did you two meet?”

Ruthie laughed a little and said, “He was best friends with my brother and he was working for my dad; that’s how I met him. We dated in high school a little before getting engaged, though.”

Hmm. Trying to be slick since Ruthie said she’s read some of my articles. I’ve written about some of their friends, Frankie & Harriet Davis, as well as Tom & Jeanne Rea. As casually as I could, I asked, “So, since you’ve been reading my articles, you know what’s coming next.” They nodded their heads in agreement. “Who knew first?”

George looked over at his wife to see if she were going to answer. When Ruthie didn’t say anything right away, he said, “It just sort of happened. She was 19 and I was 21 when we got married.”

Ruthie picked up from there and elaborated. “We both just knew that we would eventually get married. Our families put the wedding together in six weeks so; it was really fast once we got engaged.

“Was it a big church wedding?”

They shrugged before Ruthie answered, “Mostly it was just close friends and family. We got married in our church here in Georgetown. We were the first ones to ever get married in our church, too.”

By this time, I knew I wasn’t going to surprise them with any sudden questions, so I just brought everything around to the close and asked, “What is your recipe for a lasting marriage?”

Without hesitation, they both said the first thing is, “God. Second, being best friends.”

“You need to be friends,” Ruthie explained, “So that you can talk to each other; communicate and be honest with one other.”

1) God

2) Friends

3) Communication

4) Honesty

I closed my notebook and set it aside. I turned to George and said, “So what do you think, George? Are you ready for a divorce, yet?”

George shook his head no. “I think I’ll keep her another 50 years,” he answered.

Spoken like a good husband. Thank you both for allowing me to come into your home and write about you. It was a pleasure, indeed. Happy Valentine’s Day George and Ruthie. I know you’re looking forward to many more of them.

Feb. 10, 2019

It’s funny how this couple, Wesley & Connie Owens, came about. I try to keep up with comments on my articles, which Connie had commented on one of my Valentine articles, stating that she and Wesley had been married for 56 years. To which I replied, “Why am I not talking to you then?”

I checked my list, I checked it twice (as if I were Santa), and their names were not on there so, I sent a message and asked to come out and speak to this delightful couple.

I learned a couple of things during this interview. The first being, my husband and I knew Wesley’s brother, Durant, before he had passed away. That was one thing; the other was that they had computers in the 1960s.

“They sure did,” Wesley explained. “I went to Massey Institute for Computers in 1961 and then worked at the paper mill. The memory on those computers is about the same as what they use on cell phones today.”

Holy modems, Batman! I wasn’t even born yet. “Well, how old are you two, if you don’t mind my asking?”

“He’s 76, and I’m 74,” Connie answered. “I’ll be 75 in June.”

“Were you always in computers?” I asked of Wesley.

“No, my father was a contractor and I did a little of that,” Wesley explained, “So I did some work in building. That’s how Durant and I built this house. Then I went off to college for computers and did that for a while and I ended up working ‘safety’ at the power plants before I retired.”

“What about you, Connie?” I asked, turning to face my hostess.

“I worked in retail and sales,” she answered. “I worked at Tomlinson’s on Front Street, the old K-Mart, even at Sears. I remember one time when I was working at Sears and Charlie Hall, Carroll Godwin, Bill Sharpe, and a very young, Bill Walsh had come into the store. I got to meet and talk to them.” Connie laughs as she recalls the memory and added, “I thought I was high society then.”

Three kids, retirement, and all of these years later, they are living happily in the home he and Durant originally built, then sold, and now, they’ve bought it back. Their children are grown, but they have grandchildren to enjoy in this lovely home. Oh yeah, and two cats.

I was sitting there just minding my own business and I saw something move. It scared the bee-Jesus out of me because I don’t see very well off in the distance since I’ve been having eye surgery. I was little curious as to what had was the cat. He blended in so well with the end table that I never noticed him. That little fella had been there eavesdropping the whole time. The other kitty was hiding and didn’t care what we were talking about.

After checking my heart rate, I asked how they met and Wesley, being the quiet one, listened as Connie shared a cute little anecdote. “I was working at Roses on Front Street. I must have been about 13 or 14 years old then, but he had come into the store and I saw him in the aisles. He was playing football at Winyah High School when we first met so I knew who he was.”

Wesley spoke up and shared that they had dated throughout high school. With a small chuckle he added, “After which, I had asked her to the prom and we went. We dated for a while and then in ‘63, I gave her a ring so she couldn’t date anyone else.”

Connie laughed, but elaborated, “Three months later, we were married.”

Thinking that I had the answer to one of my questions: “Who knew first?” I was sure that Connie would say, “I knew it that day that I saw him in Roses,” but no, that’s not what she said at all.

Instead, they both looked at one another with the same confused look that almost everyone has given and said, “Both.”

“You both knew at the same time?” I prompted.

Wesley gave a little nod and explained, “It was gradual. We both just...kind of knew that we were going to be together and get married.”

Just by being in the room with them, I could sense a mixture of a mutual love, respect, and sense of unity between the two of them. Connie even told me how Wesley doesn’t mind getting in the kitchen and helping her cook.

“He shrimps and builds things, too. Wesley is a Jack of all Trades,” she stated proudly. Personally, I was impressed by the fact that Wesley gets her a dish of ice cream every night. “He’s a keeper!”

While I enjoyed our visit and conversation, I needed to draw my conclusion, so I asked my last question. Every couple enters a relationship with ideas on what makes a marriage work. Over time, we cultivate those ideas and expand or sometimes even change the ingredients according to our perspectives.

“What’s your recipe?” I asked.

I think Connie has been reading my previous article (thank you) because she was ready. “First, you need love; love one another and show each other your love. Second, respect. You should respect each other as a person even though you’re married.”

“Avoid arguments,” Wesley interjected. “Don’t go to bed angry, either.”

I can’t remember who said it first, but they both did agree that one of the important ingredients is to have individual activities. “I love to shop, I love Facebook, and taking pictures of sunrises and sunsets which I post a lot of them on Facebook. It’s a big hobby of mine. Wesley loves to play golf and go shrimping...he keeps the freezer full of seafood.”

Wesley agreed and said, “We do things together, too, but we do enjoy our own activities, as well.”

With my final notes made, my husband and I ended our visit and said goodbye. It was a pleasure for us to have met another great couple. Happy Valentine’s Day Connie and Wesley! May you have many more to come.

Feb. 9, 2019

My friend, Andrea Johnson, told me about James and Evelyn Wragg. I did not realize they had been married for 63 years and going on 64 years in November. When I got there, I recognized them from the Trinity Lutheran Church in Maryville.

James is 86 and Evelyn is 82 in April. “We’ve known each for most of our lives,” she said with a laugh.

Although, they are both from Georgetown, they met in New York where they ended up living for about fifty years before returning. “It was time to come home,” James said of the move back to Georgetown.

“What kind of work did you do in New York?” I asked as one of my first questions.

“I’m a retired nurse,” Evelyn answered. “I became a nurse in ‘68 and quit in ‘78. I did not like how the patients were being treated and cared for so, I left nursing and became a cook. I cooked for a boy’s home in Brooklyn before retiring. Now, I volunteer my time at Helping Hands.”

I turned to James, who I’ve already determined was the storyteller of the two. He leaned back in his chair thoughtfully, and then said, “I was a porter. That was my title. I worked for the New York City Housing Authority.”

“What is a porter?” I asked as I jotted some notes down.

“I was a porter,” he said again, “A caretaker.”

Evelyn leaned over and answered, “He was a janitor, but they are called ‘porters’ in New York.

Being a janitor is a very lucrative job. When I was a young girl, I overheard the adults talking. My father’s friend was a janitor and made excellent money. I remember thinking that if I couldn’t be a nurse or a writer, I would be a janitor at my school.

“So before you retired and moved back to Georgetown, how did the two of you meet?” I asked. 

“Our sisters were friends,” James began. “And I was over there when Evelyn came in.”

“He was hanging out at his sisters, is what he was doing,” Evelyn said laughing. “He moved to New York before I did, but I was in New York, at the time, just visiting.”

James nodded and confirmed it. “That’s right and then we were set up for me to pick her up for dinner and then later, we got married.”

I sensed he was skipping a huge part of this story so I looked to Evelyn and on a hunch, I said, “He’s a bit of a flirt, isn’t he?”

“Yes, he is” she said laughing. Without further prompting, she filled in the gaps. “The whole time he was trying to impress me by talking about his girlfriend down here. He was saying, ‘I bet you know my girlfriend who lives in Georgetown’.”

James was laughing as I asked to clarify, “He was telling you about his girlfriend while on a date with you?”

“Yes, he was. And then when I came back to Georgetown so I could finish my school and graduate, he wrote me love letters...the whole time,” she said of their courtship.

“James,” I said laughingly, “You are a flirt.” He agreed.

They are so easygoing and so easy to visit with. I hated to leave them, but I knew our time was growing shorter, so I dashed into the next part of the interview.

“Who knew first that you wanted to marry the other?” I asked.

“He did,” Evelyn answered without hesitation.

“You, James?” I asked turning to him. “Even while you were talking about your girlfriend to her?”

He nodded his head in agreement. With a laugh, he answered, “Yes, I knew the day we met that I wanted to marry her and I did marry her, too. We got married at my sister’s house in 1955. The family had put together a nice wedding for us.”

“She had a three-story brownstone so, we married in the living room and then had the reception downstairs in the basement,” Evelyn added.

I wrote a few more notes before getting to the final question. “What would you say was the glue that kept you together? What is your recipe for a lasting marriage?”

In unison, they both said, “Prayer.”

As I wrote that down, Evelyn elaborated, “You need God first. You should have a strong sense of faith.”

“Laughter,” James added. “You have to have a sense of humor and be able to laugh together.”

Again, at the same time, they both said, “Honesty. You have to be honest with one another.”

After several thoughtful seconds, Evelyn said, “I’d have to say friendship. You know; be friends with one another.”

James nodded in agreement with his wife’s answer. I loved how these two were on the same wavelength with one another.

This is certainly an unusual couple. I’ve said a few times about one being the storyteller or comedian and the other the listener. At first, I thought for sure it was James, but now as I’ve closed my notebook, I realize, Evelyn is just as good at telling a story as James. That being said, I’d have to say he’s more the comedian of the two. He certainly cracked me up and sent me home with a smile and occasional laugh over the interview.

Thank you James and Evelyn. It was truly a pleasure to have talked with you both. Happy Valentine’s and I wish you many more.