LEWISTOWN - Out of all the different kinds of love that someone can fall into, the love that lasts is the most valued and most sought after. This is a type of love that goes beyond the honeymoon stage, makes it through the ups and downs of marriage and keeps the romance true with age.
Paul and Joy Woodring, together for 62 years, Linda and Sam Himes, together for 48 years, and Jim and Ellen Miller, together for 61 years, found their lasting love here in the Juniata Valley.
Though each couple has their own story, all three agree that it takes faith, love and laughter for a marriage to last.
Linda and Sam Himes
A Story of Faith
One evening, Joy and a group of her girlfriends arrived at their pastor's house in Altoona for a youth Bible study. As the teens came together, one of her friends pulled over two "fellas" to join their group. Joy's friend was sweet on one of them and the other was Paul Woodring.
"Paul and I were introduced and I knew right away," Joy said. "The first night I saw him I thought 'I'm really gonna like this guy.'" The other couple didn't end up together, but Paul called Joy a few times and then finally asked her to the movies. After going steady for a year, Paul proposed with a diamond ring during their senior year in high school and they were married the next February.
"I like to tease that she was just
another pick-up, but she knows that she's the love of my life," Paul said.
The couple remained active in their church as Paul took a job at Penelec and Joy stayed at home with a growing family.
"We never had a lot, but we always had faith and we were always happy," Joy said. "God never gave us anything that we couldn't handle."
Paul and Joy ended up with four children - two boys and two girls. The family often went camping together, and with each new addition, an upgrade was needed from sleeping in the car, to a tent, then a pop-up and finally a camper.
"We were very lucky and had them boy, girl, boy, girl," Paul said. "You gotta put your order in early with the guy upstairs for that to work out."
Paul stayed at Penelec for 42 years, working his way up the ladder from a meter reader, to an assistant manger and retiring as a division credit manager. To help pay the bills, Joy took jobs at the local Town and Country store, A&P and KB Toys.
"Nobody can tell me we have a perfect marriage, no one will ever make me believe it," Joy said. "You laugh, but you also have words and cry sometimes. I think our Heavenly Father has helped us the most."
After 62 years of marriage, the Woodrings still enjoy their time together and play a game of cards every night, even though Paul thinks Joy cheats.
"I keep thinking where did the years go," Joy said. "But I like him and, after all these years, I think he likes me. He's the love of my life."
A Story of Love
It was July 4 at Kish Park and fireworks were lighting up the night sky as Linda and Sam saw each other for the first time. Unlike most love stories, however, this was not love at first sight.
"One of my friends was begging me to go with Sam so she could hang out with his friend," Linda said. "I just remember saying that I didn't want to go out with him, but I guess I did it for her. He was so much shorter than me."
A year later, though, feelings were a little warmer, Sam and Linda were certainly no where near official, when he joined the military. For the next 19 months, all the couple had were the letters they sent to each other while Sam was stationed in Germany.
"That's really where it all began," Linda said. "All those months, all we had were the letters and we slowly got to know each other in a different way. We fell in love through those letters."
When Sam came back to Linda almost a year-and-a-half later, all thoughts of a big, expensive and drawn-out wedding were thrown to the wind as the couple ran away to Virginia and eloped. At that time, it was quite the scandal.
"All that mattered was that we were together," Sam said. "We didn't care too much about the actual wedding."
The courthouse was like an assembly line, Sam said. You kept running into the same people and following each other around the building, he added.
Another couple even asked if Sam and Linda would be witnesses to their on-a-whim wedding. They said yes, but only if the other couple would be their witnesses as well.
"It was cheap and it was great," Linda said. "Sam's family had the biggest fling-ding when we got back. But that's how we did it and it has lasted this long."
After 48 years of marriage, the Himes are still complete opposites, but love each other just as much as the day they ran away together.
"We're different as night and day, but we always work things out together," Linda said. "We fell into a burning ring of fire and the flames got higher ... and it burns."
Their favorite song is "Ring of Fire" by Johnny Cash. They are often found singing it together.
A Story of Laughter
Jim and Ellen were childhood sweethearts, meeting for the first time at the elementary school that now houses Country Crossroads Senior Center. They started dating in fifth grade, making the relationship official in notes passed while the teacher wasn't looking.
"We grew up together," Ellen said. "He lived a mile or two down the street from me. You could say I went over the ridge to get my man or maybe he went over the ridge to get me. Depends how you look at it."
The couple dated through middle school and high school, often going to the drive-in or square dancing during the weekends.
"We love spending time together," Jim said. "We're happy together and it has always been that way. I think I'll keep her."
Jim and Ellen got married in 1952. Shortly after, they formed the Polka Dots, a square dancing and polka band that performed at venues across Juniata and Mifflin counties.
"My sister made us white scarves and hats with red polka dots," Ellen said. "Jim would play the guitar and call out the dances and I would play the bass guitar. One of our friends was the fiddle player."
The darkest period of the couple's relationship occurred in 1958 when they lost a baby. Only their love for each other helped them through it.
"We've had our ups-and-downs like everyone does," Ellen said. "It's important that you stay a team, give and take, be kind to one another, be honest and stay true. Does that sound too mushy?"
They bought a small farm on Big Greenbriar Road where they'd have picnics and work the field. Their children have since bought the farm and Jim and Ellen's only responsibility is to entertain the grandchildren, which they do with speeding golf cart rides through the woods.
After 61 years of marriage, the Millers still tease each other and act like high school sweethearts.
"We don't know yet if we're made for one another," Jim said. "But we think we're going to make it."