They say you can’t go home again, but when your home is Pocahontas County, you know that saying doesn’t pertain to you. Regardless of how long a person has been gone, at some point in life, they will feel the tug to come back.
For Raymond Swadley, that visit back home has been more than 50 years in the making.
Swadley lived in Durbin and Green Bank from 1950 to 1955. During his time in the county, Swadley was a vocational agriculture teacher at Green Bank High School and active member of the Durbin Lions Club.
“I came to Green Bank School to cover the schedule of David Smith while he completed his schoolwork,” Swadley recalled. “He was attending WVU to receive his Master’s in Vo-Ag Education. When he returned, I remained and the department had two teachers. I taught vocational agriculture and led the Future Farmers of America program.”
During his time at GBHS, Swadley was recruited by football and basketball coach Harold Mosser to become a member of the Lions.
“Lions Club was a men’s only organization at the time,” he said. “Clarence Sheets – who ran Sheets’ Garage and sold Oldsmobiles – along with his supervisor Mr. Humphry loaded up the car with a group of us in October 1950 to attend a Lions Club meeting. Along for the ride were Virgil Harris, Warren ‘Tweerd’ Blackhurst and me. The meeting was held at the Durbin Methodist Church. The preacher, Rev. Chenoworth, was the club secretary at the time.
“I was very impressed with the organization and its mission,” he continued. “I decided to make my membership official at the December 1950 meeting. That Christmastime decision was one that has been a lifelong gift to me.”
While Swadley lived in a boarding house in Durbin, his wife, Vera, remained in Everettville where she taught at Everettville Junior High. Later that summer, she came to the county to join her husband.
Although it should have been a happy reunion, she unfortunately contracted polio that summer.
“After an extended hospital stay, she came home to Green Bank and was able to begin a job teaching at Cass Elementary School,” Swadley said. “We remained in the area until the summer of 1995. It was just too difficult for her to navigate the hills on her crutches and breathing was difficult at the higher altitude there. We needed to get her to a place with more level ground. It broke our hearts to leave this beautiful area where we had begun our teaching careers.”
The couple moved to Delaware and Swadley had his membership transferred to the Lord Baltimore Lions Club.
Despite moving to a new area, Swadley maintained his dedication to being a Lion and rose through the ranks until he became District Governor in the early 1980s.
The Swadleys moved again, to Weyers Cave, Virginia, and he had his membership transferred to the Weyers Cave Lions Club. In 2006, Swadley again served as District Governor. He is still an active member of the Weyer Cave Lions Club.
“Some of my favorite memories are of attending different state meetings,” he said. “One time that stands out was when I served as Master of Ceremonies for a state banquet in Charleston. At the banquet three different Lions spoke. All three of them later became International president.
“At the 1986 International Convention in Taipei, Taiwan, it was voted that membership would be opened to women,” he continued. “My wife joined the organization ‘officially’ that year, although she had served as an unofficial member for years by supporting my many activities and volunteer experiences.”
Most recently, in 2015, Swadley attended the 98th International Lions Convention in Honolulu, Hawaii. At a luncheon, he happened to sit at the same table as Charles and Carolyn Sheets, of Green Bank.
“Imagine my surprise when we put together that I was talking to Charles Sheets and his wife, Carolyn,” Swadley said. “The son of the very man who took me to my first meeting back, in 1950.”
Due to the reconnection with fellow Durbin Lions members, Swadley has scheduled a meet and greet at the Arbovale Community Center prior to the April 12 Lions Club meeting. A reception will be held in Swadley’s honor from 3 to 5 p.m.
Swadley’s friends and former students are invited to attend.
Suzanne Stewart may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org