Laura Dean Bennett
Some love stories are short stories, some, like Romeo and Juliet, come to a sad end before they’ve even gotten a good start, while others last a lifetime.
Tom and Garnet Sharp’s love story is the lifetime kind. They’ve been married for 61 years, and there are no visible cracks in the foundation.
“We’ve always loved each other, and we still do,” Garnet said.
When asked what it’s like to have been married for 61 years, Garnet shakes her head in disbelief.
“It doesn’t seem like it’s been sixty-one years!” she said. “Time goes by so fast!”
“Yep, we made it to sixty-one years,” Tom added, smiling. “She stayed around for some reason. I don’t have any money, so it must be love.”
When you’ve been together for so many years, there is bound to be some “name calling.”
“Tom used to call me his ‘Honey Bee,’” Garnet said, “and I call him ‘Sweetheart,’ sometimes, when he deserves it. I don’t remember calling him anything else – at least not anything we can put in the paper,” she adds, laughing.
Back before their love story began, Garnet was Garnet McCoy. Her parents were Lanny and Genevieve Mc-Coy, and she was one of seven children raised on Droop Mountain
“Oh, we lived pretty far off the main road,” she said. “It was about a half mile walk to the school bus stop.
“My dad kept sheep, a milk cow and one cow to butcher. He always had a big garden and Mom canned everything. They worked real hard.
“We had a fruit orchard, and we picked berries, but back then, everybody was about the same. Everybody had to do whatever they could to make ends meet.”
Garnet and Tom met in the winter of 1956, during a basketball tournament between Green Bank, Hillsboro and Marlinton high schools.
They first noticed each other when Hillsboro played against Marlinton.
Garnet, a majorette, was a junior at Hillsboro High School.
“She was real pretty,” Tom said. “I saw that right away.
“And I saw him,” Garnet recalls. “There he was – this good looking guy.”
Tom readily admitted that he’d been seeing another girl at the time he met Garnet, but that all changed.
“After we met, that was just it,” he said.
And Garnet felt the same way.
“I guess you could say it was love at first sight,” she said. “At least it was for me.”
They had the first date just a couple of weeks later. They went to a movie at the Alpine Theatre in Marlinton.
“My parents liked Tom right off,” Garnet said. “He was like a son to them. He’d always just jump right in to help with whatever needed doing. He’d help my dad in the garden or he’d carry wood. He just fit right in.”
Tom knew how to work. He was ninth in a family of 14 children, and lived on Brownsburg Road, just down the road from where the couple now resides.
His dad was the manager of Southern States in Marlinton and his mom took care of the kids and kept things going on the homefront.
The couple courted for about a year.
After they’d been out on a date one night, Tom proposed. He had bought an engagement ring at Weimer’s Jewelry Store in Marlinton.
“Tom had just brought me home, and he got out this little box and opened it,” Garnet remembers. “He showed me this engagement ring. But he didn’t really ask me if I’d marry him, he just said, ‘Would you wear this?’
“Of course, I said yes,” Garnet said laughing.
“I already knew that Tom was a good guy. And I was right. He’s always been a good guy, and he still is.”
Garnet had been accepted for a job with the FBI after graduation, but she decided to stay home and get married instead.
After graduation, Tom went to work in the mines.
They were married in the Hillsboro Methodist Church on Saturday, December 14, 1957.
Tom’s cousin, Wade Sharp, and his wife, Helen, and Tom’s sister, Pat, “stood up for them.”
Tom admits to being a little around the bend.
“I was so excited that I forgot all about getting any corsages,” he said. “I should have done that. We had a florist in town, and I could have done it, but I was just too excited.”
They had their wedding supper at the home of Betty McCoy Weatherholt – Garnet’s oldest sister who lived in Hillsboro.
Their first home was in Riverside.
“In the first years of our marriage, he used to bring me little gifts all the time,” Garnet remembers.
“Garnet is her birthstone, I think,” Tom added. “I got Garnet garnet earrings for her birthday one year.”
Garnet worked as a telephone operator in Marlinton until their first child, Felicia, was born.
Felicia became an R.N. and worked at CAMC in Charleston. She’s retired now, and lives in Scott Depot.
Garnet eventually got a job at Pocahontas Memorial Hospital as a nursing assistant.
“I took care of the newborns, worked in the E.R. and assisted on the floor,” she said.
“Tom took a job as a guard at the Hopewell Federal Prison in Virginia, so we moved to Virginia for a while. But it didn’t take long until we realized we both wanted to come home, so after a little while, we did.”
A second child came along, a son, Anthony. Tony went into the Marine Corps, then to college and works in the school system in Greensboro, North Carolina, now.
Then a third child, Jason, came along. Jason graduated from West Virginia Tech with a degree in computer programming. He lives and works in Marlinton now.
“In between having my three babies, Tom and I both got jobs at Denmar State Hospital when it was a nursing home. I worked as a nurses’ aide and a telephone operator and Tom worked as a plumber,” Garnet said. “We were at Denmar for seventeen or eighteen years.”
Tom also worked at C.J. Richardson’s for 13 or 14 years.
When asked what has been the highlight of their married life, both Tom and Garnet agree that it was definitely the births of their three children.
Garnet says that they hardly ever had time for much besides working and raising their family.
“When the kids were in school, we’d go to all their games, plays and whatever they were doing,” she said, fondly. “Those were the good old days.”
They’ve always liked staying home and enjoying family time.
“Garnet would make popcorn, and we’d play checkers,” Tom said. “And we used to play a lot of dominoes.”
“Tom was a hard worker,” Garnet added. “He just worked all the time, so we liked being at home together when we could.
“Even now, Tom just won’t retire.”
He still works two days a week at the green boxes in Green Bank.
“After the kids were grown, we took a few really nice trips,” Garnet said.
They’ve visited Garnet’s niece in Washington state, and they took a 10-day trip out west for their 50th anniversary.
There was really only one other thing that Tom and Garnet liked to do for fun when they weren’t working or tending to their family.
They used to cut quite a rug during their square dancing days.
The couple started out doing old-time square dancing at the Dunmore Community Center. Then they joined a modern western square dancing club. They danced with the Pocahontas Promenaders for some 30 years.
Tom used to call the square dances, and the club made apple butter – it took about a week to do it all – and they sold it to raise money to pay the caller and rent the old Marlinton Music Building.
“But we lost our caller, and it’s been about two years since we danced,” Garnet said.
“I hope that old-time square dancing will make a comeback,” Tom said.
Tom has a bit of arthritis, which makes it difficult to dance these days, but the couple sometimes goes to Dunmore to watch the dancers and listen to the music.
When asked what they like to do for fun these days, they said that they mostly stick close to home.
“We have two TVs, so we can each watch what we want on our own TV,” Garnet explains.
“I like game shows and Tom likes ball games.
“Of course, lots of times we’ll watch TV together. Now, when the great-grandkids are here, they take over one of the TVs so Tom is stuck watching with me.
“We do like to go out and eat once in a while, and sometimes we go down to the Opera House, and we enjoy that.”
The couple celebrated their 61st anniversary in December, complete with roses and a dinner in Lewisburg.
Garnet’s advice on how to stay married?
Patience and hard work.
“You have to have lots of patience with each other,” she said, “and if you’re going to have a good marriage, just expect to put in a lot of hard work.”
Did they ever have disagreements?
“Well, yes, we did,” she said.“I don’t think any married couple could say they didn’t have a disagreement occasionally. Sometimes we’d get cranky with each other – you know, sometimes you just get tired and busy – but we always loved each other.
“We get along fine now, but it’s easier now,” Garnet added.
“Young people might not realize how hard it can be to raise a family and work so hard all the time. It wears on you. You get tired and sometimes tempers get short.”
And what does Tom say is the secret to staying married for 61 years?
“Knowing when to keep your mouth shut and when to open it,” he said with certainty.
And Tom offered some sage advice about how to choose a wife.
“You’ve just got to use common sense and realize what you’re getting into,” he said. “You’ve got to be adult enough to make a good choice.
“But you can’t go wrong with a good looking majorette.”
And how will this long-married couple be spending Valentine’s Day?
“This Valentine’s Day, I think we’ll probably spend a quiet evening at home,” he said.
“I might indulge in some flowers and maybe a card for Garnet – we’ll see.”
And what happens if that doesn’t suit Garnet?
Tom doesn’t seem too worried about that.
“Well, if she was going to leave me, she’d have done it by now,” Tom said with a twinkle in his eye.
Isn’t it romantic?