Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Lifestyles

February 12, 2012

Enduring love

Sandy Hook couple have been married 75 years

SANDY HOOK — Verdie, 93, and Catheleen Fannin, 91, are on their way to a record-setting marriage.

The Elliott County couple marked 75 years of marriage in December; a couple in Las Vegas have been married 78 years — Wilbur and Theresa Faisse have been married longer than any couple in the country, according to abclocal.go.com.

When the Fannins met, she was 14, a school girl in Omar, W.Va., in Logan County. He was already an experienced man of 17, having worked for five months for the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in Idaho and Oregon.

Mr. Fannin had left the CCC after his father called him, the youngest of 12, to come home and help him on the farm in Sandy Hook. He returned but found his father difficult to work with. He went to Ashland to visit a brother. One of his sisters was in town from Omar and he decided to go home with her and look for work.

He found a job with West Virginia Coal and Coke working in the company store. HIs brother-in-law helped him get the job.

For a while, he lived with his sister but eventually moved into a boarding house operated by the future Mrs. Fannin’s grandmother.

But the couple met on their own.

“I was sitting on a fence watching the children play ball at school,” he said. “That’s when I saw her.”

Mr. Fannin said it was love at first sight, but Mrs. Fannin disagrees.

“I still don’t believe it,” she said with a laugh.

He admitted she might have made some effort.

“She would work her way over a little closer to me when they were playing ball,” he said. “I talked to her and that was it for me.”

He said they got to know one another for a few months, going to the movies sometimes, before he proposed. At first she said no, but he said he asked again and she changed her mind and agreed to marry him. But for a short time, their marriage was a secret.

“He was afraid of my dad,” she said.

She was only 15, the oldest child in her family and a big help to her mother, who would send her to the company store as young as 4 to buy 25 cents' worth of potatoes, 15 cents' worth of beans, a box of macaroni and a little piece of cheese, “That would be our dinner,” Mrs. Fannin said. Like most families at the time, Mrs. Fannin’s family was poor. Her father operated a sawmill for the mines. “We had one pair of shoes a year,” she said, adding her mother made her a dress each holiday.

Mr. Fannin arranged for them to be married by a preacher who worked in the mines.

As they sometimes did, the pair took a group of children, some brothers and sisters and some his sister's children, to the movie. They dropped them off and headed to the preacher's house. On the way, the passed the property where Mrs. Fannin's father kept hogs and he was feeding them, so they detoured to avoid him. By the time they arrived at the preacher's house, he had left for work.

“I knew another preacher who lived near the school so we went to him and he said he’d marry us,” Mrs. Fannin said. “He got some neighbors to be witnesses.”

Then, the young Mr. and Mrs. Fannin returned to the theater to gather up the children. They went to their separate homes, maintaining their secret, for the time being.

Mrs. Fannin, though, told her grandmother they’d been married and she told Mrs. Fannin’s mother.

“At school my sister said, 'Mom is mad at you. You're going to get a whippin,'" Mrs. Fannin recalled.

Meanwhile, Mr. Fannin's first day as a married man involved buying some new furniture for what would be their home together. Mrs. Fannin's father approached him and the truckload of furniture.

"Her dad said, 'What's going on here?' and I told him," he said. At first, her parents weren't happy but after a day or so, they accepted the marriage of the 15- and 18-year-old.

Mr. Fannin even apologized to his father-in-law but the family was destined to get along.

"Her mother was a swell mother and he was a good old man," Mr. Fannin said of his in-laws.

The Fannins continued to live and thrive in Omar and had two sons, Tracy and Bobby. Then, Mr. Fannin got a call from his father wanting him again to return to the farm in Sandy Hook.

"He was old and need help," Mr. Fannin said and noted it was rough times at the mines with sometime violent strikes. He wanted to change his line of work. While his wife wasn't happy about the move, she went along.

Mr. Fannin occupied himself with reworking the farm, tearing down old buildings and building new ones.

He also got into the moonshine business. It was one of the two big disagreements of their marriage.

"We had our ups and downs, of course," Mrs. Fannin said. "But I really got mad when he brought me here to moonshine." She said she remembers when revenuers came to the area and found his still and "busted it up."

"He came running to the house and ran past the house and kept on running," she said. After that, he quit moonshining and committed the next grave error, in her judgement.

"He joined the army," she said. "He had two little children and I didn't think he should leave.'

Mr. Fannin served in Georgia, supervising a plant that repaired faulty ammunition.

When he returned to Sandy Hook, he put his business acumen to work as owner of Mico Kitchen Cabinet manufacturing. He and his wife also operated Fannin's Groceries.

In addition to raising their two sons, the Fannins adopted their daughter, Terri, when Mrs. Fannin was 39; they took her when she was three days old and on Mr. Fannin's 41st birthday.

"I wanted a girl," Mrs. Fannin said. She also filled her time with raising poodles; she learned to groom them and dock their tails. Her love of animals led her to raise chickens, turkeys and duck in an incubator she kept in her laundry room.

With 13 grandchildren, 21 great-grandchildren and five great-great-grandchildren, Mrs. Fannin said she has advice to live by to maintain a happy marriage.

"Mind your own business and keep your mouth shut," she said with a laugh, admitting they naturally got a long very well, despite a few disagreements and some hard times which included the loss of their son, Bobby and two grandchildren and a fire that destroyed their house in 1991.

She also advises parents, "Spare the rod, spoil the child," but added she was blessed with good children.

LEE WARD can be reached at lward@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2661.

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