They say diamonds are forever, and so too is the marriage of Howard and Virginia Brady.
On January 14, the Laurel Fork couple, now residents of Heritage Hall-Laurel Meadows, will celebrate their 75th anniversary. Often called the diamond anniversary, the 75th is widely thought of as the pinnacle of anniversary celebrations. As diamonds are the strongest substances on the planet, as well as one of the most sought after, it therefore represents such an esteemed anniversary.
Virginia Brady said the Lord’s help and commitment have been the two biggest things that have helped the couple stay together for three-quarters of a century. Virginia will celebrate her 91st birthday three days after the couple’s 75th wedding anniversary, while Howard will soon be 96 years old. Virginia said she and her husband have known each other for most of their lives, and things didn’t start out so rosy.
“I’ve known him from a boy. We went to a two-room school in Laurel Fork called Rome Elementary. I was in what they call they little room and he was in the big room,” she said. “Every mean thing that happened, Howard Brady did it. I hated him. But a few years later, I got to looking at him in a different light.”
Virginia and Howard Brady have been united so long in marriage they have almost 100 grandchildren and great-grandchildren. They are now on their fifth generation with great-great grandchildren in the family. They were married not long after the United States entered World War II, deciding to tie the knot on January 14, 1942, just a little over month after the attack on Pearl Harbor. It was that day, December 7, 1941 that will “live in infamy,” that pushed the couple into going ahead and exchanging wedding vows.
“After Pearl Harbor we thought that Howard would be inducted into service because he already had two brothers in the service. One was in Africa and the other in Switzerland and they were there the whole war,” Virginia said. “He was called three times and was turned down every time.”
With military service not an option, Howard Brady stayed in Laurel Fork to farm. He would also go on to work many years in carpentry. Together, the couple would have five children – Pamela, Howard Jr., Robert, Wayne and Fred. The boys made livings as carpenters and masons, and now some of the grandchildren have continued the family tradition of farming and carpentry, while others have branched off into the medical field and many other walks of life.
Virginia said as a young girl she and her sisters weren’t allowed to go out with boys at all, so potential suitors had to come to the family home to see the girls. She said the family moved when she was a teenager and Howard dated other girls. When the family moved back on the mountain closer to his home, they started dating.
“He had never asked me if I would marry him. Him and my sister Charlotte got in a bet. If he asked daddy for me, he could cut off her hair. Back then us girls all had long hair. He could cut off her hair and I forget what she could do to him,” Virginia said. “This was back in wartime. It just had started and my father had started working at a power plant. He usually was not there, but this night he was and Howard got me by the hand and got up before daddy and said, ‘Arnold, are you going to give me Virginia?’ Daddy looked at him and said, ‘How are you going to support her?’ He didn’t say yes or no. But my oldest sister did that because she knew if she could get me married, she could also.”
Before long, the couple got married in Hillsville at the Historic Carroll County Courthouse on a cold January day. Virginia’s grandmother, Emma Dawson, lived to be 110 years old. She attributes her longevity to family genes, while she said at 95, Howard is the oldest member known in his family.
Virginia said her life has been one of a common housewife with children. She said there was no work for young girls when she was growing up. Back then, women were expected to grow up and get married and have a family, she said.
“It wasn’t like it is now and if you went off and got a job you had to have someone with you. They weren’t allowed to be out by themselves so most all a young girl had to look forward to was to meet a boy, get married and have a family. Things were like that back then,” Virginia said. “We didn’t have a car when we first were married. It was years before we got one, at least in the 1950s, so we either caught a ride or had to pay for a trip or we walked.”
She said the family did buy a television when they first came on the market, but remembers listening to the radio for news and to hear the Grand Ole Opry when the couple was first married. And the family lived the lives of workaholics.
“When he was in the field, I was in the field,” she said. “When he was on the housetop sometimes I would be up there, too.”
Howard has been in Heritage Hall-Laurel Meadows due to health reasons since September. It wasn’t long after he moved into the Laurel Fork facility that Virginia decided to join him.
“This is the first time I have ever been in a nursing home… And I decided if he couldn’t come home, I would come here,” Virginia said. “I thought he would be heartbroken. I know I would be if I was in a nursing home.”
Allen Worrell can be reached at (276) 779-4062 or on Twitter@AWorrellTCN