Two cards from a party guest said it all: “Happy 25th” AND “Happy 50th Anniversary.”
Folks wanted to honor a Salem couple’s 75th wedding anniversary — but in the Department of Long-lived Marriage, Hallmark came up short. With nary a “Happy 75th” card to be found, the well-wisher combined a “25” and “50.”
That’s not surprising, since not many couples reach the big number just achieved by Clarence and Alma Geraldine Poage. (Some might imagine being happily divorced that long; some cannot imagine even living that long.)
So on a recent Saturday evening family and friends gathered to celebrate the couple at Salem’s Senior Center. Daughter Martha P. Conner reported that her dad had resisted “too much fuss,” but her brother Dickie Poage insisted it was a special occasion; enjoy it, Dad! Friends had already commented on the anniversary announcement seen on the digital sign at Bill Jones’ business.
Indeed, the Poages seemed pleased with the party scene: Flowers, much food, huge cake, old photos and scrapbooks. And of course the guests — including J.C. and Sadie Hatley from North Carolina. The two couples had been camping pals from 1993 to just five years ago.
Mind, “Mom and Dad are 95 and 97,” Martha wrote via email. They live fairly independently in a South Broad Street patio duplex, with help from Martha and Dickie. And “Mom has been active at the Senior Center for almost 30 years,” still going at least twice a week to make baskets and crafts.
“Mom and Dad grew up on farms in the Floyd area,” Martha wrote. “Mom was raised by her grandparents; her mother died in the flu epidemic of 1918….
“Dad drove his Model-T Ford to court Mom.” He paid $35 for it, and worked all day on farms for less than a dollar. He talks about walking to see her, too, when he had problems with the car.
They still lived in Floyd but came to the Salem Baptist Church parsonage to be married on Oct. 14, 1937, by Rev. Trimmer (“Mom’s stepmother was a member”).
The couple supported Salem life for a long time: Clarence owned Poage’s Grocery for about twenty years, built by himself and his late brother Byron, a brickmason. (It’s now the Craig Avenue Superette. And nearby Poage Lane was named for three Poage families.) He also drove a school bus for many years, worked for N&W, and worked maintenance for Roanoke County Schools.
Martha added that her mom worked at the famed Newberry’s on Main Street. The couple loved gardening, fishing from the state campground pier, and sitting around a campfire with friends.
Such a stable family! The Poages have three grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. Retired RN Martha and Ron have been married 50 years. Dickie is retired from the Salem Sheriff’s Dept. and works part-time for the Salem Police Dept.
And the trusty question: What helped their long lives and successful marriage? “… Living good, clean lives and working hard,” Martha wrote. “It is evident they have much love for each other…. They both seem to worry a lot about each other’s health and happiness.”