On March 20, 1949, there was a wedding in the little mountain town of Welch, West Virginia. This wedding was held in the home of Guy and Lillian Hollandsworth. Jack King and Beth Hollandsworth were joined in marriage on this first day of spring. It was a simple and sweet wedding. Life was simpler in those days of 1949. This tall, handsome man was very much in love with his pretty, petite bride. She was happy to be secure in the love of this kind, gentle man. No one outside of their close circle of family and friends gave any thought to this wedding day. To me, though, it was a monumental day. You see, I call this special couple Mom and Dad.
Beth was the youngest child of Guy and Lillian Hollandsworth. Guy was the school principal in Welch. Jack was the youngest of two children born to Christal and J.W. King in Oakvale, West Virginia. Beth’s brother, Luther, was dating Dad’s sister, Mary. Through that connection, another connection was forming. Beth had transferred from Berea College in Kentucky to Marshall University, where she completed her degree in Home Economics. She was teaching back in her home in Welch. Jack had followed his dad’s footsteps and began working for the Norfolk and Western railroad at the age of 17.
When Luther would make it to Princeton to visit Mary, Jack would be sure to drive Luther back to his home in Welch. Jack had ulterior motives for being so helpful to Luther, for sure, and her name was Beth. Beth was pretty and popular, and had her fill of selfish young men. Jack was kind, a man of integrity, and she noticed that difference. Love blossomed between the two. Their first date was to make a trip down to North Carolina to watch a Tarheel football game. They stayed with Luther and Mary, who had married. Jack and Beth shared a love of sports and of music, especially classical music. And on this particular trip, Beth wondered why Jack referred to red pine trees, and was so relieved to find out that he was simply color blind. They loved telling stories about their first date!
Jack asked Beth to marry him and she happily said yes. They planned to marry sometime in the spring of 1949, and always laughed when they told about how they married on the first day of spring. Well, it WAS spring! Beth stayed in Welch to finish out her year of teaching, and Jack lived in Princeton, where he worked for the railroad. Jack would drive to Welch on weekends to see his bride. He and Beth would often tell the story of Jack’s one and only speeding ticket that he got on one of those drives as he hurried to be with Beth. They always had a twinkle in their eyes as they shared those memories.
When Beth’s school year was finished, in June, she moved to Princeton to join Jack in a little upstairs apartment that they called home. Over the next few years they were blessed with five children: Mary Beth, John, Jan, Patty, and Kathryn. Life was a little more complicated then with Jack working long hours, and Beth keeping the home running smoothly……..or as smoothly as she could with five children and a husband who had very long work days, worked on weekends, or was called in during the middle of the night for train derailments.
Jack was a good man, but had never asked Christ to be his personal Lord and Savior. A man he worked with, Basil Selvey, led Jack to the Lord in the early 50’s. Jack listened to the radio, growing in his faith as he listened to The Old Fashioned Revival Hour with Dr. Charles Fuller, and to the Radio Bible Class with M. R. DeHaan. Beth was very committed to her denomination, so Jack kept mostly quiet about his new faith as he continued to grow and to pray for Beth. Beth was a beautiful soloist and would sing for various church events and revivals. She sang the song “I’d Rather Have Jesus” for a particular revival, where Jimmy Jones was the preacher, and while singing she knew that she didn’t really mean what she was singing. Soon she was saved, and she and Jack were truly joined as one.
Through the years, Jack and Beth…………..Mom and Dad………….were totally devoted to Christ. They lived out their faith as they raised us five children, and struggled through the ups and downs of life. I’ve never known anyone else as faithful and devoted as my Mom and Dad, to each other and to the Lord and to us children. There are many stories that could be told of their love and their dedication. On this day, which would have been their 63rd anniversary, I think of the example they were to each of us children and to our spouses and our children, of true devotion and love.
As they got older, they retired just a few months apart and then were inseparable. They traveled together, went to get groceries together, shopped for Mom’s sewing or quilting supplies together, went to ballgames together, and one would only go to bed when the other one was ready. When Dad was diagnosed with cancer, Mom went to his treatments with him and was with him every step of the way during those 8 years of his hard fought battle to live.
Dad wanted to live because of Mom. Not only was he worried about how she would fare without him, for he knew that she was becoming very forgetful, he also could not imagine going to heaven without her. That issue was the final letting-go that he had to do before he went to heaven. I went home to help take care of Dad the month before he died. Their devotion was as strong as ever. When Dad had to have a hospital bed, Mom would sleep in their bed, pulled up close beside his bed, and they would hold hands through the bars.
One day they decided that they wanted some Long John Silvers for lunch, so I got Dad all settled in his wheelchair in the living room. He was facing Mom, who was sitting on the couch. I left to get our lunch, and when I returned I was shocked at what I saw. There the two of them sat, on the couch, snuggled together holding hands. As I walked in, they both looked like teenagers who had been caught making out! Mom sheepishly told me that it was Dad’s idea, that he wanted to sit by her on the couch, and he shook his head yes in agreement to her story. The transfer of Dad to the couch scared them both……….the wheelchair, Dad’s catheter, Mom’s lack of strength…………..but to them it was so worth the risk! I tried to fuss at them, but it truly was a precious moment. Who would deny them any opportunity to be near each other again…….to sit on the couch and hold hands, alone…………..to experience a moment of joy and love that was to end all too soon?
On December 4, 2008, Mom and Dad sat on their couch once more…………holding hands and telling John and I the timeless story of their courtship and early married life. Mom did most of the talking, with Dad slowly lifting his head to look at her and smile his sweet, loving smile. That was the last time I sat with my Dad and talked to him. He went on to heaven on December 10…….without Mom. He’s happy and content with Jesus, we know that beyond a doubt. Mom is the one who is lonely, who sheds the tears, and lives in the wonderful memories……….memories that are nearly faded from her now as she struggles with the ravages of Alzheimers.
But some day she and Dad will be together again, for eternity, in heaven. And we children will be left with our memories of faithful parents who loved each other totally to the very end. Those are memories that I’m forever thankful for, and a marriage that has been a beautiful example to follow.