Editor’s note: In Valentine’s Days past, the Princeton Times staff strived to bring readers at least one love story guaranteed to warm hearts, and each year, we knew there were some amazing stories we’ve missed. So, for the second consecutive year, we asked readers to tell us their love stories, in their own words, just to be sure every reader had the chance to tell his or her sweetheart how much better they’ve made their lives. These are the stories you shared with us, and we’re privileged to pass them on.

As part of the Princeton Times Love Stories contest, we’re also doing our best to make one special couple’s Valentine’s Day extra special. Our judges selected Tom and Janie Farmer, as the winners of our Love Stories gift package, which includes gift certificates for dinner for two at Outback Steakhouse in Princeton; a dozen roses from Roller Floral in Princeton; a box of sweets from Four Seasons Pharmacy on Morrison Drive; and a trip to the movies.

As a bonus for readers, we’re including the Farmers’ story, along with all the other submissions. They wouldn’t fit in one edition. So, look for the rest in next week’s Princeton Times.

My Impossible Dream

Like most guys, I developed an idea of what my dream girl would look like. It may have changed some over time, but very little. She would be tall (not taller than me), slender and fair complexioned. She didn’t have to look like a movie star. An everyday kind of girl was OK. As time went by, other things, like intelligence and compatibility, became important.

During my senior year at Bluefield High School in 1965, my church, Cumberland Heights Baptist, adopted a new “mission” church near Princeton. Our Young Peoples’ Group and our retiring pastor, Alton W. Jessee, were to visit each Sunday and help the new church, Fellowship Baptist, grow and survive.

We were transported to the church for our first visit, and there she was! She easily fit “my girl.” We were introduced to each other, and we seemed to hit it off. She was very friendly, and outgoing. She had a great sense of humor and could sing and play the piano. I was impressed. I then discovered that she was going to be a freshman at Concord College.  Wow! Bingo!!

I later learned she was “going steady” with some guy. She seemed to be always dating someone – never unattached. There were times during summer vacations I thought that I might ask her out anyway. But I always had gone by the rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” I really wouldn’t want someone to undercut me. It wasn’t fair. It wasn’t right. I still think I did the right thing.

I did date several local girls during my first three years at WVU. I remember a conversation I had with my old roommate in January of 1968. He told me about this wonderful person he planned to marry and asked me if there was someone I planned to marry.

Thoughts rushed through my head while trying to figure how to respond. I had recently decided it was best to end a relationship with a nice local girl. I felt that my love for her was not as strong as it should be. Others that I had dated marched through my mind.  Finally I said, “There is a girl that I am interested in.”

He wanted to know who she was. I told him, Mary Jane Shumaker, a junior at Concord College. He said, “Are you going to marry her?” I laughed a little and said, “Well, she’s engaged to be married.” He said, “Oh!” and that ended that conversation.

It was now May and I was back home in Bluefield looking for a summer job. My car was all beat up as though it had been driven by Fireball Roberts, and I needed some serious spending money. As I drove down Cumberland Road, there was a “Now Hiring” sign on the roadside. 

I’ll never forget pulling off the road where the Bluefield Shopping Plaza is. In 1968, there was no Plaza — just gravels and brush. I went to a table where a gentleman was seated.  I introduced myself. He took my information and asked when I could go to work. My response was “Now!” I became a “hod carrier” supplying mortar to the masons who were building the new County Road Division’s Headquarters and shop on the New Hope Road.  The pay was great! Federal wages! I hit the jackpot!!

I was also back at Fellowship Church. Two of the girls there were obvious about wanting to date me. My job was very hard physically, and I wasn’t motivated to date any more local girls. I even made myself promise not to date any local girls. I reasoned that I’d find a junior or senior at WVU that I could marry.

Mary Jane Shumaker was also there, and I discovered that her engagement had been broken. Get this! It occurred around the same time as the “Who are you going to marry?” discussion.

Twilight Zone stuff! She seemed subdued, and I probably seemed the same way. Now the struggle began. My mind said, “Let it go Farmer! Stick to your plan and promise.” My heart said, “Maybe you should slow down and check out this situation.”

Neither prevailed! Destiny took over!!

It was after one Sunday evening service in late May. The church was preparing for Vacation Bible School. They said they needed us, Janie to run the music program and me to organize and supervise the classes and activities. Of course, others would help. We both said “No!”  We both were really too busy. I could barely get home after work, clean up and get there on time. Janie was going to take summer classes at Concord and was working at Gores’ Ladies Shop. They persisted. Another Twilight Zone moment! Janie and I turned to each other and said exactly the same words in unison, “I will if you will.” It was as if we had practiced it. Well, that was that.

The clincher! The guys and girls separated into two groups just small-talking. Then, I heard what made my heart stop. Janie announced, “My brother dropped me off, and I need a ride home.” I was frozen momentarily. I didn’t know what I should do.

 First, I figured someone would speak right up and offer the ride. No one did! I turned and walked to where the girls stood and said, “I can give you a ride home.” 

Janie, looking puzzled, said “Isn’t that out of the way for you?” 

She knew I lived in Bluefield, she in Princeton, and Fellowship was in between. I simply said, “No, not really.” Janie quietly replied, “Well, thank you.”

As we walked toward my car, she went directly to the passenger side, so I went to my door.  We settled in, and I drove to the Courthouse Road (William Sanders Memorial Highway).  We turned left toward Princeton.

This is important! I told Janie that I was thirsty and asked if it would be OK to stop at the drive-in Mooney’s Bar-B-Que.  She said, “That would be fine. I’m thirsty too!” 

We stopped. We had a good talk as we relaxed with our Cokes. I tell everyone that I knew right then and there that IT WAS ALL OVER!

I walked Janie to her front door. I asked if she’d be interested in going to a movie or out to eat this coming Friday or Saturday. She said “That would be fine.”  We did both!

We have been together ever since. I broke my promise to myself. We both fell deeply in love. We seemed to fit like the old “hand and glove.” We wanted to “run away” and get married. That was harder to do than expected. I was able to purchase her rings in October.  We were officially engaged. We told our mothers and families. They gave us their blessings.

With the help of a Concord instructor (George Rose) and his family (wife and children) as our wedding party and witnesses, we were married. We were married at the First Baptist Church in Pearisburg, Va., by Rev. Dow McGrady on Dec. 23, 1968, during Christmas break.  We still stop by just to relive that day.

I convinced our family to help surprise their mother/ grandmother with a renewal of vows on our 40th anniversary in St. Augustine, Fla.

We celebrated our 42nd anniversary this past Dec. 23, 2010. We have two children, Richmond Edward (Richie) and Jennifer Lynne (Jenn). Richie has our two grandchildren, Paige Danielle and Richmond Monroe.

I have been truly blessed beyond belief! Janie and I are retired and are having a blast! Our love is stronger than ever!

I love impossible dreams!!

— Tommy M. “Tom” Farmer

Princeton

In walks love...

When I moved to West Virginia from Colorado in 1990, I never thought I would fall in love again and get married. I thought God wanted me to stay single to serve Him by helping others through my career as a physical therapist.

Then in 1994, I met a sweet, older lady who became my patient. She talked about her family with glowing pride, especially her youngest son. I finally met her son when she became an out-patient and I was able to teach him how to do wound care on weekends. He was very good looking and very nice.

At Christmas, he brought a tray of homemade cookies and candies to my department, asking to speak to me. I was pleased to be remembered.

In 1995, he hurt his back and his insurance company required he have physical therapy before surgery could be considered. Somehow I was scheduled to be his therapist. I always looked forward to his time for treatment. After six sessions though, I knew he didn’t respond to the treatments and called his insurance company who referred him back to the neurosurgeon.

After his surgery, he called me to say the doctor told him to take walks and he wondered if his physical therapist would walk with him!

Thus started a loving friendship, which has been complimented by our marriage in 2001. I never dreamed I could have someone in my life as wonderful as John. I and the luckiest woman around!

By the way ..... we’re still walking!

— Ann & John Danieley

Princeton

My Beautiful Love Story

When I was 16 years old, I wanted to go to my school dance, and I didn’t have anyone to take me. My family had some friends visiting them that weekend that were very close friends; Mandy is the friend’s name. She had a son, Donald. He lived in Maryland, so he came home for a visit and she told him about me and sent him to my house to take me to my school dance. He and I started dating, and he proposed to me. This was around Valentine’s Day. He bought me this beautiful, red, heart-shaped box of candy. It had a porcelain doll on the box.

But, he and I broke up some time after that. He went back to Maryland, and I left home and went to Ohio. That was back in 1959. He met a girl and got married, and I met a guy and got married in Ohio. Donald and his wife had three kids, two girls and one boy; I had three kids, two girls and one boy. We both have five grandkids apiece. He has two granddaughters and three grandsons, and so do I.

Donald and I lost contact with each other 47 years ago. Both of our spouses passed away three months apart. After two years, I got to thinking of my first boyfriend, the one I fell head over heels in love with 47 years ago. I still have family in Princeton, so I called my sister to have her look up a phone number for me. I knew Donald might still have family in McDowell County.

My sister found a phone number that was one of his sisters’ that I hadn’t heard from or talked to since I was 16 years old. I told her who I was and asked if she remembered me. She said, “Oh, yes. My mother has had pictures of you on her dresser that she kept all these years.”

So, she called Donald and gave him my phone number, and he called me and asked if I remembered a Donald Cline. My heart almost stopped. We talked for a long time, and he said, “I still want you for my wife.”

I do believe that God and Donald’s mother had plans for him and I to be back together someday. I kept my little Valentine doll put away for 47 years. Donald couldn’t believe I still had it. He and I got married Sept. 9, 2006. We are as in love today as we were 47 years ago. I love him with all my heart. He will always be my Valentine.

— Evelyn & Donald Cline

A real fairy tale

Once in a life ever so long ago, in a land of tall trees and green mountains, there stood a bleak castle inhabited by a lonely lady. The Lady of the Castle, who had once known only the happiness life afforded, was now enduring the darkest of times. Abandoned and left to fend for herself, the Lady found solace in prayer. Daily, she whispered prayers beseeching God to send a protector, someone she could love. And, with the peace that only comes with acceptance that God will provide, she found the strength to go on.

After months of grieving for a life no longer hers and rather tired of feeling sorry for herself, she defiantly cried, “Enough! God helps those who help themselves.” Having thus bolstered her courage, she donned her most beautiful gown of ruby and ebony velvet, and resolved to face life head on.

She made her way through the countryside to an inn where she hoped to find food and drink. Unaccustomed to being without an escort, the Lady was unsure about entering the establishment, but it seemed she had no choice. With a shaking hand, she knocked upon the door. The innkeeper, a great barrel-chested man with arms like oak limbs, beckoned her to enter. Softly, the Lady asked, “May I enter unattended?” The innkeeper’s smile answered her question and somehow assured her that, here, she was safe.

Daniel, the innkeeper, sensing her wounded spirit, was gently solicitous. He led her to a small table neatly tucked in the corner. With her back to the wall, it was a safe haven. Weary beyond words, she cautiously surveyed her surroundings. A fire blazed in the fireplace. Logs snapped and popped as they were hungrily consumed. “Ah, how I miss the warmth,” she sighed. She stared into the fire, mesmerized by the dancing flames. All else faded as she relaxed in the warm glow. Her eyes closed, ever so slowly, and for a brief moment, she dreamed.

Suddenly, a voice said, “My Lady, forgive me, but I must know, are you the Lady of the Castle?” Roused from her dreaming, she looked up into the sapphire blue eyes of a battle-weary knight. He was tall and well made, with a silvered scar upon his brow. Yet, never had she seen such a devastatingly handsome man. He personified all that was masculine, and all that was feminine in her responded.

And now, the rest of the story…

Women of every age dream of a fairy tale life, of finding her knight in shining armor, of living happily ever after. And yet, in all honesty, does such a thing exist? For me, it did.

I was the Lady of the Castle. I’d had the fairy tale wedding and the “castle” on the hill. But, after twenty-two years of marriage, two children and a lifetime of memories, I was left with no choice but to begin anew. Alone, crushed in spirit, and wondering if I would ever again know happiness, I sought to rebuild my life.

Like the Lady from the fairy tale, I was uneasy about even dining alone in public. Why, I had not done that for over twenty-two years! One evening, I garnered my courage, dressed up in a pretty outfit, and went to dinner…alone. I found a table where I could put my back to the wall. Somehow, I felt protected, safe from the perils of my new single life. As I glanced around the restaurant, trying not to make eye contact, a tall attractive man moved toward my table. Panicked, I quickly looked down at my meal, hoping against hope he wasn’t really headed my way. He was.

The man with the dazzling smile and laughing blue eyes asked if I was alone and if I would mind some company. He said that he knew me, knew who I was. And instead of simply introducing himself, he asked, “Do you know me?” Without hesitation, I answered, “Yes. You are Ray Edgell.” Where did that come from?

Ray and I had both gone to Princeton Junior High School. We had not been in the same classes nor had we ever spoken, much less had a conversation. Later, I learned that we had a few mutual acquaintances, but that was the extent of our connection. So, how was it that I knew him, that I knew his full name? I don’t really know. I just did. Thirty years had passed since we were in junior high school, and I found myself wondering, how in the world had I come up with that name? My answer came a couple of years later.

Ray and I never dated anyone else after we met. The attraction was immediate and enduring. We married. Finally, one evening, Ray said that he had a little confession to make. He told me that he used to come to my high school in a neighboring town to watch me cheer at basketball games. (I had moved from Princeton after my freshman year.) I was amazed by this tidbit! I never knew about his interest in me. We had never even spoken. He said, also, that when I was in college at Concord, he would stand in the hallway of the Science Building and wait for me to pass by. I never knew that. Again, we had never spoken. I couldn’t. I wouldn’t. You see, I had married during my sophomore year in college. Not only was I obtaining a degree, but I was also busy building a life and home for my family. I had no time or desire to veer from my set path.

And the, he made the most touching and heart-melting confession of all. Moments before I had walked into the restaurant, scared and alone, he had bowed his head and asked God to please send him someone to love. When I walked in and sat down, he said he knew his prayer had been answered. God had sent me to him. You can imagine how I felt! Just like a chivalrous knight of old, he had loved me from afar. And, God in His own loving, divine way had finally answered his prayers (and mine, too).

Ray was a wonderful man. He cared nothing for the trappings of success. Wealth and social status meant nothing to him. Character was the measure of a man. He cared for people…all ages, all walks of life. This love and an attitude of service were intrinsic to Ray. Everything he did was based on service to others. He had worked in surgery at Princeton Community Hospital; been a paramedic, acting director, and board member of the Princeton Rescue Squad; and had been a volunteer firefighter. His life was one of service to his community.

Laughter filled my days when Ray entered my life. He was a natural-born storyteller. Even the most mundane event became an adventure when he re-wove the tale. We would laugh so hard that at times we worried what our neighbors might think. He was a joyful man and his joy helped to heal my spirit.

Oh, and did I mention how very handsome and totally masculine he was? He was strong, and I felt sheltered in his arms. I needed his strength, and I hope that I gave as much to him. I remember that whenever I was seated by him, I would look at him…just look at him and marvel that he loved me.

Ray had a thirst for life. He learned to scuba dive, skydive, as well as engaging in other dangerous activities. I believe this insatiable desire to live life to the utmost stemmed from his ill health. You see, at 17, he’d had open-heart surgery, and it seemed he wanted to live each and every day to the fullest. He was a man’s man, and a woman’s dream. I always thought of him as my honorable, fearless white knight.

In 2004, Ray complained of a terrible headache. He was on a blood thinner and had begun to hemorrhage intercranially. He was rushed to the hospital, where the doctors said he required immediate surgery to relieve the pressure. Ray was unable to speak to me before surgery, but he pursed his lips and blew me a kiss as he was wheeled to the operating room. That was the last time I ever saw his beautiful eyes.

During surgery, Ray had a massive stroke and never regained consciousness. For several days, I stayed by his side. A bit after midnight on the fourth day, a nurse in ICU told me that I only had about an hour left with my husband. I cradled him in my arms and softly sang “Amazing Grace” over and over until his loving heart beat no more.

My love was gone.

Or, was it?

I believe that true love never dies. It is eternal. It is of God. Love brings light into the darkness of our lives. The love that we shared was not defined or limited by time or distance, not even death. Ray is and always will be with me. And, when my worldly time is over, I will join him in heaven. He is waiting for me there with those laughing blue eyes and wonderful heavenly stories.

So, you may not view us as a couple. I am here. He is there. You may feel we do not qualify for your love story competition. But, I ask, wouldn’t you give just about anything for what we have? An eternal love that was, is, and forever will be.

— Joni and Ray Edgell

Second chances make a world of difference

My love story actually began in kindergarten, but I never realized it. My name is Jamie, and my best friend and love is B.J.

We were best friends through school, graduating in from high school in 1998. B.J. asked me to the senior prom, but I went with someone else. He tells me now that he was heartbroken...I never knew.

After graduation, we went out separate ways, not to see each other for 10 years. He married another girl from high school, and I married also. Both of our marriages ended in divorce.

One afternoon in October 2008, after all those years, we ran into each other in Walmart. We made a date for the following weekend to catch up on all the happenings in our lives.

In April 2009, there was a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society — The High School Second Chance Prom. Since we missed our opportunity in 1998 that could have changed our lives, we decided to go to this prom together.

We have been a couple since fate brought us together at Walmart. So, I guess it is true what they say about Walmart — “You can find just about anything there.”

I did. I found the love of my life.

Happy Valentine’s Day, B.J.

— Jamie Parnell

Bastian, Va.

 

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