60th Anniversary

From left, Earl and Lucille Adams, of Danville, pose alongside Hannah and Lee Gentry, of Richmond, outside Draper Hall on the anniversary of the day both couples said “I do” 60 years ago at Danforth Chapel. The couples celebrate the anniversaries together each year.

Lee and Hannah Gentry stood smiling and holding hands at the front of the chapel Wednesday just as they did six decades ago when they first pledged their undying love to one another. Next to them, William Earl and Lucille Adams also stood, hand in hand, remembering the day all four of their lives became uniquely intertwined.

Lee and Hannah and Earl and Lu had a double wedding ceremony at Danforth Chapel in Berea on June 28, 1946. The two couples were married by Dr. W. Gordon Ross, a minister at Berea College, where both Lee and Earl attended for two years.

Just after they said their “I do’s,” the excited couples set off on a journey through the Great Smoky Mountains, where they also had a double honeymoon of sorts.

“That was dangerous,” Lee said with a laugh. “It could have ended the marriages right there.”

“I had an old ‘35 Ford and I didn’t trust it to make the trip, so we all went together,” Earl explained.

The couples spent eight days — “We think it might have been longer; we’re not sure,” Hannah said — stopping all along the way to go fishing, swimming, to the movies and to dinner.

“We were sort of forced to get along,” Lee said. “If we didn’t, our parents would have heard about it.”

Sixty years later, Lee and Hannah and Earl and Lu are best of friends and still enjoy traveling together.

“This double wedding has had its advantages,” Lee said. “We’ve always got two friends.”

And every year, on or near June 28, the four always try to get together to commemorate the day they said “I do.”



HOW THEY MET

Lee, 80, and Earl, 81, were high school pals, both living in the small community of Quail in Rockcastle County. After they graduated from Brodhead High School, both men attended Berea College for two years. They often hitchhiked together between Quail and Berea.

“We would just ride with anyone. Back in those days, you could,” Lee said. “We never had any problem.”

“One time we were going with a bunch of younger guys and they were trying to scare us with their speed, but that’s about the only problem we ever had,” Earl added.

Back in those days, Lee said, Berea College had a very strict code of conduct. As young students, they often snuck into movies.

“We’d sneak into movies with hats on and our coats over our heads,” Earl said.

“We were hiding from somebody in the balcony once and we turned around, and there was one of our professors,” Lee recalled with a chuckle.

Lee left Berea and entered the Air Force, while Earl went into the Navy.

After being discharged from the military, Lee enrolled at Eastern Kentucky University in the spring of 1946.

“I had the GI Bill and Berea didn’t have the major I wanted,” he explained.

It was at EKU where he met Hannah.

In the Keen Johnson recreation room, somebody suggested to Lee there was a girl he should meet. He didn’t meet her that day, but fate made sure their paths crossed.

“One day, I was going up the stairs and I saw this girl in faded blue jeans and orange lipstick,” Lee said. “That was Hannah.”

Their early courtship had a bumpy start, but they started seeing each other exclusively in February of 1946.

Meanwhile, Earl was serving in the Navy and his parents were playing matchmaker.

“My folks wrote a letter and said that a cute little girl was teaching in the one-room school at Quail. I had a leave, decided to check it out and saw this little gal teaching. She wasn’t much bigger than the kids, if at all. I was attracted to her and I think I walked her home from school that day,” Earl recalled of his first meeting with Lucille, who is now 81.

Earl and Lu continued to see each other throughout his leave and they corresponded by mail for the next six months. When his term was up, the two got married alongside Lee and Hannah at Danforth Chapel.

They chose the chapel because they were Berea College alumni and thought it would be a nice place to say their vows.

“I had a class with Dr. Ross and we didn’t have any fancy ministers back home,” Lee said.

It was a small ceremony with only family in attendance. Both Lee and Earl had the same best man, Leo Reynolds, who is now a retired Kentucky State Police officer.

Hannah and Lu had individual bridesmaids and they both wore hats.

“There wasn’t much planning to it,” Hannah said. “I got a suit at a store in Somerset.”



A LIFE OF EDUCATION

Lee and Hannah walked the graduation line together at EKU in 1948. Lee became a physical education teacher and coach and Hannah taught elementary school. The two went on to teach and coach at several different schools around the state until settling in Richmond.

“You had to move around to get a promotion,” Lee said. “We settled in Richmond. It’s been our favorite place to live.”

Lee received a doctorate in education from the University of Kentucky and taught at EKU for 19 years. Hannah, now 83, was a teacher at Kit Carson Elementary School.

Earl and Lu moved to Danville after getting married, where Lu went to work in the Kentucky School for the Deaf. Earl became principal at Jenny Rogers Elementary School in Danville and later went to work at the Kentucky Department of Education. He was principal at the Toliver Elementary School in Danville for 24 years and after retiring, he gave GED tests and taught inmates for 17 years.

The two couples’ lives sort of mirrored each other. Both had two children each; Lee and Hannah had two daughters while Earl and Lu had two sons.

“We may have done a little pushing them toward each other, but it didn’t work,” Lee said.

Both couples have five grandchildren.

The couples have spent a lot of time together, traveling, visiting state parks, going out to dinner and playing cards.

“Scotty (the nickname Hannah gave Lu) and I like to go shopping,” Hannah said.

“When they shop, we play Cribbage,” Earl said.

Along with visiting the chapel where they said “I do,” the couples were treated to a night’s stay at Boone Tavern by the Berea College Alumni Association to commemorate their 60th wedding anniversaries.

The secret to their success

Staying married 60 years is no easy task, but both couples say they simply made a decision that their marriages were going to last.

“We just decided it is going to work no matter what,” Lee said. “That gets us through life’s little fusses. You have to make that commitment and stick to it.”

Earl agreed.

“A lot of people go into marriage with the idea that if it doesn’t work they can get a divorce,” he said. “We went into it with the idea that it was going to work.”

In 60 years, the love between Lee and Hannah and Earl and Lu has grown along with respect and admiration.

“Lee’s very patient with me,” Hannah said. “I fuss at him, but he doesn’t fuss at me.”

“Hannah is very congenial, perky and full of life,” Lee said in response. “She’s very dedicated to our relationship. She’s an inspiration. And she’s a better Christian than I am. She does more for people.”

“I am not,” Hannah replied as she borrowed Lee’s handkerchief to wipe the tears from her eyes.

Earl said if it was not for Lu, he would be a mess.

“She’s a great adviser,” he said. “She loves to advise and I appreciate it ... most of the time.”

“If it wasn’t for women,” Lee added, “we’d probably be slobs. They help us take care of ourselves.”

Lorie Love can be reached at llove@richmondregister.com or 624-6690.

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