‘Our love just kept growing’

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(Part Two)

When my parents were married in a large church wedding on a lovely June afternoon, there is no doubt that they became true partners for life, chasing my father’s dream of building a successful farm and a happy family.

“I wanted it, because he wanted it,” his bride says today. “We had nothing at all, really, but I had complete faith we were going to make it because your dad was wise beyond his years.”

They were young. Oh, so young. Dad was 19, Mom just 17.

But the youth of 1950 were adults by that ripe age, having always worked to contribute to the family or pay their own way. They had seen boys return — or never return — from World War II, and knew the draft could pull them to Korea at any moment. Seven members of my mother’s senior class were married, and she was one of them.

Life was to be lived, day by day, with a plan in place.

Dad was driving a 1939 Ford, purchased from his beloved vo-ag teacher. On their first date, driving a dirt road to visit Dad’s aunt and uncle, holes in the floorboard had caused mud to splash on my mom’s legs, which she politely ignored. It was this car she drove to Ashland High School every day to complete her senior year.

Their first apartment was a terrible dump, a place where many newlyweds had started out. They paid $55 a month rent but soon learned of a beautiful upstairs apartment for $65 a month on a lovely street. The walls were painted gray, the woodwork a crisp white.

Mom pretended to know how to cook, and Dad pretended to like every single dish. Dad learned of a farm available to rent near Jeromesville, so he drove to Canton to discuss his desire to farm it.

The owners, Hugh and Ruth Funk, were impressed by the ambitious young man, and on Pearl Harbor commemoration day, 1951, the couple moved to the home that would welcome and raise their five children.

The home had no running water and no bathroom. “So, I can tell you, it was definitely love!” my mother jokes.

Dad pumped and carried water which Mom would warm on the stove, complete her morning chores, then drive to school.

A daily life economics teacher argued with her student’s financial listings of monthly income and expenses.

“This can’t be right,” said the teacher. “Where is your monthly rent expense?”

Mom explained they did not pay rent; they were farming “on the shares” and saving every penny they could. The exasperated teacher shook her head, not knowing how to account for such a thing.

Mom purchased an aging sofa, carried it to a side porch and painted the entire thing brown. She laughs, saying, “It took me forever, and took even longer to dry.”

She bought broadcloth and quickly made drapes for the many windows before her girlfriends came to visit.

Mom graduated in 1952, already busy with her own chickens, calves, a large lawn and a house that required a lot of work. Dad worked his job all day, then came home and farmed all night. He rented extra ground every chance he got, hoping to build savings to one day buy it.

“Nothing was easy, and yet it didn’t feel like work. We both were busy around the clock, often with very little to show for it, but we knew it would one day be easier. We made do, and felt proud of ourselves, really.”

In February 1953, the couple welcomed their first baby, a girl with blue eyes and a joyous disposition.

“Our love just kept growing,” Mom says.

All these years later, it is clear that it still does.

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Judith Sutherland, born and raised on an Ohio family dairy farm, now lives on a 70-acre farm not far from the area where her father’s family settled in the 1850s. Appreciating the tranquility of rural life, Sutherland enjoys sharing a view of her world through writing. Other interests include teaching, reading, training dogs and raising puppies. She and her husband have two children, a son and a daughter, in college.

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