True love cements 71-year marriage
Posted: October 13, 2012
The Winchester Star
BERRYVILLE — A flood changed Noah’s world, and a local one had a big impact on George Grove’s life.
Thanks to high water on the Shenandoah River, a canoe played a vital part in introducing him to the women who has been his wife for 71 years.
The couple marked that milestone Oct. 3 at the Greenfield Senior Living Center.
George, 95, and Betty, 92, made Blue Ridge Mountain their home after he retired in 1975 from a teaching post in Alexandria.
But George, a native of Carlisle, Pa., was teaching in Clarke County when he met Betty Bell, thanks to that canoe.
“I was the first rural industrial- arts teacher in Virginia,” said George, who earned his teaching degree in 1939.
The Shenandoah River had a hand in bringing him to Clarke County in the first place.
When George, a dyed-in-the-wool outdoorsman, interviewed for that first teaching job in Clarke, Schools Superintendent Archie Robinson told the principal of Berryville High School, D. G. Cooley, to take Grove fishing on the river.
“He had an old flat-bottomed boat. He pushed it with a pole,” George recalled. “The fishing was so good, I would probably have worked for nothing.”
In fact, he added, considering his pay at the time was $90 a month, “I just about did.”
But that flood gave him a permanent gift.
The high water brought a canoe downstream and smashed it onto one of the islands, where George found it.
“Only rich people had canoes,” he said, but George, with his industrial-arts training, retrieved it and rebuilt the broken parts of mahogany and waterproofed canvas.
He was enjoying his craft on the river when he saw several young women on the shore. One had cut her foot on a sharp rock.
“Being a good Boy Scout [leader,] I pulled up and got out the first aid kit.”
George was looking at more than the injured foot. “I told myself, ‘Lady, you’re going to see more of me.’”
And he did.
“I fell for him, leaning against a tree,” his wife remembered.
George was not unknown to Miss Betty Bell, who lived in North Carolina but had relatives in Clarke County and spent a lot of time here. Her father, an engineer, helped to lay out the route of the Appalachian Trail through the county.
Her aunt Mary “Dutch” Estep operated the switchboard at the telephone company. Its second floor windows overlooked Main Street.
“I’d see him coming down the street after school, with a teacher on each arm,” Betty said.
They courted on the staircase leading to her aunt’s apartment on the third floor over the telephone company, George added.
He still teases his wife about the special dish she used to bring him for dinner. “I fell in love with those stuffed peppers. I thought all the while, she was the cook.”
It turned out that Betty’s Aunt Dutch turned out the delicious dinners, but George didn’t learn about that until after they were married.
“I proposed on Sept. 29 , I remember,” he said. They were married four days later at the Berryville Presbyterian Church by Pastor Elwood D. Vaughan.
George said the pastor knew him because he had dated all three of the teachers to whom Vaughan rented rooms.
“He told me,” George said, “that when he tied a knot, he tied a good one. This knot has held for 71 years.”
The couple started housekeeping in two rented rooms in the Cooley Apartments, a building just across from the old Clarke County Courthouse.
It had a pull-out bed, a narrow kitchen and an icebox on the porch.
“We didn’t even know what money was,” George said.
He taught biology, general science, chemistry and shop and they shared a love of fishing and hunting. “We’d go down and camp. We spent most of our time outside.”
They also kept busy raising four children, two boys and two girls.
Pursuing his teaching career, the couple moved to Northern Virginia where they lived for many years.
“We had a wonderful life,” said George, who was involved in many charitable endeavors after the couple returned to Clarke County.
He was named Citizen of the Year for his work with senior citizens and his efforts to organize the Clarke Community Services Council, which brings civic and charitable groups together monthly to share ideas and support each others’ efforts.
What has kept the Groves together for so many years?
“Love, I think,” said Betty with a smile.
And, her husband added: “Even if we’ve had a fallout, we never go to bed without kissing good night.”
— Contact Val Van Meter at firstname.lastname@example.org