Posts Tagged ‘Hurricane Agnes’

Celebrating 50 Years of Marriage

I can remember celebrating my parents and their peers 50 years of marriage and it felt like they were old. It seemed like quite an accomplishment for older folks and in reality it was. I could hardly fathom that some day I would be there but suddenly, here we are, our time has come and I wonder, where has time gone?

I remember back to our big, highly anticipated day-June 24, 1972. The week of our wedding Hurricane Agnes, the largest June hurricane recorded in US history and the costliest at the time with an estimated $2.1 billion dollars in damage hit the entire east coast. The effects were widespread, from the Caribbean to Canada. Wikipedia

The James River begins in the far western corner of the state near Lexington and meanders 344 miles, slicing the entire length of the state through the middle and emptying into the Chesapeake Bay at Hampton Roads. The mighty James borders Powhatan County on the north edge. Powhatan is on the upper edge of the lower half of the state. To get to the upper half of the state where I lived, you have to cross the river at some point. Just weeks before the storm hit, Powhatan completed a brand new two lane bridge over the James at Maidens replacing the one way trestle bridge. The river flooded with the rushing water lapping the underside of the roadway on the new bridge, washing out the approaches. The flood waters gushing through downtown Richmond, 30 miles to the east, were devastating.

The water in the area of this bridge is typically about knee deep.
The old one-way trestle bridge. You could not pass on the bridge. If someone was on the bridge you had to wait until they crossed.

Gene called me with concerning news. He didn’t know if or where he could cross the river. After evaluating the situation, he left Powhatan early Friday morning, winding his way west trying to find a way to cross the river. He was coming to me regardless of how far west he had to go to get there! At Lynchburg the bridge was open and he headed north to Harrisonburg.

Our wedding day was beautiful and sunny. We could not have asked for a more gorgeous day and it was perfect in every way. And so our marriage began! Little did we know some of the other life storms that were raging to come ashore in the sea of life.

As our 50-year anniversary approached, our daughter and granddaughters decided to plan a celebration party for us. That’s what you do at 50 years, right? Well a little life storm disrupted our plans and we had to postpone it a month when several in the immediate family got Covid, just days before the event!

We finally got to celebrate this past Sunday evening and it was a lovely time with friends and family. We reminisced, took pictures, cut the wedding cake, and ate food. The family had set up a lovely memorial to our fifty years and three of the wedding party were present; Sharon Swartz Kisamore (maid of honor) and Elva Bowman Miller (bridesmaid) two of my attendants and Bob Hertzler (groomsman), one of Gene’s. My sister, Evelyn Heatwole Borntrager, also a bridesmaid, had family visiting from Indiana and two of Gene’s attendants; Oliver Hertzler, Jr and Ray Hertzler are deceased. It is a reminder that we are getting older and life moves on.

Below are pictures from the evening.

Memorial table representing our life.
Representing Gene: he enjoyed woodworking and made the bread box, played fast-pitch soft ball and was/is a farmer.
Representing Pat: Crocheting, sewing, homemaker & storekeeper. I combined my love of writing and family history and published a book on the Heatwole family history; “The Story of Melvin Jasper Heatwole and Mollie Grace Coffman”.
On each table was a vase of wildflowers and a copy of one of my printed blog books (Country Chatter) and my facebook Social Media books.
Karla Hostetter made the cupcakes
Thanks to everyone who came.
Pat and Sherill Hostetter-we were high school classmates and she is the mother of our son-in-law.

Story…. I was not allowed by my parents to attend any of our class socials or sporting events even though we were a Christian school. I was not one to disobey my parents-I was afraid to, but one time I decided to go behind their back and attend a roller skating party. I planned to go home from school with my best friend to spend the night. My guilty conscience bothered me and I decided to talk to someone about it and for some reason I chose Sherill. We were not friends but I admired her. I spilled my heart to her and she gave me wise advice, “do not do it”. Several days after I decided to cancel my deceitful plans, one of the guys in my class who went to my church approached my dad following the service and told him he was going to ask me to go skating. Dad was put on the spot and gave permission. I got to go with a free and clear conscience and with my daddy’s permission. I learned a valuable lesson that night. I never dreamed that Sherill would someday be the mother of my son-in-law. Isn’t God good!!!

Elva Bowman Miller (bridesmaid), Sharon Swartz Kisamore (Maid of Honor), Pat and Gene, Bob Hertzler (Groomsman)
The original picture of the wedding party.
Talking to my bridesmaid and maid of honor. Elva, Sharon and I have some good memories and stories!!!
Getting ready to cut the cake made by Lauren. She used my original cake topper.
Story time!
Folks that is a very mischievous laugh with a naughty thought!!! Would you believe he is being encouraged to smear my face!
He is still debating!
He was a dear and even resisted the encouraging chants of the group!
The cake was delicious.
Darrel Hostetter praying a prayer of blessing over us. Darrel and Sherill have been special to us. They were in my graduating class at EMHS and their son Obe married our daughter Jill.
Karla made the cupcakes.
Ryan, Poe Powell and Jill.
Jill and Gene talking with Lowell and Mim Haarer.

You could have a root beer ice-cream float or an ice-cream cone.

There was a story behind the ice-cream floats….. on our first date we went bowling and afterwards stopped at the food court to get something to eat and drink. I have never liked soft drinks, maybe detest them is a better description!!! Our family never bought soft drinks unless we were sick and the doctor ordered Ginger Ale. (Remember I was born a long time ago!) The only thing on the list was soft drinks and because our family also never ate out I was not very comfortable ordering. I didn’t know I could ask for water! I was to embarrassed to admit to Gene my dilemma so I bravely ordered root beer hoping I could handle it. It did not work and Gene learned my secret! So in memory of that first date, we served root beer floats but I settled for an ice-cream cone.

Cindy Rosen and her mother.
Mom and daughter
We call these two the Troublemakers,
or is it the Bobbsy Twins?
No, it is the Wonder Twins!

How many more years will we have? We do not know. We have weathered some tough storms in life; the hardest was the death of our two children. Each storm we have dug in deep and dropped our anchors in the depths of God’s care and faithfulness. It reminds me of the song, “I don’t know about tomorrow, but I know who holds our hand” by Ira J. Stanphill.

I don’t know about tomorrow,
I just live from day to day.
I don’t borrow from its sunshine,
For its skies may turn to gray.
I don’t worry o’er the future,
For I know what Jesus said,
And today I’ll walk beside Him,
For He knows what is ahead.

Many things about tomorrow,
I don’t seem to understand;
But I know who holds tomorrow,
And I know who holds my hand.

A video of our 50 years!

50 Years Ago-The Move to Powhatan

Fifty years ago on Monday, May 20, 1968, was the official big move of the Hertzlers to Powhatan from Denbigh (Newport News), Virginia. The city was encroaching on the farmers there forcing them to search elsewhere for affordable farm land.  Gene remembers packing his 1957 blue Ford pickup with his personal belongings and heading west on Route 60, winding through Shockhoe Bottom in Richmond, and on to the farm to arrive ahead of the trucks hauling the thirty dairy cows.

When the cattle trucks arrived, they unloaded the cows behind the barn into a lot with a watering trough and a bunk full of haylage that had been cut that morning from the farm in Newport News so that the cows had no adjustment in their feed ration.  His brother drove a flatbed truck loaded with a wagon full of silage.

Months, weeks and days before, the farm here in Powhatan was prepared for the move. Spring crops were ready to green chop and corn was already growing in the fields. The Surge dealer had installed a pipeline and milking equipment in the cinderblock stanchion barn and milking house. Each work trip to the farm brought equipment, tools, and other needed supplies from Denbigh. And at the last came the three Border Collie dogs; Checkers, Pudgy, and Snickers.

Gene was eighteen when he and his older brother, Oliver, moved to Powhatan to run the farm.  Gene doesn’t remember much about the move. Gene and Oliver lived in the upstairs apartment of the house as the main part of the house was rented to another couple. There was no air conditioning in the house and Gene remembers leaving the windows open for air circulation and hearing the whippoorwills calling from the trees.

There are still several things that dad Hertzler planted in the yard that I greatly treasure; a pecan tree (two have succumbed), a row of beautiful peonies, a lilac bush and hollyhocks. Dad Hertzler loved the land and had a knack for growing boxwood shrubs, pecan trees, peonies, irises, hollyhocks and other flowers which he enjoyed sharing with people.

Gene remembers his folks riding the roads of Powhatan, Amelia and Madison counties looking for a farm. He has no idea where all they looked or traveled. He does remember his sister, sitting in the back seat of the car one day as they wandered the back roads of Amelia County, singing, “Did he ever return, no he never returned, and his fate is still unlearned,  He may ride forever ‘neath the streets of Boston,  He’s the man who never returned” from “Charley on the M.T.A”. (written by Jacqueline Steiner and Bess Lamax Hawes and sung by The Kingston Trio). They ended up finding this farm, it was for sale, but for some reason they did not come the day of the farm auction.  Hugh Ownby bought the farm and was going to turn it into one of Ownby’s cattle sale farms. Several weeks or months later, the Hertzlers contacted the Ownbys and they agreed to sell the farm to them. The rest is history.

Powhatan was so different in those days. There were numerous grade A dairies in the county with names such as; Bowlin, Burkholder, Cosby, Harris, Hatcher, Hertzler, Layman, McGee, Moyer, Osborne, Ranck, Schaefer, Stratton, Timberlake, Tucker, Walker, Wills and Willis. Powhatan was truly agriculturally rural. Route 60 was still single lane into Midlothian and Interstate 64 between Richmond and Newport News only had sections completed.  The route from Newport News would wind through Richmond on Route 60 through Shockhoe  Bottom and under the train trestles.  Let me tell you, this was not through the good section of town.

The intersection of 653 (our road) and Route 60 the summer of 1969 as they were working on putting in dual lanes.

Another picture of Route 60 before it was dual laned. The truck is sitting where Hunters Mill road now is.

Law and order and traffic control was maintained under the watchful eye of one sheriff (Floyd Simpson), one part-time deputy (Nelson Batterson), and two state troopers (Shirley Reynolds and M.C. Arrington).  These guys were fair but they were tough!

Grocery stores: Maxey’s (in the village where Four Seasons Restaurant is now), Nichols Store at Macon, a very small store at the corner of Route 60 and Academy Rd. and the largest was Mays Grocery at Flatrock.

Medical: Dr. Bradley was a one-man office with nurse Betty and two examining rooms. He knew us all by name and made house calls.  I remember office visits costing $12. The office was heated (or at least partially heated) by a pot-belly wood stove. When Dr. Bradley was ready to see you, you were first invited to visit with him in his office. He sat behind a large wooden desk and you sat in a wood chair at the side. If you had a sinus infection, he would open his desk drawer, take out a flashlight and invited you to step into a dark closet in the room with him so that he could shine the light on your sinuses.  Bloxton’s Pharmacy was in the white-pillared building next to Four Seasons Restaurant. I worked at Bloxton’s for awhile after we were married. Dr. Bradley had evening hours once or twice a week and Bloxtons would stay open those evenings just in case his patients needed a prescription. Dr. Bradley would call and let them know when he had seen his last patient for the day so they could close.

Car Dealers: Yates Ford was in the village, and Brown’s Chevrolet and Brauer Pontiac were on Route 60.

Farm Equipment: Davis Merchant was an International tractor dealer and there was a Ford dealership on Route 13 in the village where Mabel’s Cafe is now located.

Other:  Goodwyn’s Lumber, United Auto Parts, Yates Oil, and Powhatan Farm Supply, a Southern States franchise near the village, were all thriving family-owned businesses. The only bank, Bank of Powhatan, and the post office were also located in the village.

There was nothing and I mean almost nothing but open land between Powhatan and the Boulevard (160) which is several miles east of Chippenham Parkway; just a few buildings in the village of Midlothian, Watkins Nursery, and a few scattered homes and  businesses at Buford Road.  If we wanted to go shopping, we either went to Southside Plaza on the Boulevard or Broad Street in downtown Richmond.  The year we were married, 1972, they were excavating for the massive, state of the art, Cloverleaf Mall.  That section of land at the intersection of 150 and Route 60, was a dairy farm but times were changing and now was giving way to new development.

According to records posted online, there were less than 8,000 people in Powhatan in 1970.  Stores were closed on Sunday, you knew and visited with your neighbors, the elementary and high schools were in the village, your address was routes and box numbers instead of street names, the closest hospital was St. Mary’s, and there was a one-lane, steel-trestle bridge across the James River on 522 at Maidens.  If you approached the bridge and someone was already coming across, you had to wait or meet them in the center where there was a place wide enough to pass. The new state of the art concrete bridge was completed in early 1972.


This picture came from Elwood Yates Jr. and is the old bridge at Maidens.

The new bridge had only been open a few months when Hurricane Agnes dropped record amounts of water on central Virginia in June 1972 causing massive flooding at levels not seen before. The James River at Maidens came within inches of the bottom side of the roadway on the bridge, washing out the approaches.  To come to our wedding on June 24, Gene had to travel west on Route 60 to Buena Vista to find an open bridge to cross the river.

The new concrete bridge.

By the time we were married, the farm was established and Oliver Jr. was married. Route 60 was dual-laned and Powhatan was beginning to change. Gene gladly handed the reins of homemaking over to me.  He had bachelored for four years and was ready for a wife!

Oh the changes that have happened on the farm over the years:  two 20’X60′ concrete stave silos were built, a double-four herringbone parlor replaced the stanchion barn, and a free-stall barn was built. These are now all relics from the past and integrated into warehouse space supporting our farm supply store which we started in 1983. Additional land was cleared for more cropland, the house was remodeled with a full upstairs added, trees were planted, new fences built, the dairy gave way to beef cattle and lots and lots of love and energy has gone into making the farm a beloved homestead.

Now…..the homestead changes, and yes it is the same house.

Fifty years have flown by and our roots have grown deep in the soil of Powhatan County. This is truly home and we love our homestead.  In many ways we have shared our farm with the community through our farm supply store (started in October 1983) and other numerous events we have hosted through the years; Live Nativity, Evening on the Lawn, Fun Day on the Farm and the many bus loads of school children that visited through the years.

Today there is only one dairy left in the county, the old has given way to new, and family businesses are being replaced with chain stores. Change happens, time never stands still, but oh the memories of days gone by.

For more of our story, read the following blog post “Once Upon A Time“.  “Hometown USA” is a commentary about change in Powhatan.  “Down A Country Lane” is a reflection on the beauty and a lament of the change in rural Powhatan. “A Mulberry Tree” is a fascinating tale as told to me by Jack May about a tree here on our farm.

If there are any corrections or additions, please let me know. I would love to have a picture of Hatcher’s Restaurant, May’s Grocery,  Store, Bloxton’s Pharmacy and Dr. Bradley’s Office.   Did I miss any dairy farmers? You can email me at or use the comment section on the blog.

Contributed pictures:

Nicholls Store by Sheryl Nicholls

Maxeys Grocery Store by Elwood Yates

Yates Ford, 1938-1977 by Elwood Yates

Powhatan Emergency Crew,1970 by Elwood Yates

Bank of Powhatan, 1955 by Elwood Yates

Brauer Pontiac and Oil Company, 1961 by Elwood Yates

Powhatan High School in the village, 1960 by Elwood Yates

Our Group

Way back in 1972, 44 years ago to be exact, four couples from our church got married in the same year. In our small, young congregation (50-60 people), that was a lot of weddings.  Several times through the years “our group”, as we call ourselves, have gotten together to celebrate. Last evening was one of those celebrations.

2016-02-27 19.13.27

Ray and Betty Hertzler are the oldest in our group, marrying at the mature age of 37!  They were married first (in April), in Chesapeake and made their home in Powhatan on a dairy farm. They started in a very small trailer but later built a house across the road where they still reside. The Hertzlers have two children.

2016-02-27 19.14.43

Gene and Pat Hertzler were next, marrying in June, in Harrisonburg. Hurricane Agnes (June 19-24) did her best to detrail our wedding plans. As she roared up the east coat, dumping 7 inches of rain on the area, the James River flooded, big time! The old, one-way trestle bridge on 522 at Maidens had just been replaced with a new, state of the art, bridge. The water reached the roadway of the bridge and washed out the approaches. Gene had to go to Lynchburg to get around the flooding to make it to Harrisonburg. The wedding day turned out to be a beautiful, warm summer day.  We made our home on a dairy farm in Powhatan where we still live.  We have two children and five grandchildren.


(I put this picture in from my archives to show the magnitude of the height of the water)

2016-02-27 19.13.46

Harold and Elaine Alderfer were married in early September in Minnesota, Elaine’s home area.  Harold and Elaine met while she was in Voluntary Service in Chesapeake. After the wedding, they also settled in Powhatan on a dairy farm. They have moved the most.  They moved their farming operation from Powhatan to Minnesota, back to Powhatan and then to Brunswick County in Southern Virginia. After selling the dairy, they moved to Louisa in central Virginia where they now reside. The Alderfers have one son and twin granddaughters.

2016-02-27 19.13.18

Sam and Poe Powell were the last of our group, marrying in late September in Powhatan. Poe was the youngest, a 17 year-old bride. They made their home in Amelia County in a trailer on his parents family farm. They later built a house a little further back the driveway, nestled in the woods, where they still live. The Powells have 3 sons and seven grandchildren.

We had such a good time eating, story telling, laughing and catching up on our lives. Three of us still go to Powhatan Mennonite Church and even though we see each other every Sunday it is not the same as sitting and visiting at the same table.

2016-02-27 18.57.15

Our scrumptious, luscious Lady Finger Cheesecake and fruit topping made by Poe Powell

We learned some very interesting things… (for those who know us, let’s see if you can figure this out!)

  • There is only one in the group who has not had surgery.
  • There is one who is not missing any body parts or had body parts replaced. (hip, knees, hysterectomy, piece of colon, appendix, etc. Teeth did not count!).
  • As a group we take 17 prescription medicines. One does not take any.
  • We have traveled to the west coast, Argentina, Hawaii, Bermuda and Puerto Rico.
  • Only one still has her parents living.
  • All but three are taking their social security benefits.
  • Two couples are still actively employed and earning paychecks.
  • One couple still have the cars they each owned when they got married.
  • All but two have had car accidents.
  • The worse accident in our group was a chain saw injury to the face and arm.
  • One has used up 3 of their “nine lives”, another had a very serious illness and another is a cancer survivor.
  • Only one does not have gray hair.
  • We have lost two children to death and suffered 3 miscarriages between us.
  • Each couple was grateful for the children God blessed them with.  Each couple in some way has dealt with some uncertainty whether age, infertility, miscarriages or genetic disease.
  • One has twin granddaughters and one has a daughter getting married this summer.

It was a wonderful evening of sweet fellowship, story telling, reminiscing and looking at our wedding pictures.  Oh my, how we have changed!!!! We wondered ….why don’t get together more often. We departed determined to do this more often.

2016….Our group… we are still celebrating and looking forward to more years to come.

Our menu:

  • Appetizer: Stuffed Mushrooms  (The original recipe came from
  • Barbecued Cornish Hens
  • Sweet Corn
  • Twice Baked Potatoes
  • Orange/Pineapple Jello Salad
  • Homemade Whole Wheat Rolls and Honey Butter
  • Ladyfinger Cheesecake with Mixed Fruit Topping  (Recipe is from Taste of Home and is actually called Cherry Cheese Torte)

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