(Published on February 23, 2017) Dick and Marie Hurt, longtime locals, recently celebrated sixty-five years of marriage. On Saturday, February 11, family members threw the couple a surprise party at The Homeplace, located in Catawba, Virginia. How Dick and Marie met is a story in itself.
“A few weeks after I graduated from high school in June of 1948, I was hanging out with some friends, and one had just purchased a new, used car and told us to get in. I had never been far from the Roanoke River at that point,” Dick said. “We traveled for several miles up the road, and I thought I was in California. That’s when I saw the sign Elliston. We stopped at a restaurant to hang out in the parking lot. Before long, I looked up and saw ‘the prettiest girl in Elliston’ coming down the road. I introduced myself, and we had a great conversation.”
Marie confirms that story. “I remember it like it was yesterday. I was going to church on a Wednesday, and the restaurant was in front of the church,” she said. “I remember them boys just laughing and making noise. When church was over, they were still there.”
It didn’t take Dick long to realize that he wanted Marie to be his wife. “I went in the Navy and stayed four years. When I came back, she was still tied up to the same tree from years earlier. I untied her, and shortly afterward we got married,” he jokingly said.
Friends told them that if they went to a minister named Dr. Downey to get married, he wouldn’t charge them as long as Dick was in his uniform. On February 14, 1952, Dick and Marie were officially married.
Ronnie Hurt, the second oldest of four children, describes his parents as “vibrant” and “loving.” “To be 84 and 87-years-old, my parents are really healthy. They still run errands and get around all by themselves. They don’t sit still,” he said.
The Hurt family has Salem origins that trace back to the 1800s. Hurt Lane – located across the street from the Salem Applebee’s – was once a farmland owned by the Hurt family. Dick’s grandmother lived in a large white house on the land.
For over thirty-seven years, Dick worked at C&P Telephone Co. When he started his employment there, he was making $35 a week. Whenever he had to make a tough decision, the first person he went to was his best friend who made sure that he had a brown bag lunch every single day. “My husband would get paid on Thursdays, and I would go to the grocery store that night to cash his check,” Marie said. “If I bought more than fifteen dollars’ worth of groceries, we couldn’t make it.” To earn some extra money, Dick got on the job GI training and they paid him 88 dollars a month.
Dick and Marie Hurt have been married for a long time. About 780 months, 23,400 days and 3,120 weeks to be exact. They have four children – Bonnie, Ronnie, Sam and Pam – as well as four grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. The pros of marrying your best friend – constructive and honest feedback, ability to pull each other up and open conversations among many other things – far outweigh any cons, according to Dick.
Make no mistake about it – Marie and her husband are still very much in love. “I love my wife. I couldn’t have done this with anybody else,” Dick said.