Long love Local couple to celebrate 65 years of wedded bliss
By Judy Jenkins (Contact)
Sunday, April 1, 2007
The Gleaner News [Henderson, KY]
It didn't seem like an auspicious beginning for a long lasting relationship.
He was 19 and she was only 14.
He was Methodist and she was Baptist.
He lived on one side of Green River and she lived on the other.
But they wed a year later with her mama and daddy signing the papers to allow the union, and come Wednesday Catherine and Henry Clay Yancey will celebrate 65 years of happy marriage.
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Last October 18, he turned 85 and she turned 80. Yes, they share a birthday, though Catherine says "We didn't know that until quite awhile after we started going together."
Mind you, when she says "going together" she isn't talking about unescorted dates. "We only had one unchaperoned date before we married," she says. "He bought an old car and we went riding one Sunday afternoon."
Following their wedding, they moved in with her parents in Daviess County near Curdsville, and Henry -- who had gone to work in the coal mines when he was 12 years old -- made $5 a week and gave $3 to the in-laws to pay for the couple's room and board.
Later they got their own place in Utopia near Hebbardsville, where Henry grew up, and though they didn't have electricity or running water for years, they managed just fine and became the proud parents of four daughters and a son.
As daughter Donna Risley says, "We never went hungry and we never got on the school bus dirty."
The "bathtub" was a galvanized wash tub in which the young'uns were bathed one at a time in the same bath water that had been hauled from the well. It was great, Donna says, "unless you were the last one in the tub."
Catherine scrubbed their clothes on a washboard, and the garments were starched and shining when the family attended services at their home church, Bethel Baptist, in Hebbardsville.
Over the decades Henry continued to work in coal mines, but from time to time did something else. He ran a saw mill for awhile and worked at Chrysler in Evansville for nine years. Catherine kept the home fires burning, scrubbing with lye soap and cooking big meals and still finding time to work in the tobacco patch and tend the cows and hogs they raised.
Lest you envision a worn out elderly couple who are resting on their laurels, think again. Henry rides a four-wheeler, especially to hunting sites, and both husband and wife are avid deer hunters. When Catherine was 60, she shot a 12-pointer that weighed 182 pounds. She's got a photograph of that huge critter, as well as the 78-pound catfish they caught three years ago. That "blue cat" was so big they had to call for help to drag it up the bank.
They both love the outdoors, and go as often as possible to their "summer home," a rural trailer.
Their health isn't the very best these days, but they don't let that stop them. Henry had a stroke last year and Catherine has a pacemaker, but they keep going.
Ask them how they met and they grin at the memory. It was in Curdsville, at the old Clements general store where free movies were shown on the side of the building. Everybody came from miles around, some sitting in cars and others standing or reclining on blankets. They brought their own popcorn and water. Times were hard, and few could afford softdrinks.
(Catherine recalls that she had her first softdrink, an Orange Crush, when she was 9.)
They don't remember the name of the movie that was playing the night they ambled close to each other and started talking, but Catherine is sure it was a Western. That's about the only kind of movie that was shown, she said.
There's a sad note to this upcoming anniversary. Their daughter Carla Rose Hughes will be absent. She died of cancer last October at age 50. In addition to her and Donna, there are daughters Stella Baxter and Linda Gordon, and son Dennis Yancey. There also are nine grandchildren, 13 great-grandchildren, and five great-great grandchildren.
Last Wednesday the 13th great-grandchild was born. That's William Clay Roberts, son of Henderson County High teachers Will and Adrian Roberts.
It's with a great deal of pride that Henry and Catherine relate that the family is full of nurses and teachers, and there are a few preachers too.
Three years ago the couple moved into Henderson, but as the days grow longer and warmer, it's for sure they'll be going to that "summer home" where they "have everything we need," including a refrigerator and TV.
Speaking of TV, Donna says they had one of the first TV sets in the county in the early 1950s shortly after their Utopia home finally got electricity.
Henry traded a chain saw for it.