My mom sat at her desk one January morning in 1969 while her fingers moved with nimble grace across the keys of her typewriter. Someone rushed past her desk and the girl working beside her leaned over and said, “Hey, he’s cute!” She looked up just in time to catch a glimpse of a young engineer rushing through the office. His plaid sport coat hung across his tall, lean frame. Beneath it he wore a light blue shirt and a skinny tie that had been his father’s. A full head of dark hair was combed neatly and parted on the side. Watching him from across the room, she realized her co-worker’s words could have easily been her own.
Because the Richmond GE did not yet have its own engineering department, a rotating “engineer of the week” worked in the building. My dad arrived that Monday morning and would spend the coming week providing support for the factory as was needed. It turned out that a week would be just enough time to change everything for Sharon and Pete.
Time ticked by in a whirlwind of typing and shorthand, meetings and decisions. Eventually their paths would cross. On Thursday the secretaries sat down together for lunch. They were chatting and laughing when Pete approached their table. His eyes met Sharon’s as he explained rather matter-of-fact, “If you give me your keys, I’ll start your car. You left your lights on and your battery is dead.” Though they’d not spoken before this moment, she reached into her purse, grabbed her keys, and passed them into his hands. He walked out into the pouring rain to jump start her car.
All of the ladies turned to Sharon. “Who is he?” one of the girls whispered as he walked away.
“I don’t know. I think he’s the engineer of the week.” she stammered.
Brows arched upward and eyes glanced at each other in disbelief. “Wait a minute. You just handed him your keys and you don’t know him? We aren’t buying it.”
At the end of the day, she walked out to the parking lot and discovered that her ’69 Cougar started up just fine. She had an appointment on the south side of Richmond to get her hair washed and set. She pulled out of the lot and glancing into the rear view mirror, recognized the driver in the red Barracuda behind her. It was the same guy who had fixed her car that afternoon. Merging onto I-95 South toward Petersburg, she noticed Pete’s car was still trailing her. “That’s strange,” she thought to herself, “I wonder where he’s going?”
Eventually she took her exit, passed her daddy’s store and turned into the hair salon parking lot. Wouldn’t you know, Pete’s car pulled into the hair salon too. She got out of the car and recognized a co-worker, Larry Van, sitting in the passenger seat of the Barracuda. As she walked by, Pete leaned across his friend and asked, “Would you go to dinner with me?”
She thought for a second before she declined the offer. With a nervous smile she explained that she was hesitant to go out with someone she worked with and knew so little about.
But it wasn’t a complete bust for Pete. He drove off that evening with Sharon’s phone number in hand.
She drove home that evening thinking of all the unusual happenings of the day. Soon she was back home and running up the sidewalk with her stylish short hair teased high. Her mother stepped out the front door just as she approached. “Has anyone called, Mama? she asked.
“Yeah. Who’s Pete from GE?” her mother questioned.
He called back later that evening and they spent two hours on the telephone. He lived in Waynesboro, but the two wrote letters to each other quite often and nearly every weekend he made the trip back to Richmond to visit her.
By June, Sharon was wearing an engagement ring to work. By the end of September, the two were married.
All of this happened forty-seven years ago. In the years that followed, they have lived in three different states, seven different homes, they have raised four daughters and are the proud grandparents to nine grandchildren. Their 47 years of marriage are cause for great celebration. I wonder at all that has happened in the passing of these years. How many cups of coffee have they sipped together? How much laughter have they shared? How many arguments have been waged? How many sorrows lessened? How has their love changed? How has it grown?
I’m so thankful that they found each other, that she noticed him in the office, that he went out in the rain to jumpstart her car, that love won. This will always, always be one of my favorite stories. Happy 47th Anniversary, Mom and Dad!