Originally created 09/23/04

Depression marriage overcomes odds

Bill and Ruby Workman recently committed a virtual rarity in today's society -they celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary.

"I wouldn't leave him," Mrs. Workman, 88, said jokingly, sitting next to her husband in their South Augusta home.

"She threatened to leave, but she didn't," Mr. Workman, 91, said as Mrs. Workman playfully scorned him and told him he was "supposed to be telling the truth."

The couple were surprised with an Aug. 15 celebration thrown by their son and daughter-in-law, Bill Workman Jr. and Diane Workman, an event the senior couple thought was for Mrs. Workman's Aug. 10 birthday.

Their Sept. 5, 1934, union in Jesse, W..Va., faced so many obstacles it almost didn't happen.

Mrs. Workman said she and Mr. Workman grew up in adjoining communities in the small country town where they went to the same high school. They began dating when she was a junior and he was a senior.

After graduation and celebrating her 18th birthday, the two got a marriage license. Mr. Workman then asked her father, Elonza "Poppy" Scott, for his daughter's hand. Mr. Scott abruptly said no, so the couple implemented Plan B - they eloped.

Mrs. Workman said her siblings knew and promised not to tell. Her brother hid her bag of clothes outside the house on the day she planned to skip the town's revival meeting to get married.

She said she felt her mother knew something was up because she insisted she wear a new dress, which was unheard of except on Sunday.

"I was really sad when she was helping me get dressed because she said something about fixing a part on it later and I knew I wouldn't be coming back. But I think she knew," Mrs. Workman said.

Mrs. Workman said she nervously left the house that evening, picked up the bag and walked with her 8-year-old sister toward the nearby church. When Mr. Workman drove up, she left her sister.

The couple drove to Mr. Workman's pastor's house but found no one at home, so they went to the home of another preacher, the Rev. John Matney, who married them.

Two weeks later, after living with Mr. Workman's parents, the couple walked to a country store. There Mrs. Workman saw her father driving up the road. She wanted to run, but her husband wouldn't allow it, she said.

"My father was really strict. I was raised to walk the chalk line," she said. "I was scared, but he said to me, 'Ruby, I didn't tell you to leave, so you can come back when you get ready.'"

"But he didn't say I could come," Mr. Workman said, laughing.

Married during the Depression, the couple said, they were dirt poor. Mr. Workman said he took odd jobs such as hoeing corn and butchering hogs before his 28-year career in the coal industry. Mrs. Workman worked as a postmaster for 23 years.

While rearing their four children, their financial struggles helped keep them together, Mrs. Workman said.

"It makes you wonder. We stayed together through all that thick and thin," she said. "We've always worked together. I've done things that were Bill's job and he's done things that were my job."

The couple retired to Augusta in 1973 to be closer to Bill Jr. and Diane.

"I thought I'd get down here and not do anything," said Mrs. Workman, who ended up baby-sitting her grandson, working as the director of the Baptist Women's Missionary Union for 12 years and teaching Sunday school at Fleming Baptist Church, then working with the same union at Pine Hill Baptist Church, where she still attends.

Mr. Workman began helping his son at his cabinet shop and tending the yard.

The couple also stay busy with their nine grandchildren, six great-grandchildren and two great-great-grandchildren.

Mr. Workman said he still maintains the flowers in the yard and Mrs. Workman prepares meals - sometimes leftovers - and she still makes apple butter and applesauce each fall.

They credit being devout Christians over healthy eating as the key to their long marriage and lives.

Mrs. Workman said she thinks so many marriages fail today because people expect instant gratification.

"They want everything nice and furnished right away and go in debt, then when they get down to the nitty-gritty, they throw their hands up and quit," she said. "I don't care how hard anything got or how hard anything didn't suit me, it didn't enter my mind to get a divorce."

Reach C. Samantha McKevie at (706) 823-3552 or samantha.mckevie@augustachronicle.com.


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