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Tuesday, December 10, 2019

In Other Words: The Secret is That There is No Secret

Dorothy and Joe True
I loved hearing the stories of how my grandparents grew up. I was fascinated by their adventures, their challenges, their defeats, and their victories. They became the stories of family legends and became part of our DNA. I recently had the chance to chat with a couple who will celebrate their 75th anniversary in January 2020.

So from the moment I sat down with Dorothy and Joseph True, I knew I was in for an adventure.

They live in Grand Towers retirement community now. He is 93 and she is 92, but they are active, in good cheer, healthy (although they have their ailments), keep a tidy apartment, and love guests. They are a living love story. And they have been married for 75 years.

Joe is a bit hard of hearing and Dorothy’s eyesight is fading but they still exhibit a vitality, a spark.  They laugh easily and finish each other’s sentences.

I asked how they met. Joe grew up in Falmouth. Dorothy grew up in Berry. He played guitar in a little band. He was playing a house party when during a break a girl walked by him. “I looked at her and liked what I saw.” 
High school photos of the Trues.

Dorothy interjects “And he whistled at me.” And they both laugh. They look down and smile as they relive that moment. Joe asks, “Are you taken? Do you have a boyfriend?’” And she replies, “I do tonight but I’ll be free tomorrow night.” 

Joe says, “She gave me her phone number and we made arrangements to meet each other and that started the whole thing.

So how was the first date? Joe was eagerly early - an hour according to Dorothy - and he and found Dorothy milking a cow. They attended a wiener roast at the local church in Berry that evening and that’s how it all began.

I asked about the wedding. Dorothy admitted that she “ran away" from home to marry Joe. Well, it wasn’t quite like that, she says. There was a custom in the country at the time that you waited for a vehicle to come along the road, flag it down, and catch a ride. “Well, we knew all of the neighbors. So I caught a train in Berry and took the train.”  She told a white lie to her mother that she was off to visit her brother in Dayton, Ohio. But she was really off to see Joe.

They took off for Covington to marry in January of 1945. It was January 19, 1945, one day after Joe’s 18th birthday.  They didn’t want the marriage announced in the paper because they didn’t really tell anyone in their families of their intentions. But six months later, “The first time I went home, I went with a new baby,” Dorothy says.
Family photos decorate their home.

They told the story of how they came to live in Fort Thomas. They rented a farm in Fort Thomas where Gettysburg Apartments stand today. They rented 25 acres but the house had no indoor plumbing and only one lone lightbulb that hung from the ceiling.  And, yes, there was an outhouse. But there were fruit trees and horses for the kids to ride and a garden. The neighbors had cows where they bought their milk. It’s often hard to imagine that the city was a farming community for a long time, but things change and people adapt to change. And they adapted to the growing city life.

They moved around to accommodate their growing family. But certain family customs began early. Every Sunday Joe and Dorothy would together cook a big meal for the family. Dorothy is one of 15 children and Joe is one of 7 so big families are a comfort to them.

They had a total of eight children. They now have 18 grandchildren, 20 great-grandchildren, and 3 great-great-children with 2 more on the way.  That’s over 50 descendants and four generations they get to see. “We have been very blessed,“ Joe says.

Joe’s resume is as varied as can be but he eventually retired from Prudential Insurance. Dorothy worked at the old Saint Luke Hospital and later waited tables at the Tea Room at McAlpin’s downtown for 38 years.

Dorothy says, “I love a big family. Lots of love.”  Joe chimes in, “I am blessed that I can still get up and go.” They become more animated and their eyes sparkle when they talk about their children.

Joe and Dorothy personify the American spirit. He learned how to do a little bit of everything in order to get along - carpentry, auto mechanics, farming, selling. Dorothy was quite the seamstress and made many of their children’s clothes. And she made things for others.

They shared their blessings with their family and they now see those being passed on to their families.

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Joe recounts a story that while visiting the Holy Land in 1981 a man approached Joe and offered to buy Dorothy from him for four Arabian horses and two camels. He wanted her for his wife and was willing to pay for it. Joes laughs and says, “Well, how would I get those home?” 

Dorothy chuckled as well and said, “Well, what [number] wife would I be?” She would be wife #5. She declined. She laughs.

They have had their share of disappointments but there comes a time in life where those don’t seem to matter much. Sure, Joe’s hearing is not what it used to be and Dorothy’s eyes aren’t what they used to be. The arthritis in Joe’s fingers have recently prevented him from playing guitar.

In retrospect, they have lived a magical life. “We don’t understand it ourselves,” says Joe. They accepted whatever came with a positive spirit. Asked what their secret is and they get a bit flustered because they never really thought about it. Turns out, there is no secret.

Dorothy says she “won’t attend a wedding without dancing to ‘Rocky Top.’” She quickly adds to “Love the Lord and He will minster your needs.”  Joe adds, “Get in there and learn how to do it.”

That’s a pretty good secret.

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