In 1964, while on the road for the telephone company, Johnny heard a song on the radio by Ronnie Dove. It was a cover of Wanda Jackson's "Right or Wrong." The achingly earnest song cut to his core. He called his wife and asked her if she'd heard it.
It became their song.
"The words were, 'Right or wrong, I'll be with you,'" Lois said. "The lyrics just speak volumes, and it meant so much to us. He was out of town all week, and we were missing each other.
"That song stayed with us for almost 50 years."
Lois still finds herself singing it.
"Sometimes I can barely get through it," she said.
They had a good life together. Johnny got promoted and eventually didn't spend so much time away from home. They raised their daughters together, and in 1991, Johnny retired from the phone company -- at least for a little.
"He was such a good phone man, they brought him back for a special project."
But then the couple ran into a legal dispute over property with a neighbor. Lois said it was a long and stressful period in their lives. It pushed her husband to drink.
Something else changed, too. Johnny began behaving oddly. He got confused.
"His personality changed," Lois said. "He would be very childish. He'd go to the store and buy weird, off-brand things. He wrecked the car. He set fire to the house a couple of times."
In 2003, he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. His decline was steady and irreversible. Within a couple of years, Johnny was bedridden. His care became too much for Lois to handle.
"He went into three different nursing homes," she said.
His health continued to decline. Johnny could no longer eat solid food. His meals had to be pureed, which she said the nursing home neglected to do. Johnny choked and had to be rushed to the hospital where he withered away.
Johnny died in 2009.
Talking about it, Lois is frequently overcome with emotion. She breaks down.
"I never got to properly say goodbye," she said. "He didn't get a proper send off."
As part of the settlement she received for her husband's death, Lois said she decided she wanted to do something to give her that closure and say goodbye.
"I googled Ronnie Dove and found his phone number," she said. "I called him, and we must have talked for an hour."
She booked the 75-year-old singer to come to Clarksburg this Saturday for a performance at the Harrison County Senior Citizens Center at 500 Main St. from 4 to 8 p.m.
"We've got three bands," she said, brightly. "Johnny Cochran, the fiddle champ, and his band The Trailblazers. We've got Tyler Lash and the new Silver Eagles Band, featuring Ed Queen."
Tickets are $25, with proceeds going to the senior center.Reach Bill Lynch at ly...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5195.