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'We love each other more now than we did then'

Chip Ellis
Respect, friendship, loyalty and a genuine love for one another have kept Calvin and Freda Harrison together for more than six decades.

HURRICANE, W.Va. -- It was a warm summer night in 1946 when Calvin Harrison first noticed the 15-year-old West Dunbar girl.

As Freda Vance and her sisters danced the jitterbug at the fair in Institute, Calvin watched from a distance -- following each knee bend and arm wave she made.

Calvin, 18, had walked from Raymond City to the fair, but that wasn't the reason he was short of breath. 

"We smirked at each other and that's all it took," Calvin Harrison, now 84, said earlier this week as he leaned back in a recliner in his living room.

"Yeah, she was a good dancer," he added, blushing.

As the band's horns faded, Calvin pushed his way through the crowd and grabbed the girl's hands. 

"I didn't know what to think," Freda Harrison, now 81, recalled. "We walked the fairgrounds and he gave me a goodnight kiss."

The Hurricane couple will celebrate their 65th wedding anniversary next month.

"This is my old wedding ring. I saved the coupons off Borden's milk to buy it," Freda said, holding up her pinky finger. Calvin bought her a new one on their 40th wedding anniversary.

"I had to see if I was going to keep her," he joked.

Respect, friendship, loyalty and a genuine love for one another, they said, have kept them together for more than six decades.

Calvin called Freda the day after the fair and from then on the two were inseparable. He had never experienced the kind of love she gave him, he said.

His mother had left when he was 11 and his dad worked most all the time.

"I never really had a life until I met her," Calvin said.

Freda came from a large family. On an early spring day in 1948, her mother walked her to the preacher's house in Dunbar.

"She had 13 children, she probably liked to get rid of some," Freda said, laughing over her mother agreeing to let her get married at age 17.

The couple scooted close together on the couch Monday, each giving a knee for their wedding album to rest on. A corner tore as they pulled away the plastic cover that protects the aged wedding book the pastor gave them.

"Oh, that's OK," Freda quickly said.

"We love each other more now than we did then," Calvin added.

During the early years of their marriage, the couple lived in Ward, a mining town near Kelleys Creek. Calvin worked in the coal mines.

They furnished the entire home for $100. Their first two of five children were born in that small house.

Now, dozens of photos of eight grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren line the shelves and walls inside their Hurricane home.

"Our children are the greatest. There's nothing better than when they're all here," Calvin said.

Still, among the family photos, several can be found celebrating the couple's love.

"There's one of us," Freda said, pointing to a framed black and white picture. In it, the young Freda sits on Calvin's lap.

Love over the past six decades has come easy for the Harrisons. In part, it's because they enjoy the same things -- having discovered their interests together early on.

"We genuinely enjoy being with each other," Calvin said. "I've never been off anywhere else for a week at a time -- anywhere I go, she goes and vice versa."

"He's the only man I've ever been with," Freda said. "I'm still crazy about him."

The couple often gets asked what the secret is to a happy marriage. They said they often aren't sure how to respond.

"I don't know, you have to put your trust in them and love them," Freda said.

"I didn't even expect to live this long," Calvin said. "But I always knew we'd stay together. If we hadn't been together, I'd have been dead a long time ago."

Freda's cooking skills might help. "She's the best cook in the world, anything she cooks is good," Calvin said, looking to make sure his wife heard the compliment.

Reach Kate White at kate.white@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1723.


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