by Mike Lunsford, Editor
Hello ComicsOnline readers. Typically, our content has something to do with comics, movies, TV, video games or something of the sort. Ya know, the tag line: “everything geek pop culture.” This next entry is an exception. Before I signed on to work with ComicsOnline, I fancied myself a writer. As a 70th anniversary present to my grandparents, I wrote them the following story. It was a fun tribute to 2 very awesome people and their incredible love story.
2 years ago, to the day, they unfortunately passed away. They had lived a good life but what was notable about their passing away was it was within 2 days of each other. It’s like something out of a sappy romance novel. I thought that on the anniversary of their passing, there isn’t a better way to celebrate their lives together than to share my story. I hope you enjoy.
It was the spring of 1944. Our boys in Europe had Hitler running for cover and the ones in the Pacific were making their way to Japan. The end was in sight. This story is about a young man and young woman and how their chance encounter at a Fire Hall in Arlington, Virginia brought together a family.
His friends all called him Bernie. A native of Falls Church, Virginia he was the youngest son in his family. One of his older brothers was in the thick of it in the Pacific. Bernie was stuck in a support role back stateside at the Anacostia Naval Base. This didn’t stop him from getting his licks in; he was a boxer sponsored by the Young Democrats. He was a darned good baseball player, too. He was tall and lean but not a slight man by any stretch of the imagination.
Her name was Betty. Betty Ruth, if you please, but often got called Betty Boop. She was a native of the DC area, and she was the baby of the family. She was working as a clerk for Continental Life Insurance and living with her sister Lizzie in Arlington, Virginia. She had reddish brown hair and was short…but don’t let that fool you. She was feisty and had no problem speaking her mind.
Winter was coming to a close and the weather was finally starting to warm up. It seemed like a great night to go dancing, Betty and her friends thought. Luckily, the Cherrydale Fire Hall was just a short trip up North Quincy Avenue and they were hosting a dance that night. The girls got all dolled up and headed to the firehouse. There were a lot of square looking guys at the dance, none of them really made any sort of impression, but the ladies were there to dance and dance they would. Betty looked across the room and saw a tall, dark-haired drink of water who was talking up anyone who would listen to him. Wait; was that a band-aid on his face? OK, this guy was interesting. The tall sailor saw her looking at him so he made his way over and asked her to dance.
Bernie met eyes with this fiery auburn haired woman and the two began talking.
“What happened to your eye?” Betty asked. Bernie laughed. She certainly wasn’t shy.
“I’m a boxer, but you should see the other guy: terrible, terrible, terrible,” Bernie replied as he smiled.
“You’re a boxer?” Betty said with a bit of excitement in her eye.
“And a baseball player, I played for Georgetown Brewing Company,” Bernie boasted.
“That’s all well and good, but can you dance?” Betty asked with a raised eyebrow. Bernie sighed. He could shoot a basketball, stand in the ring with just about anyone, and hit a curveball with ease, but dancing…not his strong suit. He looked down at his feet and looked back at Betty.
“I got these dancing shoes,” he said as he took Betty’s hand.
Nearly 70 years later, Betty and Bernie’s daughter Dawn was asking her father about the night they met and what he thought when he first saw his future wife.
“I was lookin’ at her and….shooo….”he said as he smiled.
“you gave her the once over?” Dawn asked.
“I was hopin’ to!” He said as he smiled again.
OK, back to the story.
The two were inseparable after that night. They managed to spend every free evening together they could. They were both fans of the Hot Shoppes: Bernie would always get a BLT and Betty would get a barbeque sandwich (with cole slaw on top of it) and a chocolate milk shake.
“Would you eat it there?” Betty’s grandson Mike asked her during a telephone conversation they recently shared.
“No, we would get it to go and eat it in the car,” Betty said. “Then we would go bowling or go see a movie.”
Things were going well for Betty and Bernie. They were together for 5 months and after many BLTs and barbeque sandwiches, they decided that getting married would be a good idea. Not everyone agreed. Betty’s mother wasn’t too keen on the idea. Her older siblings loved Bernie and it didn’t take long for Betty’s mom to change her mind. It wasn’t a lavish wedding, but when you’re in love, that doesn’t matter, does it? August the 5th, 1944 they were married; Bernie in his dress blues and Betty in white. They were fortunate that Bernie’s older sister Gladys not only came to the wedding, but had a camera and was able to take a picture. If it wasn’t for this, Betty and Bernie wouldn’t have a single picture from their wedding.
They had their honeymoon not far from the DC Area in North Beach, Maryland, right on the Chesapeake Bay at the Pines and Holly Inn.
Grandson Mike asked Betty what she remembered about their honeymoon she said, “There was a beautiful full moon that you could see out the window. It looked liked you could almost reach out and touch it.”
Bernie was more concise, “I got the good loving that night.”
They say that great things start small, and it was this small wedding that started an incredible family. After a few years of marriage, The Lunsfords welcomed their first child, a son named Steven in the fall of 1946. About 6 years his little brother Michael came along in January of ’53. The family continued to grow when in April of 1954 their only daughter Dawn joined the clan. Last, but certainly not least was Charles in 1960.
It was a full house with just their own children, but there was never a time when Betty or Bernie turned anyone away, including any animal that little Mike would bring home. Bernie might yell at Mike for his menagerie…but he would also sneak them food and talk to them when he thought no one was looking. Years later, when Steve came home from Vietnam, he brought some of his Marine brothers with him and they had a place to stay. It might have been sleeping on the floor, but that was luxurious accommodations to the hardened Marines. The Lunsford home was always open.
Being part of the family was not an exclusive club, either. You didn’t have to carry the last name Lunsford to be part of the family. There are countless friends who were mainstays of their former home in Annandale. Everyone is always greeted with a boisterous hello and a hug…probably a kiss, too. There are never any dividing lines. Step-siblings, half-siblings, friends, neighbors and anyone else for that matter are family. And we can thank all of this love and family togetherness to a very impressive set of dancing shoes.