But it took being left behind to make it happen.
Both North Carolina natives, the pair met when they were enrolled in Blanton’s Business College in Asheville. Married in 1947 in First Baptist Church in Asheville, they celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary earlier this month with their family.
“It’s a lot of giving and taking,” Gennie said of their 70-year marriage.
“She was always right with me, stuck by my side,” Ed added. “We have a good relationship.”
Neither of them went straight to college, though: Ed, from Waynesville, North Carolina, asked his mother to sign him up for the Navy when he was 17 years old to fight in World War II.
“I was out at sea on an aircraft carrier before I was 18 years old,” Ed recalled.
Now 90, Ed served two years in the military. He recalled being about 19 and in the hospital in Portsmouth, Virginia, with nothing but the clothes on his back and a peacoat to keep him company.
He yearned to be on a ship that was leaving the next day at 8 a.m., but his doctor didn’t discharge him from the hospital until 10 a.m.
He missed the boat, but as a result, you might say his ship came in.
Feeling angry, he didn’t reenlist — but looking back now, he said he’s glad it worked out that way.
“I would have never met her if I got on that ship,” he said.
Gennie’s life took her to Washington, D.C., from her home in Marion after she graduated high school. Her brother was enrolled in the military and stationed in D.C., and his wife worked with the FBI. So Gennie applied to also work with the FBI so she could stay with her sister-in-law while her brother was deployed.
She worked in the Justice Department under J. Edgar Hoover for two years, but came back to North Carolina to go to school.
“I had high ambitions of going back to school when I left the FBI,” she said. “And then he came along.”
“He” and Gennie met at a square dance the school was hosting, which turned into their first date. They got married, worked in Asheville for a while, and had two children. In 1968, they opened McClures Hardware in Johnson City.
They ran the store for almost 20 years, employing community high school and college students to work for them. The dependability of their employees is why Ed thinks the business was so successful. They sold the business in 1985, retired and began volunteering with the Red Cross.
The pair didn’t just employ that give-and-take mentality to their marriage — they took it into the community too.
Their years of work across the nation and outside the country earned them the Clara Barton Award, a national recognition of Red Cross volunteers for a decade of deployment to help with disaster relief and other programs through the Red Cross.
Ed contracted dengue fever while volunteering in the St. Thomas Virgin Islands, from which he recovered, and over the years has donated 16 gallons of blood to the local Red Cross. The volunteering didn’t stop there, though.
They both were involved with the local Civitan Club, where Gennie was elected the first female president of the chapter, the Special Olympics, Kidney Foundation and Senior Citizens Center and did volunteer work through their church, Southwestern Baptist Church.
Gennie said she believes she inherited a sense of giving from her mother, who she described as the community giver. Both said that giving back was something they strived to do throughout their lives.
“I believe God put us on this Earth to help our fellow man,” Ed said.
Email Jessica Fuller at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Jessica on Twitter @fullerjf91. Like her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/jfullerJCP.