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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

50 Years…How Amazing!!

Whew! We made it!- A Husband’s Testimonial

By Sid Riley

I am shown here with an amazing woman. It was also the day back on a beautiful Easter Sunday, April 17, 1960 when I made the wisest decision of my life. At the time of the picture Judy Mathews, was a nineteen year old, 94 pound bundle of energy and delight. She remains the same today, with the addition of only thirty pounds which makes her even more beautiful.

The site of the picture was the First Methodist Church in Smith Mills, Kentucky, a small farming community of about three hundred residents. We left the wedding and sped away in my parent’s 1958, white impala Chevrolet, with fender skirts, twin rear antennas, and twin front mirrors. We nicknamed it the “Batmobile”. We honeymooned that night in Bowling Green, Kentucky on our way to several days (and nights) in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Finally we ended up in Atlanta, where I was finishing my junior year at Georgia Tech.

Judy came back home to Kentucky on a train, while I stayed at school to finish the term. I did come home with my dad’s car about a month later, and got to see my bride again. The plan was for us both to work in Kentucky for the summer, and then we would set up an apartment in Atlanta in the fall term, and Judy would get a job to help me through that last year of school. However, I came home once too often, and Judy was pregnant with our first son, Kelly before summer started. He was born the following February, so it didn’t take us long to start the family.

After graduation, it was off to become a 2nd Lieutenant in the U. S. Air Force. I was gone a lot on temporary assignments, suddenly leaving Judy alone in Cheyenne, Wyoming with a new baby. She demonstrated how tough and resourceful she was, by taking over the family without a complaint. Our daughter, Allison was born while we were stationed in Wyoming…she cost us $5.75 in the military hospital.

Only a few weeks after Allison was born we were transferred to Homestead, Florida. I remember her laying diaperless in the car seat because it was so hot and our little 210 model 1955 Chevrolet had no air conditioning. Finally we separated from the Air Force and moved to Atlanta because I had taken a position with an engineering consulting firm. The starting salary was $8500, and we were suddenly rich for 1965!

This job required us to move several times, and also required travel on my part. Again, Judy was always at my side, filling the gap, and being a perfect partner. In 1972 we sold our big house in Atlanta and moved to Marianna, where I used the money from the house to start a small sewing factory in Sneads. A few years later Warnaco was leaving their big plant on Kelson Avenue, and my partners and myself managed to purchase the building and plant from them. So we had two plants and some 300 employees. During this time we had twin boys, Les and Lee. Lee died during a difficult birth, and Les lived for another sixteen delightful years before he was tragically killed in an accident out on Paramore Road in 1994.

The sickening grief of the tragedy pulled Judy and I even closer as we shared the pain, and tried to help each other. In 1980 the plants were sold, to end up as part of the Russell Athletic empire, and I resumed consulting work. I traveled out of Marianna each Sunday, and flew back home on Friday’s for week after week. Again, Judy was there to keep our home in place and running smoothly.

We are now entering old age together. I still see her as that beautiful delight on the steps of that church on that memorable Easter afternoon. This phase of our lives now involves six beautiful grandchildren, some new aches and pains, and for me…..an ever deepening love for my wife of fifty years which flew by much too fast, but are much treasured in the depths of my mind and heart. My only regret is we don’t have enough time left to do another fifty!

We quietly celebrated with our children and grandchildren at our daughter’s lake house on Lake Kerr in the Ocala National Forest.

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