Rochester Couple Has ‘Known Each Other Forever’
This summer, Don and Joyce Jones will celebrate the 65th anniversary of the day they were married on August 2, 1952 at the Federated Church on Main Street in Rochester.
During a recent interview, where they sat side-by-side on a couch in their living room, the two often finished each other’s sentences as they spoke about their long and happy life together.
Both born in 1930, they’ve known each other since they attended the same preschool at the former Methodist Church (now the home of the Bowman family) in the village. They remember sharing graham crackers and milk together back then, but didn’t start dating until 1948—during their senior year at Rochester High School.
“That was as soon as he got a car!” Joyce joked.
Joyce (Severy) grew up on Route 73 in the house later owned by Bill Bowen that was recently destroyed by fire. Don was raised in a home next to the current site of the firehouse on the north end of Rochester village, where his dad operated a garage. While he was in high school, Don bought a dump truck and worked for the town of Granville on the road by the bowl mill.
“One thing that attracted me to him was that he was ambitious,” Joyce said. “He doesn’t have a lazy bone in his body.” After high school, Joyce had trained as a registered nurse at Massachusetts General, and in June of 1952, Don graduated from Lyndon State College with a degree in teaching science.
“We got married that August and when we got back from our honeymoon, the draft notice was there,” Don recalled. “In September, I joined the Army and was sent to Fort Devens in Massachusetts, then shipped to Camp Breckenridge in Kentucky, where I trained with the 101st Airborne. I served a total of 21 months and 22 days. It was near the end of the Korean War and they really had no use for us, so they gave me an honorable discharge.”
After that, Don returned to Lyndon State to take courses to get re-certified for teaching. That summer, while working as a bus driver there, he drove a group from out-of-state that had to go back to White River Junction and heard of a teaching vacancy for the coming year in South Royalton.
“So, after I dropped off the group, I met with the superintendent and was hired as an eighth grade classroom teacher, after I also interviewed with Bob Dumville,” Don said. “After they hired me, they told me I also had to be the principal for grades 1-8! That was in 1954 in what is now the main building for Vermont Law School.” “They had wonderful kids there!” Joyce noted.
Don taught there for two years, and when a job came open in Shelburne as a teaching principal, he was hired for that with a raise in pay. Their son, Brian, was born while they were living in South Royalton, and another son, Bruce, was born during their time in Shelburne.
After eight years in Shelburne, Don was hired as assistant superintendent of the Chittenden South School District, which included Williston, Charlotte, Shelburne, St. George, and Hinesburg. He did that for three years, then a superintendent job opened up in South Royalton.
“We had fond memories of our time in Shelburne, but we decided to return to South Royalton,” said Joyce, who had worked at Mary Fletcher Hospital and also for a doctor’s office in Burlington.
During their years in Shelburne, the family had spent summers in Storrs, Conn., while Don earned a masters degree in education at UConn in 1962.
In South Royalton, the family lived on North Windsor Street and Joyce worked part-time for Dr. Armstrong and Dr. Gadway. Don served as the superintendent of the Orange-Windsor Supervisory Union and eventually retired from that position in 1982. Joyce had retired from nursing in 1988. After retiring, Don switched careers and worked as a real estate agent for Century-21 Millstone until 1999.
“When I was in high school, I had done work for Arthur Osha on church auctions and other things,” Don said, “and when I got out of the service, he offered to sell me his business, but I decided that I needed to use my education. But years, later, I still enjoyed selling, so that’s how I got into real estate.”
A Different Time
The two have vivid memories of their time in Kentucky in 1954, while Don was in basic training.
“Segregation was alive and very real there, and we were these country bumpkins from the north,” Joyce remembered. “There were signs on the doors excluding black people and the hospital where I worked, which was run by Catholics, was built into a bank. There was one ward room in the basement for the black men, and one for the women, and no call bells.”
She recalled that “once there was a black baby who needed to be upstairs in the nursery and I put it upstairs in the nursery with the white babies so I could watch it. The grandma of one of the white babies demanded that the black baby be moved, but I held my ground. The baby stayed upstairs, but was moved toward the back.”
The couple, who now has five grandchildren (two in North Carolina and three in California) and three great-grandchildren; moved to their present home a couple miles south of Rochester village in 1985. One of Don’s hobbies is working on tractors and he currently has several of different sizes—two of which he and Joyce use to keep the vast lawn in front of their house in pristine condition.
“We mow the lawn together and we each have our own territory,” Don noted.
Joyce, who rode a bike one-and-ahalf miles to school as a kid, is still into bike riding. She can be seen wearing her helmet, making a daily bike ride into the village during every season except winter, since Don doesn’t feel it’s safe for her to ride on Route 100 then.
“I used to ride to Hancock to get my hair cut,” she added. “Last year, I rode my bike during every month of the year.”
Don is a walker and used to hike the three-mile round trip up Liberty Hill every day.
What’s the secret for staying married for 65 years?
“Compromise!” Joyce answered with a grin.
“And love,” said Don. “You’ve got to be willing to give. You’re a team—not an individual.”
Any other advice?
“Be sure you’ve chosen well before you get married,” Joyce added. “We’ve known each other forever and we’re comfortable together.”