Young love sparks enduring flame
Joy and L.D. Young of Bridge City celebrated 70 years of marriage Wednesday. They were married Sept. 7, 1946 in Pineville, La.
For The Record
Nearly a decade after being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease, L.D. Young leaves most of the storytelling to his better half, Joy.
But the Texaco retiree still stands tall and offers a strong handshake and warm greeting to visitors to the couple’s cozy and inviting Bridge City home. He smiles a lot, and there’s a twinkle in his eye as Joy tells of their life together.
Cognitive difficulties can’t erase their love.
“Not a day goes by that he doesn’t say ‘I love you’ to Mom,” says David Young, the couple’s son and live-in caregiver.
The “I love yous” have been going on for a lot of days.
Joy and L.D. celebrated 70 years of marriage Wednesday. They were married Sept. 7, 1946 in Pineville, La.
“It’s not really that much of a secret,” Joy said, when asked the secret to such a long union. “You get married and the main thing is to love and respect one another.
“If you respect one another, you’ll get through the hard times. In other words, don’t fight a bunch.”
L.D. is 93 years old, his bride is 92.
Both are natives of Louisiana, but got to Texas as fast as they could. They have lived in Bridge City for 68 years, all in the sturdy home in which they raised their six children.
Family is important. Six children – daughters Brenda and Sheri, son David and daughters Peggy, Kim and Lisa – have grown the family to include 14 grandchildren and 18 great-grandchildren.
“All because two people fell in love” – a wall hanging bearing those powerful words carries the signatures of L.D. and Joy and all the family members to come out of their 70-year joyride.
“It was an interesting life growing up,” Sheri Young Alford recalled. “They are two really special people that taught us what love was about.
“You say your vows but maybe you don’t always think about them, especially the ‘in sickness and in health’ part. They’re living them right now.”
David Young said his father’s neurologist reports that tests show L.D. is in the final stages of Alzheimer’s. But the doctor also noted that “he’d never treated anyone that had advanced into the final stage Alzheimer’s doing as well as he is doing,” the son said.
Joy’s concessions to being a “seasoned citizen” include vision and hearing challenges that have slowed her down a bit.
But L.D. and Joy were front and center in Lake Charles recently, when they celebrated their 70th anniversary a few days early with a trip to the restaurant Pats’ of Henderson.
Sheri said it was a repeat of her parents’ 50th anniversary wingding. Except this one featured the first limousine ride for the happy couple.
“The thing that meant it all to me was we had all six of our children there, and nobody else. Just the eight of us. We haven’t had many get-togethers like that.”
L.D. and Joy grew up 15 miles apart; he in Forest Hills, a town of about 300, and she in LeCompte (pronounced Luh-COUNT), which listed 1,300 residents on the 1940 census.
The communities are smack-dab in the middle of Louisiana, in Rapides Parish, just outside Alexandria.
Joy says she and L.D. met as teens, but sparks didn’t fly until a second, chance, meeting in 1946.
“We kind of knew one another in high school, but we didn’t get together until after the war (World War II),” she said. “We’d kind of lost track, but we met up one day at the bus station at Alexandria and that’s when we really became attracted to one another.”
L.D. had left Louisiana for a job at the Texaco refinery in Port Arthur, before joining the U.S. Navy in 1942. He served in the Pacific until 1946. His ship, the cruiser USS Columbus, pulled “occupation duty” in China after Japan’s surrender in late 1945.
Joy did her part in the war effort, too.
She worked as a telephone operator and lived on base at Camp Claiborne. It was a 23,000-acre tract of the Kisatchie National Forest, between Forest Hills and Alexandria, where more than a half million soldiers received basic training from 1939 to 1946.
“One of the best things I can say about America was what happened during World War II. Everything went into production for the war. Everyone pulled together,” Joy said.
“I was so proud of my country.”
L.D. returned from the Navy and went back to his job at the refinery. After their wedding, he and Joy bought land in a new addition in Bridge City and built their house.
The road in front of their home was named Young Street after them. They were pioneers.
“We built this up,” Joy said, looking over a beautifully landscaped backyard and a lot next door that once was L.D.’s garden. A dozen cardinals take turns at the several bird feeders hanging outside the Young’s living room windows.
“There was nothing out here when we came. We were in the middle of the country.”
At the time, Orange County was winding down from its war boom, when Orange shipyards pulled the population upwards of 60,000. Only about a third of those citizens remained by 1950.
But the Texaco Port Arthur refinery was booming in 1950. It employed more than 5,400 workers earning an average paycheck of $100 a week.
With six kids to feed, that money didn’t last long.
Joy did what she could to stretch the budget.
“I sewed. I was a seamstress,” she said. “I had five girls and I made everything they wore, even their cheerleaders outfits. I made formals for all the girls.
“All the kids worked at something. David delivered the Penny Record.”
When not working to put food on the table or otherwise raise their children, L.D. and Joy often could be found serving their faith through the First Baptist Church of Bridge City.
L.D., a longtime deacon at First Baptist, recently was named Deacon Emeritus there. Over the years, he had a “haircut ministry,” providing trims to the elderly and infirm.
The couple was part of a special FBC delegation to assist in the founding of their city’s Second Baptist Church. Over the years, they made a number of mission trips to the Rio Grande Valley.
David recalls they also made longer car trips every summer to visit relatives in South Dakota.
But all those trips only served as warmups for after L.D. retired, when they spent 16 consecutive summers running a store at Yellowstone National Park.
“L.D. had worked with a guy that he and his wife had gone for one season and that’s all they talked about at work,” Joy recalled.
“We didn’t know anything about Yellowstone. We didn’t know what we’d find. But it became a big, big part of our lives.
“It was just like a vacation. We didn’t make that much money and we spent what we made. In our free time, we did all the things people [tourists] did.
“It was such a great place.”
One could argue that any place with Joy and L.D. Young would qualify as a great place.
And, like the sign says: “All because two people fell in love.”