Couple celebrates 70 years of marriage, love and family

Katelyn Waltemyer
Jackson Newspapers
Paul and Vivian Poling celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary by having dinner with family.

He was playing baseball in Ripley in 1947 when a teammate said, "I've got a sister that I want you to meet." The next day, he drove to her house, knocked on the door and her father answered. She wasn't home, but he knew he'd be back he had to meet her. 

As Paul Poling walked up to Vivian Fluharty's house for the second time, his body was filled with nerves. The only thing in his stomach when he knocked on the door was butterflies. He had no idea he was about to meet the "most beautiful woman he had ever seen" until she opened the door. 

Paul was 26 at the time. Vivian was 21. He was a construction worker. She was a teacher. With Paul working on-site for various projects and Vivian teaching out of town, the two "dated on the weekends." Vivian was about 30 miles away from Ripley teaching in a one-room schoolhouse. She said they would write to each other constantly, figuring out how they would see each other. Sometimes someone would pick Vivian up, other times she would have to walk miles to meet a ride. 

This went on for about a year, and then he popped the question. 

Paul had been saving his money and just bought a beautiful blue, four-door Chevrolet. He picked up Vivian in the shiny new car, drove into Ripley and parked outside of the Chevrolet shop. Once parked, they could hardly see there was just one light by the shop. Then, it happened. Paul asked Vivian to marry him under the dim light. 

Wedding day, with flowers and cans

It's June 2, 1951. Vivian's walking down the aisle in a packed Ripley Tabernacle Baptist Church wearing a blue chiffon dress covered in white trim. The church was filled with flowers, which the Polings left for the couple that was getting married there later that day. 

Paul said when he saw Vivian walk down the aisle he thought about how he was "real proud of her." 

They were married within the hour. There wasn't a reception. 

"We just got in the car and took off," Vivian said with a smile on her face. 

As they drove down south to begin their honeymoon and new life together, all they could hear was the clinking of cans that were tied to the back of the car.

It was noisy, but they didn't mind. 

Fast-forward seven decades

On their 70th wedding anniversary, Paul and Vivian Poling sat in their matching brown recliners in their home and reminisced about the past. Shortly after marrying, they began having children. They had four kids in six years: Paulette, Kathy, Ronnie and Jim. 

They said the most trying time of their marriage was when their son, Ronnie, died from cancer. Paul said one of the reasons he fell in love with Vivian was because of her faith. After Ronnie died, their faith was put to the test. 

 "The Lord led us at that time," Paul Poling said. 

Kathy Butler, their second child, sat across from them in their living room as they talked about their marriage. She would occasionally interject with stories from her childhood. She said she's never heard her parents argue or say a "mean" word to each other.  

"I'm gonna tell on them," Butler said. "Every time they leave each other ... they don't leave without embracing and kissing each other."

When asked what their marriage has been like, Vivian let out a joke. 

"It's been terrible," she said with a smirk at Paul. 

About six months ago, Vivian broke her back. She had to go to the hospital and was separated from Paul for about nine days. Butler said they were both miserable. She made some calls to her father's doctors after finding out her mother would have to go to a rehab facility. She was able to get Paul into the facility to "work on his walking."

"They put them in the same room and put 'Honeymoon Suite' over the door," Butler said. 

They were in rehab for three weeks. Once they came home there was constant care at their home, but Butler said that only lasted a month. Paul said he could take care of her — they wanted their privacy back. 

Paul and Vivian said they've been able to make their marriage last 70 years because of their love for one another and constant communication. 

— Katelyn Waltemyer (she/her) is the General Assignment and Enterprise Reporter for Jackson Newspapers in Jackson County, West Virginia. Have a news tip on local government or education? Or a good feature? You can reach Katelyn at kwaltemyer@jacksonnewspapers.com. Follow her on Twitter @Kate_Waltemyer.