by Jeff Bell
It was not much of a homecoming when Curtis Richards left the military and returned to Doddridge County, W.Va. His home had really never given him much more than heartache and hunger after the passing of his mother; but it was still far better than military life.
“The military was not the life for me, but I should have planned a little better before I left,” he said. As he sat in the house, debating where he would look for work, a knock at the door would change his life.
The girl at the door was an older member of the local Girl Scouts, out selling cookies door to door. Curt recognized her as Earlene Yvonne Tuttle, Bonnie to all who knew her, a pretty young girl from down the road. Trying to hide his attraction to a girl five years younger than he, Curt put on his manliest face and said, “What! I don’t want any of your damn cookies.” Bonnie simply stated, “You don’t have to be rude mister, just don’t buy any then.” Weeks drifted by, Curt could think of nothing more than the look on Bonnie’s face when he snapped at her. “I can still see her face that day, I made her mad, scared her and hurt her feelings all at once, and I felt terrible,” he said. One day, after hours of boredom proved too much, Curt gathered himself up for the walk into the general store or pool hall: the trip that changed everything.
After buying a soda, Curt walked through the front door of the store and bumped directly into Bonnie, spilling his drink all over the floor. Bonnie looked at him and simply grunted, “HUMPH!” as she brushed past him and headed out the door. Curt ran directly after her, apologizing for the mess as he left. “I knew the store clerk, and boy was he mad,” Curt said.
“Excuse me miss,” he yelled as he scampered down the front stairs, “Are you still selling your cookies? I would really like to buy some, if they are not too much.” Bonnie stopped and said, “Mister, we don’t just walk around everywhere carrying our cookies in order to sell them at the drop of a dime,” she stated. Curt responded, “Well, can I walk you home and buy them there?” Their walk, purposely the long way around the hill, gave plenty of opportunity to talk, laugh and plan a first date.
The first few dates allowed Bonnie to see the true softness and big heart inside a guy who the rest of the community only knew as tough and somewhat mean. "I knew he wasn’t really that tough all along,” she said. The two grew close as the months flew by; Curt worked at a turkey farm while Bonnie attended school. “If you ever had to work there, you would always want ham for Thanksgiving dinner,” he said.
The romance led to a marriage on May 9, 1966. Their son Jeff was born in February of 1968. Curt, in an attempt to improve their lifestyle, enrolled and attended Barber College in Huntington while Bonnie stayed home, caring for the household and new son. “
In those days, the trip to and from Huntington was rough, there wasn’t any of these nice four lane highways until later,” he said. Curt would visit on weekends, leaving with heartache again every Sunday.
After graduation, Curt was able to obtain employment in Parkersburg and moved the family to town with him. Soon, Bonnie gave birth to their second child, Sherene - Sherry for short. The expanded family called for a larger house. Curt found a cheap lot in Vienna and built a small house to Bonnie’s standards, of course. Another form of good luck was about to change the small family’s financial status.
While cutting the hair of a local politician, who happened to be a regular in the shop, Curt learned of an opening within the Parkersburg Water Treatment Plant. He left work early and applied for the position, using his customer as a reference. Weeks of testing and interviews prevailed and Curt was hired into the plant as a level one operator.
Life moved along: the children grew as Bonnie stayed home with them, Curt advanced through all of the necessary milestones to eventually become the chief plant operator and the family moved to a 25 - acre mini-farm with nice big brick house.
One evening, while sitting on the front porch, Bonnie said, “Honey, the kids have grown, your job keeps you busy, I would really like to go to college now.” In his typical gruff voice he responded, “If that’s what you want, do it.”
Bonnie enrolled at WVU Parkersburg immediately where she eventually earned a degree in education. After teaching at several different jobs including Adult Basic Education and various substitute locations, Bonnie accepted a position at Jackson Junior High School in Vienna. Bonnie taught for almost nine more years and retired at the same time as Curt.
The couple now spends their days together, spoiling each other, their six grandchildren and two great grandchildren. “Life has been full of all kinds of bumps and turns, but it’s been really great. After all is said and done, we ended up with a pretty great son-in-law, you can print that,” Bonnie said with a smile.