It all started with a letter she didn't even want to write
Franklin couple celebrates 50 years
In 1967, Virginia native James Ring, serving in the U.S. Army outside Saigon during the Vietnam War, went with his buddy to the USO while on a break. He said there wasn't much going on at the USO that interested him, but a barrel full of letters caught his attention. When he found out the letters were from people back in the states writing to soldiers, he grabbed a fistful to dole out to his fellow soldiers back at camp.
"We loved mail, we couldn't get enough of it," he said.
He kept three for himself.
One of those letters was from a young girl from Cochranton High School, a place he never heard of before. It would end up playing a significant role in the young soldiers future.
What James didn't know was the letter almost didn't get written.
Back in the states syndicated newspaper columnist Dear Abby put out a call for pen pals to write to soldiers serving in the war. A teenage Millie Irwin read the column in the Meadville Tribune and decided she and her best friend, Susan Campbell, would answer Dear Abby's call.
"I didn't want to do it," said Susan. "But she jabber jabbered and yapped and yapped until I gave in."
She doesn't really remember what they each wrote, but Millie didn't receive a letter back and Susan ended up with the love of her life.
Susan and James would end up writing to each other over the next two years as he served, and she finished high school.
When James returned to his Wytheville, Virginia home in 1969, it wasn't long before he talked to Susan on the phone and devised a plan to visit Crawford County to meet her face to face.
The couple admits they hit it off really well with pen and paper in hand, but that first face to face meeting didn't go so well.
"We did not like each other at all," Susan said. "We kinda fell in love through the letters, but it took some time for us in person."
Despite not exactly feeling a spark, they still wrote to each other after James returned to Virginia.
A few months later James got a job at Channellock in Meadville and the two would occasionally hang out.
James recalled one outing where they were fishing and had a picnic with friends. Susan sat on his lap. "I looked in her eyes, it was the first time I was that close to them and I just fell in love." he said. A few months later they got hitched.
On Saturday, the parents of three, grandparents of six and great-grandparents of four celebrated their 50th anniversary.
Their family arranged a parade of cars to pass by their Franklin home - 16 of them in all. Friends dropped off signs with well wishes for the Rings to keep.
"It's always a blessing," James, a Pentecostal pastor at the Rock of Living Waters church, said about the people who took the time out of their day to wish them well.
"It almost makes you want to try for 50 more," Susan chimed in with a laugh.
James laughed too and noted that she used the word maybe. They very much share the same sense of humor.
And it all started with a letter Susan didn't even want to write.
Editor's note: Love Notes is an occasional series focused on that heart-thumping googly-eyed thing we call love. Readers can send in short stories and pictures about acts of love they witness or ideas about really great love stories they know about. I do ask that the stories are recent and everyone listed or pictured is aware of the submission for possible posting on the website and social media accounts for Eight&322.
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