MARION & ELAH - A Love Story

This Valentines Day we reprinted one of our favorite love stories from August 20, 1999.

By Bob Weaver

World War II was over and there were few jobs in Fincastle, Kentucky in the late 40s, so Marion took a correspondence course to learn how to paint signs.

After finding a few jobs in his home county, he started traveling around on a Greyhound bus, looking for work across Kentucky, West Virginia and Ohio.

Stopping at the Greyhound Station in Charleston, West Virginia, he dropped over to the Blossom Dairy Restaurant to get an early morning meal. It was here that he first saw Elah, a waitress in the classy Kanawha Valley ice cream parlor.

Being the shy type, although charmed by her presence, he could not speak at that first meeting at the lunch counter.

Unable to get Elah off his mind, he returned to the eatery and managed to introduce himself to the Calhoun girl, who had come to the big city to find work. Shortly, he got up enough courage to walk her to and from work.

But the work called and Marion got back on the Greyhound, traveling around and painting signs, to return to Fincastle.

They started writing to each other, and some time later Marion came back to Charleston to visit Elah at her sister's home.

Lova's house was built against a steep hillside, with a basement facing the Kanawha Valley. Although they had indoor plumbing, during the early morning hours, shy Marion decided to go outside to use the toilet.

The porch was twenty feet from the ground, without railings. Marion took two steps and tumbled into space, free-falling over the steep hillside.

Later he kidded by saying, "It was then that I fell hard for Elah."

The U.S. Mail romance continued for another six months, and the third time he saw Elah, they actually got married.

Marion rode the bus to Millstone and walked the rest of the way to Hur, where they made their home on Slider Fork.

He unexpectedly arrived a day early for the big occasion, and found Elah cleaning manure from the chicken house.

Elah's sisters, Grace and Opal, helped with the wedding that March day in 1949, and the newlyweds returned to Kentucky, where they lived briefly before coming back to stay for the rest of their days in Village of Hur.

Marion and Elah have never been good at arguing, although she says he liked to quarrel a little.

When he started, according to Elah, she would begin humming a song, and if he kept it up, she would burst out into full fledge singing. The more Marion quarreled, the louder Elah would sing. Neither seemed to pay much attention to the other, during such spells.

Now, the rest of the story. Marion and Elah Whisman just celebrated their 50th anniversary (1999), and it was a fine event.

More than a hundred people came to honor the couple at the Calhoun Park. The Whisman's have been the mainstays at the Mt. Olive United Methodist Church, on the coldest winter nights to the sunniest Sunday mornings, they are there.

If you ever had doubts about the power of prayer, you might want to be around when Elah prays.

Her prayers could move mountains.

Rev. Glendon McKee, longtime clergyman on the circuit, once said, "When I am dying, I want them to call Elah, so she can pray for me, so I'll really feel good about going on".

Marion, nearly always brings his guitar and joins Elah in an old-time hymn wherever they go. He makes his own guitars and writes his own songs, too.

The Whismans have two daughters, Twila Roach and Joan Satterfield, who stood before the 50th anniversary group and said, "I'm not going to say there aren't people who have parents as good as we do. I know there are. But I will say, there's none better."

POSTSCRIPT: Feb. 14, 2011 - Marion passed away in June, 2004 after several critical health problems, playing his harmonica and being cheerful to those who visited him in the hospital. Elah held forth at her home down on Slider Fork until she passed at the age of 94 in 2011.