The Floyd Country Store is celebrating love this Valentine’s Day, and specifically the kind of love that lasts for a lifetime, through thick and thin. Many couples who are regulars to events at the Store celebrate 50 or more years of marriage or partnership. We are inspired by their many years of commitment and love, and asked one of these couples to share their story of what has kept them together, against so many odds, for so long. Our very own Barbara and Skip Pendry (married 64 years) share their story of just what it takes.
On Friday nights for over 20 years, Barbara and Skip could be found at their usual posts at the Floyd Country Store: Barbara at the ticket counter up front, and Skip working the sound for each of the bands performing that night. Their presence each week made everything feel as it should. It’s been a while since we’ve been able to be together, but Barbara and Skip took time with us on the phone to share their story.
Barbara grew up in a seaport town and was forbidden by her parents to mingle with sailors, but when she was introduced to Skip through a mutual friend it wasn’t long before she hit it off with the red-headed sailor. Skip says he knew he was in love the second time they met. He was on a month’s leave from the Navy at the time and it wouldn’t be long before returning to duty. After just one week together, Skip convinced Barbara to go to Florida by train, to meet his family. Having not brought a girl home before, his mother was convinced that they should immediately be married. After three weeks of dating, they were walking down the aisle in a church full of people they didn’t know. “We were just standing there with our mouths open, just riding along,” says Skip. At 17 and 18 years old, Skip and Barbara Pendry started their life together as husband and wife on July 2, 1957.
Through the years they raised four children, relocating every two to three years due to Skip’s career as a Navy Seal. He worked as a diver, specializing in disarming underwater bombs. The job could be stressful and dangerous, but they were connected to a group of Navy families that relocated together. These families formed a community that loved and supported one another, and their children grew up enjoying beautiful bodies of water.
The years rolled on, and the family dealt with both good and difficult times. Periodically, money was tight and they would struggle to make ends meet. Skip was wounded in the Vietnam war when an underwater bomb discharged while trying to disarm it. Through it all Barbara and Skip were committed to each other, to their kids and their community.
When Skip retired from the Navy, they made their way to Southwest Virginia, finding themselves setting down roots for the first time in Floyd. After all the places they traveled together they were drawn to the mountains and the music. They were welcomed into the community surrounding the Floyd Country Store, forming strong friendships with folks that met every week for music at the store. Soon after, Barbara and Skip began working to support the Friday Night Jamboree. “It was the best move we made when we decided to come here,” says Barbara, “we’ve never regretted it.”
We asked Skip and Barbara what they learned about love from their time together, and their advice to other couples. Because they were so young when they met, they had a lot of figuring out to do, but they always did it together. They advise couples to talk to each other and have patience. They credit careful listening and communication to their long marriage. “It takes a lot of sitting down and really letting each other know what you’re feeling,” says Barbara, and Skip agrees, “Yeah, that’s a big deal.”
We asked Skip and Barbara to pick one or two words to describe each other. Their answer: “faithful and patient.”
Our wish for everyone this Valentine’s Day is to have faith, patience and to trust that love is an ever growing, learning experience. Learning to listen is key in all relationships, romantic and otherwise, and will help our community to overcome any obstacle.
Special thanks to Barbara and Skip Pendry for sharing their story and friendship.