Ask Verlin and Garnett Qualls about the secret to a strong marriage and the answer is quite simple.
“Work as hard as you can,” said Garnett, who’s affectionately known as Granny. “That’s what we did.”
The 95-year-olds celebrated their 73rd wedding anniversary on Feb. 9. They were born in June and July, 1923.
They were blessed with two children, Joe Qualls and Mary Gay Lambert, four grandchildren and four great-grandchildren including three-month-old twins.
The couple were married in 1946 after Verlin returned home from World War II.
Verlin served in Germany in the 131st Anti-Aircraft Gun Battalion as a medical technician.
He can still wear his waist-length Eisenhower jacket. As he puts it on he jokes about his belly getting too big and points to the three bars on the sleeve each representing six months in combat.
Qualls recalls the atrocities of Hitler’s concentration camps and shuffles through copies of Army citations and medals including a Croix de Guerre from French president Charles de Gaulle.
Garnett says Verlin looked handsome in his uniform with his black, curly hair.
Verlin and Garnett met at The Erie School in Olive Hill. They are natives of Garvin Ridge and Gregoryville in Carter County.
While Verlin was serving his country with the Allies, Garnett was doing her part at home, too.
She worked for six months at Curtiss Wright in Columbus, Ohio, building radios for the Hellcat fighter plane.
Garnett came home when her mother was having a baby – she’s one of 10 children – and eventually moved to Frankfort with a sister who was a bookkeeper at the capitol.
“That’s where I was working when Verlin came in from Camp Atterbury,” Garnett said.
“The war was over in ’45 you know, but they held him over for nine months. I thought we were never gonna get married,” she said.
What followed was decades of love, support and hard work.
Verlin had previously operated a bulk gas plant with his cousin, hauling gas to surrounding counties.
He owned a wholesale grocery business in Olive Hill in the late 1940s. The couple and the grocery business moved to Morehead in the mid-1950s. It was located in the vicinity of today’s Rite Aid and Towne Place Apartments.
The grocery sold anything from medicine to cow feed, bale wire and cases of peaches and oranges, washing tubs, coal buckets and lard cans, Verlin said.
Garnett worked alongside Verlin at the grocery, doing bookkeeping and placing tax stamps on cigarettes. (She had worked in a grocery and restaurant while in high school.)
They later sold the grocery business and Verlin went to work at First Federal Savings and Loan on Main Street in 1970.
He still goes to work every day.
“They saw he was a pretty good worker and they decided to hire him,” Garnett said.
“I knew so many people from hauling gas and groceries,” Verlin said. “They asked me if I’d come and work with them.”
Garnett added, “You know how people are about their money and they thought he’d take care of their money.
“People trusted him and wanted to see that their money was alright,” Garnett said.
It was that trust in Verlin that provided him nearly 50 years in the banking industry. And he shows no sign of stopping.
“I’m going to work as long as I can,” he said.