Bill and Judy Dickerson celebrate 65th anniversary: family is core of happy life

315

Walk into Bill and Judy Dickerson’s home on Antioch Road, and it’s immediately apparent where their hearts lie.

Photos of children and grandchildren, great-grandchildren – and great great-grandchildren can be seen on shelves and tables all around the home. Sprinkled in between is an eclectic collection of antiques that the couple has collected over the years, feeding their passion for antiques and antique shows. Other personal items are found here, too – a testament to a long and happy life for one of the best-known couples in Switzerland County.

Bill and Judy Dickerson will be celebrating their 65th wedding anniversary this Wednesday, June 10th – and as the couple relaxes in their overstuffed chairs, the memories of their life together come quickly and clearly.

“I was born and raised in Joplin, Missouri,” Judy Dickerson says. “My sister was married and her husband was in the service stationed at Camp McCoy in Wisconsin. He was going away on ‘bivouac’ and she didn’t want to be by herself.”

So, at age 16, Judy Dickerson picked up her life and moved north to be with her sister – and that’s where she met a young serviceman named Bill Dickerson, who had been born and raised in Kentucky before answering his country’s call to duty during World War II.

“He was going with my girlfriend,” Judy Dickerson laughed. “She introduced him to me, and after that he sort of stopped going with her and started going with me.”

Judy finished her high school studies in Wisconsin, and then went back home to Joplin. Bill got leave and headed home to Kentucky to tell his family that he had met the love of his life – and then headed to Missouri to claim his bride.

“We went to Kansas to get married because she was only 17,” Bill remembers. “We’d been married about five and a half months when I got sent overseas.”

The wedding took place on June 10th, 1944, and by Christmas Bill Dickerson was in Germany fighting in World War II. The couple had moved to Cincinnati; and after Bill left for the war Judy stayed there a while before moving back to Missouri to be near family.

On July 1st, 1945, the couple’s daughter, Judith, was born; and Judy’s father helped the new mom buy a house in Joplin – but she didn’t move into it until Bill came home from the service.

Bill Dickerson’s service to his country saw him be wounded in battle and taken to a hospital in Paris to recover.

It also led to some anxious moments.

“When he left I told him I’d write him everyday, which I did,” Judy Dickerson said. “He was writing me, too, but then the letters just stopped. That was a time before cell phones and emails and television all over the world; and for about five or six weeks, I didn’t know where he was or what had happened to him. It was a scary time.”

Judy Dickerson got in touch with the Red Cross, which found him recovering in the Paris hospital after getting in touch with Bill’s unit in Germany.

Around Christmas time of 1945, Bill Dickerson – Purple Heart in hand – came home from the war and back to his wife and daughter.

The couple lived in Joplin for about three years, and then moved to Cincinnati, where many members of Bill’s family now lived.

But work slowed down in Cincinnati, and Bill Dickerson found himself laid off from his job.

And the rest, they say – is Switzerland County history.

“My cousin, Jim Dickerson, built a lot of homes and buildings in Switzerland County,” Bill Dickerson said. “He wanted me to move here and work for him, so I did. Been here ever since.”

Along with building homes around the county, Jim Dickerson also owned a lumber yard at the site where Bernie and Sue Burk now live in Vevay. Bill also helped out there.

“I hauled lumber out of Tennessee for the lumber yard,” Bill said. “I did about everything.”

The couple also farmed together, and Judy Dickerson spent 21 years working for the U.S. Postal Service at the Patriot Post Office.

Along the way the couple has had five children: oldest daughter Judith Langford lives in Reno, Nevada – the only one of the Dickerson children who doesn’t live nearby.

Next in line is daughter Priscilla “Toy” Smith, who lives right next door to mom and dad on Antioch Road. Oldest son Sonny was born in Cincinnati and now lives in Rising Sun; while son Rod lives near Vevay. Randy, the youngest, is the only child born after the couple moved to Switzerland County, and he lives near Patriot.

Add to that, Bill and Judy Dickerson have 24 grandchildren; 34 great-grandchildren; and 15 great great-grandchildren – and it’s easy to see that the Dickerson household can – at times – be a pretty busy place.

“At Christmas they’re mostly all here for Christmas Eve,” Judy says of her large family- which explains the huge living room that the couple sits in. “All of them but Judith are here every year, but sometimes she comes, too, and they’re all here.”

*

Through the years the couple has been a fixture in the Patriot area, running a gas station and helping neighbors wherever and whenever they could.

“We moved out twice for floods,” Judy Dickerson said. “Once in 1964 and again in 1997. In 1964 we ran the gas station, and as the water came up we knew that it was going to get over the tanks. We were packing things and Bill just told people to get whatever gas they needed – because we were going to lose it, anyway. Lots of people got gas and that helped them get their belongings and families out of the flood.”

They moved to their home on Antioch Road about 10 years ago, and still find time to indulge their passion for antiques.

Judy points out a dry sink that Bill recently restored – noting that it looked like a “pile of sticks” when it got to the couple’s home. Other pieces have been given to their children, as have some of the antiques that the couple had collected during years of traveling.

“We’ve been in every state in the U.S. except Oregon and Washington,” Judy says. “Our age slows us down now. We used to travel to antique shows all over, but now we’ve slowed down quite a bit.”

*

So what’s the secret to being married 65 years? Judy Dickerson says that things haven’t always been easy – and both admit to some arguments every now and then – but she smiles when she tells of her view of marriage.

“The secret? Most of the time it’s me keeping my mouth shut,” she grins. “I’ve got my dad’s Indian tongue. You can’t take back words that you’ve already spoke. Most of the time the best thing to do is keep quiet.”

“We’ve had our disagreements, like all couples,” Bill says. “But you’ve got to work those things out and work together to make it work.”

– Pat Lanman