Cherry and Lucille Phillips: a love story that spans 66 years and more

Lucille Phillips sits in a wheelchair in the small living room of the house she occupies with her husband, Cherry. Salome, a cleaning lady, moves quietly around the house as Cherry is attentive to his wife.

549

 Lucille Phillips sits in a wheelchair in the small living room of the house she occupies with her husband, Cherry. Salome, a cleaning lady, moves quietly around the house as Cherry is attentive to his wife.

  He says that his normal day now consists of caring for his wife. She fell and fractured her pelvis two years ago, and after spending time at the Swiss Villa Nursing Home, Cherry brought her home to care for her.

  Theirs is a love story — Cherry and Lucille Phillips — one that has already spanned 66 years.

  The couple was married on October 25th, 1952, in the apartment of the pastor of Plum Creek Baptist Church at the Southern Seminary in Louisville. Cherry recalls that the couple didn’t have much money, but two local clothing stores in Madison dressed them both to the nines for their special day.

  “We were two hours late getting there, because I didn’t really know where I was going,” Cherry says with a smile. “The pastor’s wife made us a little cake and we had cake and coffee, then the pastor went down the hall and came back with two people to be our witnesses. As we left, the two witnesses threw rice at us and we came back to Madison.”

*  

  Cherry Phillips was a young man growing up in North Carolina with no real place to call home — and a rather unusual first name for a boy.

  “My grandfather named me,” he said. “People all the time ask me how I got my name, and I just tell them it came from my grandpa.”

  Born on August 19th, 1930 in Bridgeton, North Carolina, Cherry’s mother died when he was just five years old; and his father wasn’t able to care for his children, so they were split up and went to live with other families along the East Coast. In and out of houses, Cherry never really felt like he had a family; but spent much of his childhood working, doing everything from shining shoes to working in the carnival to selling magazines. He had to leave school after he finished the fourth grade.

  Lucille Green grew up on Plum Creek — daughter of Andrew and Sadie Green — one of 12 children. She attended Plum Creek School until the ninth grade, and then moved on to Vevay High School.

  Her oldest brother, Marvin, was a Marine who served during World War II and was stationed at the Marine Air Station at Cherry Point, North Carolina.

  “When he came back from overseas, he met my sister (Trudy), and they got married and came up here,” Cherry said.

  Cherry enlisted in the U.S. Army, serving during the Korean War, and when he came home, he came to Switzerland County to visit his sister and brother-in-law in 1949.

  “I had been in the Aleutian Islands for a year, and came back in 1949 and came here for a visit,” Cherry remembered. “When the Korean War started, they sent me to Korea. When I came back, I was stationed at Fort Campbell, Kentucky with the 11th Airborne Division. After I got out of the service, I came to visit them again, and I got a job and stayed.

  Lucy was still in high school when she first met the young soldier who would be her husband. The two courted until she graduated from high school, and then got married that October.

  “He never went out with anyone but me, and I never went out with anyone but him,” Lucille says, proudly. “We’ve always been together.”

*

  Starting his life here following his brave service to his country that saw him parachute into North Korea at the height of the war as a part of a mortar crew, and after nine months there, his unit got moved to Japan. Cherry was never one to settle down and stay at something very long — probably due to his time as a child moving between houses — but his strong work ethic and his love for Lucy and his desire to care for her led him to many jobs.

  “My first job here was at Seagram’s,” he recalls. “I only worked there three months because I had an application in at the Proving Grounds. This was 1952. I got called to the Proving Grounds, and took a job as a gunner out there (testing ammunition for the Army). At that time, there was a lot of people from Switzerland County who worked at the Proving Grounds. Now there’s not very many of us left.”

  Following the end of formal hostilities in Korea in 1957, Jefferson Proving Grounds went on standby, with many workers being laid off or let go. Unable to find work here, Cherry said that a friend of his from back home in North Carolina got him a job at a Gas Company, so he and Lucille moved there — leaving on the same day as the famous airplane crash on Tapps Ridge. At the same time, Cherry put in job applications at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina; at the Air Station at Cherry Point, North Carolina; and at Bakalar Air Force Base in Columbus, Indiana, where the current Columbus Airport sits.

  “I got a call to Camp Lejeune, somewhere around 1960; and I worked there four months and I got a call to go to Cherry Point,” Cherry said. “I worked at Cherry Point for five years. I’d been there a couple of years when I joined the North Carolina National Guard for some extra money. I stayed there in the National Guard until 1965; then I got a call to go to  Bakalar Air Force Base in 1965. I went to work there as a guard on the Main Gate; and I worked there about four months.”

  Meanwhile, following the Cuban Missile Crisis, Jefferson Proving Ground had reopened in 1961, and soon his former employers called and summoned the family back to this area. Cherry stayed there until 1986, continuing to serve as a Gunner, testing ammunition. He recalls that the job also allowed he and Lucy to do some traveling, including two trips to the country of Panama.

  “When we tested ammunition, we had to test it under the same conditions that it would be used in the war,” Cherry said. “With Vietnam going on, we had to go to the jungles of Panama to make sure things were going to work when our soldiers used it in the war.”

  Overall, counting his time in the service, Cherry Phillips gave 35 years and six months to his country — but even though retirement in 1985 ended his service to his country, it didn’t end his service to other people.

  He had planned to retire and farm the farm that he and Lucille had purchased at the top of Popcorn Ridge, but Lucille had seen an ad in the Vevay paper that the Area 12 Council on Aging needed drivers. He told his wife to call and check it out; and her glowing report of the kindness of the people she talked to led Cherry to apply for a driver’s position — and after he got that job, he stayed there driving folks around until he retired again in 2010 when he was just over 80 years of age.

  Cherry’s commitment to helping others also took a very personal turn. He was a blood donor for years, and during that time he donated 165 pints of blood until he had to quit.

*

  At the center of their lives has always been a relationship with Christ — and both quickly credit their faith as being a big reason that their marriage has lasted nearly seven decades; and why they have enjoyed such a wonderful life together. They are longtime faithful members of Plum Creek Baptist Church, the church that Lucille attended as a little girl with her parents. Her faith had a profound influence on Cherry — who says softly, “I don’t know that I would have ever known the Lord if I hadn’t met Lucy.”

  The couple has three children: daughter Deborah lives in Clarksville, Tennessee; and they also adopted two children: daughter Janet lives in Cincinnati and is a nurse; and son John lives in Fort Wright, Kentucky; and they have three grandchildren.

  So is there a secret to staying married and staying deeply in love for 66 years?

  “We’ve really had a good life, haven’t we, Lucy?” Cherry said.

  “Yes we have,” Lucy says. “We sure love each other. Always will.”