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A Wrong Turn Leads to Elopement and Happily Ever After for Wheeling Couple

SHERRARD — A wrong turn on an Air Force Base in New Jersey more than 50 years ago ended with a chance meeting that resulted in romance and elopement.

Janet Emery was a young working woman who often joined girlfriends when they attended dances at the non-commissioned officers club at McGuire Air Force Base in Burlington County, New Jersey. She related how one time she went to the dance alone and drove down the wrong way on a one-way street on the base.

“These two guys came running after me, hollering ‘Stop, stop, you’re going the wrong way.’ That’s how I met my future husband (John Harvey Emery). It really wasn’t at the dance, but on a one-way street going the wrong way,” Emery quipped.

John, a Vietnam veteran who was from Moundsville, West Virginia, was stationed at the base. Janet and John then dated for a while before deciding to tie the knot. Neither had much in the way of savings, so they decided against a big wedding.

“A friend of mine told me that a lot of people were going to Elkton, Maryland to get married … something about not having to wait. We went down there one weekend to check it out and get a license. Then we went back the next week and got married on Aug. 29, 1970 in The Little Wedding Chapel in Elkton. I didn’t realize at the time that we actually eloped.”

Janet only told her mother of their plans to wed prior to the day. So her mom got busy at the sewing machine and made Janet a lovely light blue dress in time to wear for the wedding. She still has the dress today.

“The only people at the wedding were the reverend and his wife. They were our witnesses,” Janet said. “My mom would have liked to have had a wedding for us but we had a party at my parents’ house when we got back. We took wedding pictures in their living room.”

Later, the couple had their marriage blessed at St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church in Moundsville.

The lack of family at the elopement was due in part to the fact that John’s sister Linda was marrying John Gordon the next day back home in Moundsville. Ironically, both married couples ended up at Ocean City, Maryland at the same time for their honeymoons.

“I didn’t expect to spend our honeymoon with my sister -in-law and her husband, but we laughed about it. They had reservations while we had to wing it. They had a nicer room with a view of the ocean,” Janet said.

Shortly after John and Janet were married, John was discharged from the military and began searching for a job in New Jersey. When that didn’t pan out, the couple returned to Moundsville. Before his stint in the military, John had worked at the Marx Toys factory and his job was waiting for him upon his return.

Over the years, John followed work with the changing employment scene. He worked in a coal mine, at Wheeling Machine Co., Shadyside Stamping and the Good Shepherd Nursing Home where he was a guard. He has since retired and has battled health issues.

Janet worked at Suzanne’s Bridal Shop in Elm Grove where she saw scores of brides fulfilling their wedding day dreams. Over the years, Janet also worked as a babysitter, sold items at the flea market in Glen Dale and was a census worker. “At one time, I had four part-time jobs,” Janet recalled.

The couple brought two children into the world, a son Greg (wife Kim) and a daughter Colleen (Patrick Bever). The family now includes two grandchildren, Cora Mae and Carter Patrick

“We lived in Moundsville until 1976 when we built our home on Skyview Estates in Sherrard. I call it our bicentennial home,” Janet said.

Janet, who is an only child, said her parents had a similar story. Her parents met when her father was in the Coast Guard in New Orleans during World War II. Her mother was among the Rosie the Riveter work force. The couple didn’t elope, but had a small wedding in a church rectory and a party afterward.

There are trials and tribulations that go along with 50 years of married life, Janet said, but she wouldn’t change anything about the way their marriage started out. “We didn’t have much, but we had each other,” Janet offered.

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