When I arrived at John and JoAnn Hefner’s home, I was greeted with a hug and offered some homemade chocolate cream pie. I knew right then and there that this was going to be a good conversation. Not only had I hit the ground running on the comfort level, but we were gonna talk about love. Perfection.
I’d heard that John and JoAnn had been married for a long time, and had lived here (in Parkersburg, WV) throughout most of their lives. Being a transplanted Parkersburger myself, with only having lived here for about 12 years, I wanted to hear more about their love for the area I now call my own, too. I was curious about what brought them together in the first place and what kept them rooted in the MOV.
As I continued to enjoy my pie, I learned a lot about these two. We spoke comfortably as if we were having a family get-together, and we laughed a lot. I learned that John was a born-and-raised Parkersburg native. JoAnn was born in Jane Lew, but moved to the area with her family when she was 3 years old. And both came here when their families found job opportunities in the area.
They were destined to meet one another, John and JoAnn, but it wasn’t until JoAnn was in 8th grade (and John was in 9th) that they officially met on their school bus. She says he was “something special”. JoAnn was a self-proclaimed “country bumpkin”. He lived in Parkersburg proper, and she was living in the outskirts of town. John played football and baseball for the Parkersburg Big Reds and lettered in both. JoAnn was more interested in her studies.
But “I chased him until he caught me”, JoAnn said of John.
Their first kiss was on the same road they still live on to this day. “I chased her down the street one day, caught her and kissed her”, said John. And they’ve been together ever since.
Growing up, JoAnn and her family had no electricity, and she would do her homework by oil lamp. But on any nights where she’d finished her homework early, or didn’t have school, John would walk to her house.
While a majority of their high school and dating years were spent on that same road where they first kissed (there was no money for transportation), they both have many fond memories of visiting with each other at JoAnn’s family’s house, going for walks, and spending time together. They also enjoyed their time together at Parkersburg High School.
While money was very tight for JoAnn’s family growing up, she smiled and her eyes danced when remembering her graduation dress. Her mother bought it for her from Broida’s 3rd Floor (a top-of-the-line ladies’ clothing store in downtown Parkersburg). JoAnn shared she had no idea how much the dress cost, but it was known that she should wear it again, and again, and again. And so after wearing this beautiful white dress for her graduation, she also wore it to marry John, later that same year.
After graduating from PHS, John went on to play football at Morris Harvey (now the University of Charleston, WV), and JoAnn went to Fairmont State. They married (and Honeymooned) in Charleston, WV, but bought their marriage license in Parkersburg, and went along to Fairmont State together before moving to Texas for John’s service in the Air Force. Their stay in Texas (and New York) was short-lived, however, after an injury John suffered brought them back to their home. In West Virginia, they had “friends and family who cared about them, and helped them through”. They always knew this, and it was a driving force in bringing them back to the area.
A big part of their financial survival after coming back to the Mid-Ohio Valley was also due to JoAnn’s determination. Shortly after their return to Parkersburg, their daughter Suzanne was born and JoAnn knew her love for baking could help them get by. With the help of their family and a generous batch of applesauce cakes, JoAnn was determined to make a living for her family and to have a good Christmas for their daughter. That’s just what she did until John started working as Corning Glass, where he sold their products around the holidays. JoAnn made applesauce cakes and sold them to anyone she knew. She laughed and remembered her mother working for Ceramic Tile when she and John first moved back to the area. She took those applesauce cakes “down the road” to her mother’s job, and “All of those people got applesauce cakes whether they ordered them or not. And they’re gonna pay me for that cake.”
JoAnn’s determination also paid off when she heard that Shell Chemical was hiring. She sent applications to Shell on John’s behalf until they hired him. John did get hired, and stayed there until his retirement.
I admire their determination. JoAnn knows how, with a smile on her face, to get what she wants from life. She’s crafted a wonderful life and home filled with family and everything she could ever want. Though money was tight at times, her resourcefulness got her family through their challenges. John is a supremely kind and hardworking man, who is a supportive and loving match to his “country” wife. And they get along famously.
As of this article, The Hefners have been happily married for 62 years. When asked about their first argument, or what they tend to argue about, they both claim that they just don’t. No first argument because they don’t argue with each other. When you see them together, you would say that just might be true.
To be honest, I’d buy an applesauce cake, or even another slice of chocolate cream pie, if it meant getting to spend another afternoon with this inspiring couple.