WELLSBORO - Robert "Bob" and Leona (Jones) Ward recently celebrated 73 years of marriage in November.
The couple wase married in Elmira, N.Y., on Nov. 29, 1940.
The Rev. R. N. Dutton, of First Baptist Church in Elmira, officiated at the ceremony.
Shown are Robert and Leona Ward, of Wellsboro, who celebrated 73 years of marriage Nov. 29, 2013.
The couple is shown on their wedding day in 1940.
Bob, 98 and Leona, 95, said they both experienced "love at first sight."
"The first time I ever saw Leona was when I went to a friend's house to play cards and she was there and we played cards and she sat right next to me and I just knew she was the one," he said.
"It was love at first sight," Bob Ward said.
The story goes that Leona was "going steady" with Bob's best friend.
When she met Bob, she knew "he was the one."
She didn't actually break up with the old boyfriend, she just didn't answer the door when he came to it.
Bob, on the other hand, was persistent, and camped out at her door step until she agreed to marry him.
Before Bob went off to join the Army during World War II, he had been in the Civilian Conservation Corps at Camp S91, known as the Watrous Camp, from 1933 to 1935.
It was located six miles south of the Village of Watrous at the foot of Cedar Mountain.
At 98, Bob figures he may be one of the last two or three still alive in the County who actually served in the CCC and he recently received a plaque commemorating his service.
He described the experience as like being in the Army: everything was done by the bugle - and with discipline.
He was paid $30 a month and was required to send $25 of that home to his parents, keeping only $5 for himself.
He spent most of his time pulling weeds and brushing out the undergrowth to stimulate the forest to grow. The camp commander was a captain in the Army and they had lieutenants directly over them.
Bob said he came back to camp after being in the mountains all day only to find a group of men standing in a circle looking at something.
He thought it was a fight, but when he approached, he saw that it was a yearling bear, lying on its back, drinking milk out of a baby bottle.
"That bear was so tame, it followed the workers around like a puppy dog, up and down the mountain sides as they did their work, and even sleeping in an empty bunk in the bunk house," he said.
Eventually it got separated from the group and wandered into the village.
The game warden was called, the bear was trapped, and it was "relocated" to the other side of the Pine Creek Gorge.
"That bear was so used to human company that the next day it barged into the cabin of Mrs. Gross, who was so startled that she picked up a gun and shot it, thinking it was wild and not realizing that it was tame," he said. "The fellas were all sad at the passing of that bear."
On Feb. 13, 1945, Bob started work at the Wellsboro Post Office and retired in 1974 after working there for 30 years.
Leona always has been a homemaker and the couple have four children. Robert Jr. and his wife Donna, of Perry, Ga.; Sylvia and her husband John Wilson, of Mansfield; Tom, of Columbia, S.C.; and Diane and her husband John Jackson, of Huntington.
The Wards have 16 grandchildren and 27 great-grandchildren.
Bob and Leona have been active members of the First Baptist Church in Wellsboro for more than 50 years.
He has compiled genealogy records for the family.
They have both enjoyed travelling in 43 states and have also visited countries Wales, England and Scotland.
During their early retirement years, they spent 24 winters in Florida, playing in shuffleboard tournaments all over the state and became "pro shufflers."
The Wards have been retired for 39 years, but they keep busy, learning to use computers, and Leona continues her love of working with flower arranging and crafts.
They were named anniversary Couple of the Month by Wellsboro photographer Caleb Williams.
For the honor, the couple had their photo and story in the Wellsboro Gazette and received gifts from local businesses.
The Ward's said their recipe for a long marriage includes ample amounts of love, trust and faith in God.
Bob also lauded his wife's "good cooking."
"She's been such a good cook and I always said if we had opened a restaurant when we got married we would have made a fortune," he said.
He also stressed the importance of never going to bed without a kiss goodnight.
"We never go to bed without telling each other we love each other," he said.
The longest married couple in the nation have been married 81 years, he said, so the Wards are close behind.
"If we'd met a few years sooner, that could have been us," he said.
Leona said for her it also was "love at first sight" when she saw her husband.
She said they never had any bad times in all their years together.
"There were no problems at all, we kiss and tell each other we love each other," she said.