RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Being married for 50 years is reason to celebrate. It’s almost unheard of to be married for 75 years. Here in Richmond, though, there is a love story more than eight decades in the making.
In 1934, Franklin Roosevelt was President, the US was in the midst of the Great Depression, and Richmond’s Louise and Harwood Cochrane got married. Now they are just weeks away from their 81st wedding anniversary.
“I can’t believe that. I don’t count the years anymore,” says Louise from her home on the North Side. It’s not even a mile from where she and Harwood first lived when they got married.
When you get the two of them talking, you are taken back to 1930’s Richmond. She was a teenager from Halifax. He was a milk delivery man with Hanover roots, three years her Senior.
“We met on a blind date. He had a date with my friend and brought his cousin along and I dated his cousin,” says Louise, now 99. “The next day he called me, wanted to see me again,” she recalls, explaining, “In those days, men did the calling, not girls and he called me and asked me for a date. That’s how we met, and it began to grow from that.”
In those early days, there were double dates and flights over Richmond. On the ground, there was courting at Bill’s Barbecue. On March 31, 1934, they made it official with a simple wedding in the minister’s parlor at Tabernacle Baptist Church.
“He was starting a business so he had to go out of town the next morning to Philadelphia, so we couldn’t go anywhere couldn’t have a honeymoon. He promised me a honeymoon and he’s still promising it. We haven’t had it yet,” Louise chuckles.
“I’m still working on it,” jokes Harwood, who is now 102.
There was no official honeymoon during their humble beginnings, but what evolved was a marriage filled with life! In 1935, Harwood founded Overnite Transportation, the first of his two trucking companies. It was a billion-plus dollar business. The wealth afforded the Cochranes opportunities like no other, including trips.
“Quite a few. Gracious, we went to so many exciting places,” Louise recalls. One trip they especially remember was a flight around the world on the Concord.
“You only have one life. That’s it. So you do the best you can with what you have. Don’t you say so?” Louise asks looking at her husband. “So,” he answers while she laughs at his brevity.
Along with the experiences, they were a family. Three daughters, seven grandchildren and twelve great-grandchildren have since followed, but the Cochranes never stopped working on just the two of them.
“It’s a two-way game. You can’t always have your way. Sometimes let him have his way,” Louise explains their key to longevity. “And you’ll have some rough times ahead. We did, but you live through it. That makes you a little bit stronger, I think.”
Even in those tough times, like losing a daughter, the Cochranes have been driven by a deep sense of philanthropy. Over the years, they have supported several Richmond landmarks, including the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.
“We felt like that was a place when we had some money to give away that everybody could enjoy. School children, adults, Black and White. Everybody could enjoy the museum, so it’s still one of our projects.”
The Cochranes have a passion for art. Louise still paints in her home studio as often as she can. She has an exhibition at Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens this month and is planning for one at VMFA next year for her 100th birthday. After all these years, the Cochranes still share so much.
“We enjoy the opera, we enjoy the symphony. We have our same seats at Center Stage,” says Louise. “When you get to be our age, it’s hard to find fun. It’s fun just living, I guess. We go to church, go for a ride in the country every Sunday after church. We enjoy that kind of a thing, but we don’t really take trips anymore.”
Unless you count those trips down memory lane. There are still plenty of those.
“Are you happy you stayed with me?” Louise asks Harwood, taking his arm.
“I’m a happy man,” he says simply.
They are happy and together for 81 years of marriage and counting! There is still so much they still want to do.
“I’d like to get on the Queen Mary and go somewhere. Maybe I will yet, who knows?” Louise thinks of one item on her bucket list. “Anything you’d like to do that you haven’t done?” she prompts Harwood.
“There are a few people I’d like to punch in the nose,” he jokes, while his wife laughs.
They still have plenty of laughter, love and life with each other.
“I just think we belong together now,” says Louise.