“A Tale of Romance”
Judy Gayle Rader and Gene Randall Kelly dated for 17 months. Their dates were on Fridays and Sundays for movies. On Saturdays, they sat in Judy’s living room and listened to “Record Romp” to see if they would play their requests. One night, the station dedicated “Come Softly to Me” by The Fleetwoods to the young couple.
On one Friday in February of 1960, it began to snow in Botetourt County. Lord Botetourt High School let out and Valentine’s Day plans were put on hold. Gene wasn’t able to see Judy that Friday night due to the heavy snowfall and she was missing her blonde blue-eyed doll, as she called him.
The snow finally stopped, peaking at 18 inches, but then the wind started to blow at an intense rate. The snow began to drift over roads and fences. When Judy opened the front door of her parents’ home, all she could see was snow that drifted off of the roof and onto the front porch.
Judy and her father felt the need to check on her grandparents, who lived over the hill off of what is now Reynolds Drive in Troutville. Judy’s father made her snowshoes out of plastic clothesline. It was tough walking but Judy and her father got up to the house and retrieved a grocery list from her grandparents for supplies.
They made their way, trudging through the snow on their way to L.D. Brugh and Sons. Along their journey, they saw a five-foot drift over what is now Reynolds Drive clearing a nearby neighbor’s fence. Someone had carved out stairsteps on each side of the drift.
At the store, Judy and Gene gathered supplies from the list, grabbed the mail, and newspapers. The store became the delivery station for everything since U.S. Route 11 was open. Most people walked to the store.
Judy and her father walked back to her grandparents’ house. They salvaged some wood and water for them and walked back to their home. During the week, Judy and her father continued to go to the store.
One week later, it was Valentine’s Day. Snow stilled covered Botetourt County. Judy sat by the fire, missing Gene. It had been almost two weeks since she the last time she saw him. She began to realize how much she needed him in her life.
Suddenly, there was a knock at her door. Gene had returned, her love. He rode the bus 10 miles and over mountains of snow just to come and see her. He was cold and wet up to his knees. Gene greeted Judy with a kiss and a box of candy. She helped him take off his soaked shoes and socks and softened a place in front of the fire to warm him up.
Judy and Gene sat by the fire drinking Pepsi and eating candy. It was a most memorable Valentine’s Day that year, but the best thing about that week was Judy realized how much Gene cared for her too.
They sat side by side dreaming of the life they had already shared, and knew that they must be together forever. They were in love and married three years later in 1963.
Submitted by Judy Kelly, with Matt de Simone