PLATTSBURGH — Ronald and Judith Powers embody live, laugh and love.
The Plattsburgh couple will celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary with a July 29 fundraiser for the Lyon Mountain Mining & Railroad Museum and American Legion Hall in Lyon Mountain.
There was something about 5-year-old Judy that made Ron remember her from Sunday school at the Lyon Mountain Methodist Church, the old one that no longer exists. Judy’s memory of Ron doesn’t go back as far.
Born the son of Clayton and Susan Powers, Ron has an old brother and sister, James Powers and Grace Kelley, and a younger sister, Cynthia LaVigne. Clayton worked at Republic Steel on Lyon Mountain, hence Ron’s interest in the museum there.
“My father’s picture is right on the wall. My uncle Jimmy got killed working on the blast furnace. My uncle Victor worked in the mill. Uncle Charlie was a welder. My family all worked at Lyon Mountain,” said Ron, though he never did.
After he and Judy graduated from Lyon Mountain High School in 1958, he went into the U.S. Army 82nd Airborne Division.
‘YOUNG AND FOOLISH’
“I was jumping out of airplanes in Fort Bragg, N.C.,” Ron said. “I knew a guy who was a paratrooper during World War II. I just returned his jump log to his daughter. We found it in my mom’s house.
“I had a book on the paratroopers. It’s something I wanted to do, being young and foolish.”
At jump school, ranking enlisted men took Ron and five others under his wing. Out of a field of 1,000 enlistees, only 600 graduated.
“He marched us to jump school every morning. You get up in that tower, that’s usually when you quit. I thought it was fun. When the other guys were getting their ass chewed, I thought it was funny,” Ron said.
A parachutist’s adrenaline keeps him alert.
“You have to react immediately. It paid off for me twice. I had a bad chute in Fort Bragg and Germany. I had to come down using the reserve. You revert to your training. You do one, two, three and four things that keep you from splattering all over the ground.
“You’re young and foolish; you can run all day and work hard. You can take that crap. Now, it will kill me,” he said.
In Germany, he was assigned to the 2nd Artillery, which was direct support for 504th and 505th Infantry Companies.
“We were cannon fodder for the Russians in case they ever came across the border. We had 15 divisions. They had 115. We were going to hold them up a couple of days,” he said.
Ron was flown home when his father died by suicide.
“He didn’t say anything to anyone. He went off and gassed himself in his car. He was young.”
The Powers hail from England with Richard Powers, who married a Native American woman, possibly Ojibwa or Huron.
“The Powers family tree goes way back. My wife does a lot of her genealogy. We got a little information from my grandfather. He lived to be a 100,” Ron said.
After Ron separated from the Army, he worked construction. From there, he worked at Georgia-Pacific four years.
“I was one of those guys dumb enough to do everything. I mixed color in paper before it went into the machine. Then I would go down and work on machines when guys went on vacation to earn more money. I worked on both wet end and dry end. I worked on the pulper.”
During this time, Ron married Judy, on Nov. 7, 1962, at the Methodist Church in Dannemora.
“She wrote to me a couple of times when I was in the Army. She wasn’t married when I got out,” Ron recalled.
They renewed their acquaintance one fateful day on Margaret Street.
“She worked at Larkin’s Drugstore,” Ron said.
They had dated at Lyon Mountain High.
“We were kind of together before we even dated,” Judy said. “In school, everyone had a little boyfriend and girlfriend. I have a locket he gave me in the seventh or eighth grade. I have a bracelet that matched it. The bracelet got broken.
“I never told my father I got that (locket) from him. When it broke, my father said, ‘I’ll fix it for you.’ He took and soldered it. I still got the bracelet, solder and all. I still have the locket. I wear it on a chain.”
Ron and Judy were a match made at the movies.
Asked what it was about her husband that captured her heart, Judy said: “Don’t ask me that, I don’t know. One year, we had a reunion at Lyon Mountain High School. He was off talking to the guys. He and the English teacher never got along too well. He was disruptive in class. She came up to me and said, ‘I’m so glad you married him.’ She said, ‘I always figured you would be able to calm him down.’”
Judy was born in Malone and grew up in Chateaugay Lake, the daughter of Lewis and Virginia Grew. She had one brother, Lewis, who was three years younger. Her father was a machinist at Republic Steel. Her mother was a housewife.
“During the summer, a lot of summer people came, and she did washing and ironing for them,” Judy said. “She also worked for a while at Bouchard Ice Cream Shop.”
Judy does not have early memories of the Standish boy she would marry.
“He remembers me. We didn’t live in the same town or go to the same school. My first memory of him was my grandparents ran a little convenience store and gas station in Chateaugay Lake. The Dannemora District 9 schoolhouse was next door.
“When I went to first grade, I went to school in the one-room schoolhouse. After that, I went to Lyon Mountain High School in fourth grade. That’s when I first saw him more. He wasn’t much different than he is now. He never got into a lot of trouble. He had a cousin who used to get him in trouble. Ron’s always been kind of standoffish and careful about things but very opinionated,” Judy said.
While Uncle Sam was whipping Ron into shape, Judy’s options were to go to college or get a job.
“I worked for Larkin’s Pharmacy for four years. Mrs. Larkin, I worked for her. I was a bookkeeper. I had to get working papers. I wasn’t old enough. I made a $1 an hour. I lived downtown here in a room and ate three meals a day and bought my own clothes,” Judy said.
During this time, Ron lived in Standish. She lived in Plattsburgh. One day, they eloped.
“We didn’t tell anybody. We got it all arranged,” Judy said. “A girlfriend I lived with knew it and another girlfriend from high school. My cousin stood for Ron. We went up one night to Rev. Latimer. He did the service.”
The newlyweds lived, at first, with Ron’s mother in her Keeseville home.
“We lived with her 14 months,” Judy said. “We decided we would come back to Plattsburgh to live, except nine years in Cadyville at my grandfather’s house.”
In later years, Judy worked 19 years as a bookkeeper/assistant to the general manager of the Plattsburgh Grocery Co. She retired in 1993.
Every other Thursday, Judy volunteers at CVPH Medical Center.
“I hand out payroll to the nurses,” Judy said.
Ron worked for the U.S. Postal Service for 31 years and retired in 1996.
“When you start, you do everything, sort mail and drive a truck. I worked on the base to start. I did the base Saturdays. I did downtown. I got a route of my own on the base. I came back downtown.”
The last 20 years, his route took him to the neighborhood of Prospect Avenue, Olivetti Place, Dennis Avenue and Cogan Avenue.
“I could walk it in my sleep,” he said.
MARRIAGE NOT EASY
He and Judy are the proud parents of one daughter, Stephanie Powers Grobholz, and two granddaughters, Holly Nicole Grobholz and Laura Leigh Grobholz. Stephanie and her husband, James, live with their family in Washington, N.J.
Asked the secret to five decades of matrimony, Ron said: “We fight every day and argue. Familiarity breeds contempt. It’s true.”
“He’s not lying,” Judy said. “We don’t do it every day, but sometime during the day we probably do. He hasn’t been the easiest person to live with, but I manage. I guess I haven’t been either.”
Since 2007, both she and her husband are very active in the Lyon Mountain Museum.
“We don’t have any time to ourselves anymore,” Judy said. “My great-grandfather, my grandfather and my dad worked there in the machine shop (Republic Steel),” Judy said. “My great-grandfather worked there for 66 years in the machine shop. His name was Lewis, too.”
The Powers know many Lyon Mountain folks, but there are many new faces unknown to them.
“We took a ride by my grandfather’s old place a couple of months ago,” Judy said. “His old garage, he built himself and worked in it for years, it’s no longer there. He built it in the ‘20s or ‘30s. After all those years, they had to tear it down. It’s so odd to go past there.”