Local Lifestyle

A lifelong romance carried by faith: Stories from a 70-year marriage

by Kate Shunney

These days, John Mesner is the keeper of many memories in his 70-year marriage to his high school sweetheart Adeline.

Reaching back through the years to the early days of their courtship, Mrs. Mesner remembers that John was a “country boy” who came to the school in Berkeley Springs in the 7th grade. She lived next to the Presbyterian Church and he was raised on a dairy farm and had gone to the Waterview one-room school off what is now Mesner Road.

“I liked him,” Adeline said, smiling at her husband of 70 years.

“She was a nice-looking blonde,” he says back. “Still is.”

Late in their junior year at Berkeley Springs High School, Adeline Pentoney and John Mesner started what would become a lifelong romance.

“In our junior year, we had an hour lunch, and they would show short films and we could sit in the dark and hold hands,” John said.

On their junior class trip to Washington, D.C., they slipped into one of those coin-operated photo booths and got their picture taken together. Their daughters still share the snapshot.

John Mesner and Adeline Pentoney, Junior Class trip, 1952.

John and Adeline graduated from Berkeley Springs High School together in May of 1953. On New Year’s Eve of that year, they went to Winchester, Va. and got married.

John said they stayed their wedding night at the George Washington Hotel. The room cost $8.70.

Her parents knew about the wedding and so did his mother, but his father didn’t, and was pretty mad about it, left with hand-milking 12 cows on their dairy farm.

“I can’t blame him for being mad,” John said.

After the wedding, the young couple lived in an apartment over top of the old Dawson’s Hardware in town.

“We started out with nothing,” John said. “We were just as happy as could be.”

He would go to work at the Interwoven factory for eight years, then decided to attend barber college. It would start a career that placed Mesner in the public eye for decades. He worked as a barber for 35 years and ran his own shop for 27 of those. Mesner’s Barber Shop operated in the low brick building across from Hunter’s Hardware into the 1980’s.

Adeline worked in a variety of local businesses, from a dairy that used to operate off of Radio Station Road and then in the office of the Morgan County Sheriff’s Department under Sheriff “Tink” Yost.

She was supposed to be doing bookwork for the Sheriff, but was called on to make an arrest once, John recalled. Sheriff Yost had reports of an unruly woman in the public restroom next to the courthouse and sent Adeline in as a “special deputy” to arrest her and bring her out.

The newspaper reported on the incident, calling Adeline Mesner the “Dollish Deputy.”

She would go on to be an accountant at the Prowler travel trailer plant.

“They were good to me,” she remembers.

The couple raised two daughters – Lynn and Sherry – who are still very close to their parents. Family members helped babysit the girls, and the two were raised to have a bright outlook.

“They are both positive thinkers,” said John Mesner. “We were blessed with good daughters that are close with their mother and me.”

Much of the couple’s positive view on life, family and marriage comes from their Christian faith.

“God has led us along on this journey of life,” said John. “We’ve been Christians since we were teens.”

“Going to church, you see things in a different light,” he said.

Adeline’s parents were active in church as she grew up, and she played piano and organ for services. Her musical talent has been part of their church involvement over a lifetime. He plays the guitar in church as well.

“She can play any key, play anything if you hum it,” John said.

As a younger woman, she would accompany her father, Bill Pentoney, when he’d sing in church.

“He would sing it and I’d venture around the keyboard,” she recalls.

“I’d try anything,” Adeline joked. Picking up an accordion to play was no big deal.

“There’s a keyboard on it!” she said.

The Mesner’s attend Highland Church now and she played piano there late last year, with him assisting to follow along with the music.

Doing things together – from church to socializing and raising their daughters – is central to the Mesner’s married life.

“We had quarrels, of course, but we never thought about parting,” John said. “She’s so kind – she’s always been a kind and sweet lady.”

Even in the difficult moments of life – from health challenges to a house fire in 2011 that forced them to start their household from scratch – the Mesner’s have turned to their faith and been supported by friends to carry on.

“Faith has a lot to do with it,” John said of their long marriage and resilience.

Their faith and the house fire reminded them that worldly things are not what endures.

“We tell people don’t get too attached to all these nice things – they won’t last forever,” said John.

“I hope we live a life people can see and think to themselves, ‘They might be Christians’,” he said.

Now in their 71st year of marriage, John and Adeline Mesner take each day as an opportunity to get out and see friends, visit with family and have fun. They might be seen wheeling about town, or exercising at the gym, or visiting at the Senior Center, having lunch at a restaurant or shopping and people-watching in Winchester at the mall.

“We still enjoy each other. She still wants to go with me on my four-wheeler even though it’s loud,” John said. “I just try to give thanks that I’m able to take care of her and we can stay in our own home.”

Daughter Sherry Baker said her parents have been dedicated to church and their community and are a source of inspiration to many, including their five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

“It might be said that the phrase ‘Faith, Family, Friends’ is their motto because that sums up their priorities in life. They are amazing examples,” said Baker.