By Allen Buchanan
June 1972 was my first summer living in the Lily Branch Community of Mitchell County. Eight months earlier my dad had accepted the call to Pastor Lily Branch Baptist Church. It was Saturday afternoon at the parsonage and I was in my bedroom after taking a bath.
This particular weekend was Decoration at Lily Branch. The cemetery across the road was filled with families placing flowers on grave sites as memorials. Old friends were reminiscing about days gone by. New friendships were forming.
Little did I know my life was about to change. The church music director, Margaret Murdock, decided to stop at the parsonage and introduce her nieces from Maryland. Susan 14, Sherri 12 and Teresa 10. Margaret’s nephew, Tim, a good friend of mine was tagging along. As they entered the house I was trying to be very quiet since my room was so close to the living room. While everyone was talking, I accidentally knocked over a large glass container of marbles that I collected. Imagine the loud noise as everything hit the hardwood floors. No more hiding for me. Embarrassed, I joined them and was introduced to Margaret’s nieces.
In nearby Burnsville a carnival was in town. Margaret asked if I’d like to go to this with them. On the way, I rode up front beside Susan yet I had my eye on Sherri in the back seat. Her smile and long hair got my attention. Later on, as we headed home, I rode in the back with her. The following week, Sherri came to Vacation Bible School and we became friends.
Long before the internet, email and cellphones, we wrote handwritten letters. For the next 10 years, Sherri and I would see each other the 3rd weekend of June and date for one week. The rest of the year we wrote letters. Every now and then we would talk on the phone. So exciting!
In March 1982, Sherri was living with Susan’s family in Chattanooga, TN. Her brother-in-law was in college there. Sherri helped Susan with their children. We were living in Rutherfordton, NC and I was a student at McDowell Tech in Marion. I sent Sherri money for a bus ticket to come for a weekend visit. The excitement waiting for her at the bus station was so intense. In preparation of her visit, I remember telling my dad how much I loved her and if I didn’t ask her to marry me soon, I would make a lifetime mistake.
That weekend we traveled to the mountains to visit with friends and discuss our future together. Cold weather, fog and rain did not dampen our time together. We decided that if I could get a job, even a part-time job, we would get engaged. Only a few days passed and I had a job as the evening receptionist at McDowell Tech. Guess what this meant? I asked my mom not to tell Sherri if she called. I wanted to tell her. Sherri did call and mom had to tell her. I should have never asked mom to lie, so that was okay.
At the end of March, our family moved back to the mountains. Soon I purchased an engagement ring and started counting down the days when I could give it to her. I was so afraid I would lose it. Sherri lived nearly 600 miles from Bakersville. Her sister, Teresa was getting married June 12th and I wanted to be there. Since I had never visited Sherri and wasn’t going to travel alone, her cousin, Dale Murdock went with me. After visiting with her family, we drove to her uncle’s house for the night. It was there that I proposed and Sherri said, “Yes!” I was so tired from traveling, yet too excited to sleep. We decided not to tell anyone until after the wedding, because it was Teresa’s big day. While the ladies were getting ready, someone slipped and let Sherri’s mother know. Her father was told in the receiving line after the wedding by Teresa’s mother-in-law. Definitely not the way we planned it.
That summer was one of the best times we’d ever had together! We chose to get married November 26th during my Thanksgiving Holidays. After our honeymoon, we moved to Snow Creek and joined Bear Creek Baptist Church. In 1983, I applied for a full-time job at Mayland Community College and got it. Two years later, we moved to the Bear Creek Community and we’ve been together 34 years. God is good! The whole time I’ve known my sweetheart, we’ve worked to put God first in everything. Many years ago, my dad stated that “Sherri and I were foolish over each other”. I like to think our foolishness has never stopped. I can’t imagine life without her. Sherri, I love you and wish you a very Happy Valentine’s Day!