I met Mary several years ago. Long before I met her ex-husband, Ken Lashley. She was still using her married name at the time, Mary Lashley. She had just been voted the president of the Auxiliary of the Baptist Home of South Jersey. The Auxiliary has been around longer than the non-profit organization we support, Riverview Estates. We both had a passion for caring for people.
Since then, I watched Mary vonGersdorff (her maiden name) go through many changes in her life. She had her ex-husband come back into her life, changed her name back to her maiden name, move to Virginia to live with her sister, move back to NJ with her sister, bury her ex-husband, and her latest adventure that I want to share with you. Reuniting and marrying her high school sweetheart 64 years later. When Mary told me this, I had to know more.
In the early 1950s, Mary vonGersdorff met Donald LeRoy Johnson in high school. In those years, Mary hung with her friends. Today she continues to keep in touch with those still alive. Of this cliché of 7 girls one was named Linda, who was Don’s sister. When they met, Don was 17 and Mary was 15. As Mary and I spoke, she recalled that their first date was to the Empire State Building. He told her that he wanted to “throw her off” but had decided not to. Both he and she have an interesting sense of humor. Not long after, Don had joined the military and was deployed to Korea. That was when they went their separate ways. She remembers him being very shy and how hard it must have been for him to even ask her out. Don remembers her as a “conductor” and being in charge.
So how did they get back together? Remember Linda? 64 years later Mary still talked to her cliché from high school. They each went their separate ways, but Mary still keeps in touch. After Ken’s passing she asked Linda how Don was doing. Mary Learned that Don was living in Florida and that his wife had also passed a couple years ago. She asked Linda to have him call her. To Mary’s surprise he did. They talked for hours reminiscing of times past.
Not long after their conversation, he surprised her by driving to New Jersey (Mary stressed at the age of 82!) and showed up at her door. They spent about 3 hours together and she “wasn’t impressed, there was no spark”; so, Don went home.
After he had left she felt bad that he had driven all that way only to be sent home. She called to apologize and as they spoke she became more interested and decided to visit him in Florida. He offered her a separate bedroom and bathroom in his home for her to use during her visit.
Once in Florida, Don kindly offered to drive her to visit with friends and family. The more time they spent together the stronger the spark grew. Mary was impressed with his military service and that he put her wants and needs first. That is when she saw “it” and knew.
When it was time to say good-bye she found it difficult to leave. The night before her departure, they were sitting on the beach together he looked into her eyes and told her that he loved her. Just like that, “everything was clicking like a puzzle”.
The two of them were sitting holding hands and Mary informed Don, “I’m getting tired of this, what do you think of Marriage”. He had never considered it and after some discussion, he accepted her proposal. She invited him to come to live with her in New Jersey. They are to be wed on Saturday, March 18th at 4:00 p.m. at Riverview Estates, 303 Bank Ave, Riverton, NJ 08077 with reception to follow. They do not ask for gifts, but donations to Riverview Estates.