Her name was Judy and she was a Bath High School cheerleader. She caught Lynn Wilkins’ eye and ended up stealing his heart.
That was many years ago, back when being paid $2 an hour was a rich man’s wage. And Lynn will tell you that cheerleader still has his eye and a hold on his heart.
Lynn and Judy Wilkins celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary on Wednesday, being married shortly out of high school. Theirs has been a special marriage, he’ll tell you, a love story filled with five children, 20 grandchildren, four great-grandchildren, plenty of laughs and lots of hard work. It’s also about overcoming a near-death tragedy — “the accident,” as he calls it — that put a very active man in a wheelchair for the last 12 years.
“The first time I saw her was at a high school basketball game.” said Lynn, who will turn 81 in January. “A bunch of us sat behind the cheerleaders. All of them, but Judy, would talk with us. She wouldn’t give me the time of day.”
Yet, Lynn couldn’t get Judy off his mind. Cruising Lima’s Town Square was the big thing for teens back in the late 1950s. He eventually met her then-boyfriend and was introduced to Judy through him.
Not long after that Lynn and Judy had their first date, a hayride. Before Judy turned 20, she said “I do” and the couple were married.
“He was a determined young man, I’ll give him that,” said Judy, now 79.
Lynn had been working installing drywall for $1 an hour when he hit the big time — a job with the main contractor building the Lima Ford Engine Plan. That led to a job at Ford itself as he was hired in on Aug. 18, 1957, at a $1.87 an hour.
“Ford provided us with a good life,” Lynn said. He and Judy raised five children on a farm near Lafayette: Cindy Heider, twins Sherry Jasczak and Terry Wilkins, and Kurt and Randy Wilkins.
He retired on Ford’s “30 and out” program at age 49 and spent the next 19 years building houses and pole barns. “I was a country boy, in good shape, and would take on about any job, as long as it was outside,” Lynn said.
Then came “the accident” in June 2006.
He was trimming a tree when the branch he was cutting broke off, striking him in the head and knocking him 40 foot to the ground. He suffered a severed spine, broken ribs, two concussions and was in a coma for five weeks.
“I was with the grandkids preparing for a picnic when I was told of the news,” Judy said. “I couldn’t believe it.”
Being a woman of strong faith is what pulled her through it, she said. It also helped her five months later when her daughter’s husband, Dr. Matthew Heider, was killed in an automobile accident. “Prayer was my answer,” she said.
Lynn says he doesn’t know what he would have done without Judy.
“That’s what made this 60th anniversary so special,” he explained. “If you even think of feeling sorry for yourself, just visit Dodd Hall down at the OSU hospital in Columbus. You see teenagers and younger going though much tougher times.
“Me? I’ve lived a good life and have the most wonderful wife. God has truly blessed me.”
ROSES AND THORNS: The rose garden lands a top recruit.
Rose: To Chris Bowers, a graduate of Lima Senior High School. He is the director of player development for Northwestern University, working with new recruits for the football team.
Rose: To Shelia Colley, who says “car people are just good people.” She’s referring to family and friends who help her keep up the 1965 Plymouth Satellite her late husband, Buster, bought and restored for her shortly before passing away from cancer.
Rose: To Lima City Law Director John Payne, who along with city officials and police, have pushed for the demolishing of the Royal Inn, which has been riddled with zoning violations and criminal activity.
Thorn: To Judd Spencer, the former mayor of Cridersville. He’ll be spending time in jail after carrying a weapon while intoxicated.
PARTING SHOT: “We know what works. Freedom works. We know what’s right. Freedom’s right.” — Former President George H. W. Bush.
Jim Krumel is the editor of The Lima News. Contact him at 567-242-0391 or at The Lima News, 3515 Elida Road, Lima, Ohio 45807.