By Patrick Yost
On Feb. 26, 1955 Charlie and Patsy Holbert stood before a Methodist pastor’s parsonage in Apalachee and took their wedding vows. Their friends Bobby Bone and Barbara West witnessed the union.
This week, that will be 65 years, two children, eight grandchildren and one great-grandchild ago.
It will be 65 years of struggle, work and love the two young teens both nurtured and endured after Charlie slipped on Patsy’s Aunt Fannie’s ring on that notable day.
And that, they say together, was just the beginning.
But Patsy says she knew from the beginning that Charlie was the man for her. “He was tough when I met him,” she says. “He was the best looking thing I had ever seen in my life.”
Of course he was tough. A few years before the wedding when Charlie was 15-years-old he was bush hogging a field of the Old Buckhead Highway while his father Isaac Woodrow Holbert was running a wood saw. The blade of the saw bound up but the belt kept spinning, Isaac Woodrow (I.W.) nudged the saw back in place and the blade cut both his feet off. I.W. somehow made it to a ditch and pulled both legs up to try and staunch the bleeding. “He sat in that ditch until I came back around,” Charlie remembers. Charlie carried his father and placed him in the back of a pickup truck and drove him to what was then the Madison hospital where the current “Madison House” assisted living sits on West Jefferson Street.
“How he kept from bleeding to death, I don’t know,” Charlie says. “I was just scared to death.”
I. W. survived and Charlie watched a man with no legs continue to work. I.W. would dig a ditch from a chair. Cut down trees with an ax while sitting.
So for Charlie to get a job paying 75 cents an hour at the Schnadig Furniture Company and for Patsy to work at a windowless, non-climate controlled Madison sewing plant making men’s shirt was understood, maybe even expected.
“I look back on it and it was hard,” Patsy says with an understanding smile. The couple had two daughters, Brenda first and then Charlene. Brenda, after a successful law career, now is a Superior Court judge; Charlene drives to work in Atlanta every day, the proud couple says. Both girls are workers.
And, like Charlie and Patsy, the family has an incredible sense of faith and trust in God. “It had to be the Lord for us to stay together this long.”
They have been together. After Charlie got a job in Atlanta at the Buick-Oldsmobile-Pontiac plant making cars “(Man, I was making $2.40 an hour”) the couple moved into Patsy’s parents old house on Speed Lane with the girls. In 1967 the couple moved back to the Apalachee Community and Charlie built two chicken houses, drove a school bus and built the Apalachee Beauty Shop for Patsy in 1968. While Patsy was working in the sewing plant and raising children she also attended beauty school in Athens and completed her GED.
The shop prospered for more than 30 years. Charlie would build and operated three more chicken houses.
Life would continue at a roar.
Both would become instrumental with launching and maintaining the Cornerstone Christian Center on Main Street in Madison. Both would work at helping to raise grandchildren and volunteer time and effort to their community.
On Thursday’s Patsy continues to work at the Magic Mirror Beauty Shop. “I have always been good with hair,” she laughs. On Thursday, now, Charlie goes with her and shampoos hair.
“He helps me,” she says.
This Friday Charlie and Patsy are boarding a ship to the Bahamas, a gift trip, to celebrate their more than a half a century of marriage.
“It had to be the hand of God,” Patsy says. “We thank the Lord for everything.”
And Charlie, she says, is still a handsome man. And Patsy is the prettiest girls he’s ever seen, too.
“I love Charlie as much now as I did then.”