New Castle News

February 14, 2013

Video, Photo Gallery, Story: Married on Valentine’s Day in 1953, Paul and Shirley Jones mark 60 sweet years together

Dan Irwin
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — A blizzard pre-empted their honeymoon.

A call to arms forced them to put married life on hold for a year-and-a-half, only two months after they’d said their vows.

Some might consider those bad omens for a newlywed couple. But if you believe in that sort of thing, then Paul and Shirley Jones had a much more positive portent working for them.

They were married on Valentine’s Day.

Now, the Joneses have turned a celebrated day of romance into six decades of wedded bliss. They are marking their 60th anniversary today.

Paul laughs when it is suggested that he chose Valentine’s Day to tie the knot just so he could remember his anniversary.

“Yeah,” he grinned, “but not only that, I wanted to get married.”

So did the former Shirley Sarbo.

The couple had been engaged for a year, but she’d been told by her mother that she could not get married until she was 18. Shirley hit that magic number in January 1953, then walked down the aisle of Second Presbyterian Church a month later while still a senior at New Castle High.

“We picked Valentine’s Day because we just thought it was a good day to be married,” Shirley said. “And it just so happened it fell on a Saturday.”


The couple headed for a Niagara Falls honeymoon the next day but never got there. A blizzard forced them to stop in Erie, and they returned home shortly after.

Then in April, Paul got his draft notice. After basic training in Tennessee, he was shipped out to Korea, and it was 17 months before he and Shirley could pick up the life they’d so eagerly embraced, only to lay aside after 60 days.

When the wheels of married life at last  were turning again, it wasn’t just figuratively.

Paul and Shirley’s life together was rooted not only in their love for each other, but for cars as well. He actually proposed while the pair were watching stock cars race around the former Pulaski Speedway.

“We both liked racing,” Shirley recalled. “You could sit up on the hill at Pulaski and watch the races. We just took a ride one night, and that’s just what we ended up doing, sitting there.”

Eventually, she wanted to retrieve something from the glove compartment, only to find that it was locked and that Paul refused to open it despite her repeated requests.

“I got madder and madder and madder, because I wanted to get in the glove compartment,” she said. “Well here, he had my engagement ring in there. So finally, he opened it and that’s how I got my engagement ring.”

Paul had made up his mind that he was going to ask Shirley to marry him —  he just didn’t know exactly when he would pop the question.

“I just had it in there,” he said. “I was going to do it; I don’t know whether it would have been that night or not. I didn’t know what to think, but I was going to ask her.”


From that point on, motor vehicles continued to play a role in their lives. While Paul was overseas, Shirley was employed in the parts department of the local Ford dealership before moving on to an insurance agency and later, an attorney’s office.

Meanwhile, Paul drew the assignment of driving around “one of the big guns” while in Korea. The appeal of operating such big rigs came home with him, and he eagerly accepted an invitation by his brother-in-law — a truck driver — to go along with him.

In 1957, Paul bought his own truck, and although he and Shirley struggled financially during the two years it took to pay it off, the job ultimately supported them and their three daughters for a lifetime.

Depending on who you ask, it might also be part of the secret behind their 60-year marriage.

“I’ve often thought of that when I’ve seen it in the paper — what is our secret,” Shirley said. “A lot of people tell us, ‘well, he drove truck for 50 years.’ ”

Paul credits the couple’s faith.

“I tell everybody that the family that prays together, stays together,” he said. “With me being gone so much, she raised the three girls.”

Shirley’s not complaining.

“I’m not a person who likes to go,” she said, “so I was very content to be home. But to answer the question — what’s our secret — I can’t really give you a good answer.

“I just figure it’s love and our faith and sitting and waiting for him to come home.”

(To watch video interviews with two couples celebrating decades of marriage, CLICK HERE.)