My husband Joe and I have lived in Virginia for more than thirty-four years. We were both born and raised in Iowa, but after our wedding and two months of army basic training for Joe, we found ourselves in a modest townhouse apartment in Hampton, Virginia. (Quite the exotic location for a couple of kids from Iowa—it smelled so different!) After a few months of Advanced Individual Training at the Army-Navy School of Music in Little Creek (on the northern edge of Norfolk), Joe was supposed to join the ranks of the CONARC Band at Fort Monroe in Hampton. But he didn’t. While he was at Little Creek, he heard of an opening in The United States Army Band “Pershing’s Own” in Washington, DC, he auditioned and was accepted. So, in April 1974, we said goodbye to Hampton and landed in Northern Virginia where we remained until June 1979 when we returned to Iowa so Joe could begin graduate studies at the University of Iowa.
(Note: our first dog, Igor, was born at Fort Monroe in November 1973. He joined our family the following January and was with us for 18½ years.)
Over the next eleven years, we moved to Texas, Oklahoma, California, back to Iowa, and back to Oklahoma. Joe finished his DMA at the University of Oklahoma and found a teaching position in Oklahoma City. But what we really wanted, more than anything in the world, was to return to Virginia to live out our days. And so, we did.
But before we made the big move, we had to decide where we would settle once we got there. In 1984, when we lived in Oklahoma the first time, we made a road trip to visit friends in northern Virginia. We pulled off I-81 and stopped at a Wendy’s in Roanoke around lunchtime. We liked the look of the place (Roanoke, not Wendy’s) and thought it would be a nice place to live. (‘Twas the mountains that grabbed us.) When we were in Oklahoma the second time, we ventured to Virginia once again. On Christmas Eve 1991, we tossed our three dogs (Igor, Gertie, and Millie) in the car and headed east. We investigated the Roanoke Valley more closely, walked around Roanoke College and Hollins College campuses, and stopped in Appomattox on our way to Hampton. (We told Igor he should see the place of his birth one last time.) Before we drove back to Oklahoma, we checked out Williamsburg, Charlottesville, and Lexington. By the end of that trip, we knew for sure that Roanoke would be our next home. It took us twenty months to get there, and we didn’t have jobs lined up. We just moved.
While we were in Roanoke in ‘91, we acquired a copy of the Roanoke phone book (remember those?) and a street map. At some point after that trip, we subscribed to The Roanoke Times and World-News (RTW-N). Eventually, we checked the University of Iowa Alumni Directory and found a couple of alums who lived in the Roanoke Valley. Both were professors at Roanoke College. We paid attention to the letters to the editor in the RTW-N. If we saw letters that were well-written and sensible, we made a note of the writers’ names. And then we composed a letter/survey that included a short introduction (“our story”) and a request for recommendations for realtors who handled rental properties, veterinarians, car repair places for our relatively new Volvo and relatively old Volkswagen, doctors, dentists, and banks. There might have been a couple more questions, but that was the essence of it. We found the addresses for the folks on our list and sometime in the early summer of 1993, we mailed them off. And we waited, but not too long, surprisingly. I think we mailed twenty surveys out, got nineteen back, and one phone call! Everyone was gracious and welcoming, and almost all invited us to their churches (not one of our questions). Maybe that shouldn’t have been a surprise, but it was. Everyone said we’d love it here, and we do!
Because of those survey responses, we found a place to live, a car repair guy we still use to this day, and a bank which has changed its name twice since 1993. And we found a church because we lived in the parsonage next door to it for nine years. We both found jobs almost immediately, and eventually, we both were employed full-time at Roanoke College, me at the library and Joe as the band director and professor of fine arts. We bought a house and paid off the mortgage before we retired. We are truly blessed.
And we haven’t regretted our decision for one second.
Sally Jameson Bond is retired and lives in Southwest Virginia with her husband Joe and Bart, Dog Number 8. My Mother’s Friend is her debut novel which will be released on October 6, 2022. Preorder it now!