Alvin Paul Howell and Jane Hornbeck Howell of West Jefferson are celebrating their 70th wedding anniversary this month with family and friends.
The couple met and married in New Jersey in 1943 while Paul, an Ashe County native, was stationed at Lakehurst Naval Air Station in New Jersey as a Navy seaman.
Earlier this summer the snow birding couple flew to New Jersey for a warm reception near the old family home place, staying with Jane’s sister, Ann Parker, in Wall Township. During their stay the Howells and their three adult children were able to visit and tour the site of their World War II wedding and reception in Spring Lake as well as the old Hornbeck family home in Neptune.
On their first date Paul swept Jane off her feet at the local roller rink located in the now historic Old Convention Hall in Asbury Park on the Jersey Shore. A few months later wedding bells were ringing, and on Aug. 20, 1943, the couple made it official. The bride’s sister remembers that Jane’s store bought wedding dress came from a local department store and cost $25. Wedding guests included another Navy man and his British war bride.
Following the reception, Paul brought his sweetheart back to Ashe County to meet his parents in Silas Creek. The couple honeymooned in the Blue Ridge mountains briefly before Paul was redeployed.
During the early years of their marriage, the couple travelled extensively, living briefly in Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and the Pacific. Their first son, Peter, was born in 1944 in the Lakehurst Navy Hospital. A year later their son, David, was born while his dad was on active duty in Japan. For a time, the family lived on a remote atoll in the Pacific known as Kwajalein. Ten years later in 1955, while stationed in Hawaii at Barbers Point Naval Station, the couple’s daughter, Ann Lelani, was born. The family later lived in San Diego near Miramar Naval Station where their sons completed high school. Later the family moved to Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque, New Mexico, before returning to the North Carolina mountains, where daughter Lani attended Ashe County High School.
For a number of years both Jane and Paul worked in and around Wilkes County, before the couple formally retired and spent several years touring the country as a full-time RV family. In the early 1990s, Jane and Paul returned to Ashe County as permanent part-year residents, establishing their second home in North Fort Myers, Fla.
For more than 20 years the couple lived as snowbirds and artistic collaborators, carving hundreds of songbirds. Paul focussed on carving, while Jane applied her talents to painting.
Today, the couple enjoy visiting with family, playing cards, attending Ashe County Arts Council programs, gardening, and bird watching. Jane remains active in the High Country Piece Makers Quilt Guild.