Wade and Dot Troublefield share a lasting love

Published 12:00 am Saturday, February 15, 2014

Have you ever met someone you knew without a doubt was your true love? Well, that’s how Dot Troublefield describes her husband, Wade.
Growing up in Sumter, S.C., Wade was the only boy in a family of 11 children. By some accounts, he was spoiled by his sisters. It was a blessing his dad, Walter Troublefield, enjoyed the great outdoors, teaching Wade how to fish. In addition, his mom, Estelle, knew how to use a hammer and nails, teaching Wade to fix things, which proved handy later in life.
As a teenager, Wade was also blessed with the good fortune of learning how to fix bicycles at a local bicycle shop. Dorothy says that between fixing bicycles, fishing, repairing things and eventually working in a sporting goods store, “Wade had a lot of living to do.”
Since the onset of dementia, however, memories of all that living for Wade sometimes now get lost in confusion.
Noticing he was getting forgetful several years ago, Dot said, “While we all are forgetful at times, I knew it was more than that.”
After a doctor saw Wade, the diagnosis confirmed her fears. Now when Wade tries to recall distant memories, Dot often fills in the gaps.
Theirs is a love story that began more than 70 years ago, when Dot was 17 and Wade was 18. They married after knowing each other for only six months. Dot laughs, saying they were just kids. She explains they met when her dad, Lindsey F. Barbee, was stationed in the Air Force near Sumter, S.C. During those years, Wade often enjoyed talking with the servicemen at a local sandwich shop. Getting to know Mr. Barbee, Wade learned he had a daughter in North Carolina.
Asking permission to call on Mr. Barbee’s daughter, that’s exactly what Wade did, literally. Sometimes singing to her over the phone, he made such an impression, even before Dot saw him, she began falling head over heels in love. They soon began writing back and forth, even sending pictures.
After meeting, Dot knew Wade was the one for her because she had never met anyone like that before. He didn’t drink, cuss, smoke or chew tobacco. He also had a sense of humor, loved children, loved to sing and was a church-going man. With someone like that, Dot knew she couldn’t go wrong. The evidence shows she was right, because their marriage has lasted for 70 years.
They were married in June 1943, a happy time that was short-lived when Wade was drafted a few months later. Joining the Navy, Wade spent that first Christmas away, while Dot spent Christmas with his family in Sumter. Eventually, getting a job at Cannon Mills in Concord, Dot moved home, spending most of her paycheck on telephone calls to Wade.
After his two-year stint in the Navy, Wade came home for good. He took his bride back to Sumter and they started their life together. As fate would have it, a family friend who was also a traveling salesman mentioned he was planning to open a sporting goods store in Salisbury. Knowing Wade’s talent for fixing bicycles, the friend offered Wade a job if he and Dot ever decided to move to North Carolina.
It was a good thing, too, because Dot did not like Sumter. By now she had already come home once on the bus to Concord by herself. Wade, however, didn’t let her get far because he went on the next bus behind her to bring her home. She laughs about that now and is glad things turned out the way they did with Wade getting the job in Salisbury.
Although Wade’s official title at the Salisbury Sporting Goods Store was salesman, from time to time he was given the task of putting things together, including bicycles. Dot said Wade could put a bicycle wheel together faster than anyone she’s ever seen. When Wade was offered a manager’s position, Dot became a salesman in the store, working side by side with her husband for many years.
Among other things, she wrote hunting and fishing licenses, while Wade took care of the business end. As manager, one of Wade’s responsibilities was making sure there were enough “craft model” cars, trains and airplanes in stock for the demand. After 13 years Wade left the store, going on the road as a traveling salesman, selling craft models to the Roses’s stores in North Carolina and parts of Virginia.
Even with dementia, Wade still remembers selling craft model cars, trucks and airplanes during the ’60s for $1.50 a box. Wilma Shue, Dot’s baby sister, a small child at home when Wade and Dot married, vividly remembers Wade giving craft models as presents at Christmastime. With those same models valued at a lot more than a $1.50, Wilma says she wishes she had some of them back now.
While Wade traveled, Dot was left behind to take care of day-to-day responsibilities as well as care for their two growing children, Susan and James. She kept busy during the day cooking and cleaning, she said, and the children kept busy with school and activities, looking forward to weekends when Dad came home.
Most folks feel lucky to have one career in a lifetime, but Wade has had at least three. When asked to move to Atlanta in his position as traveling salesman, instead of moving, Wade retired. Only in his mid-50s and still wanting to work, he began driving a shuttle bus taking seniors to meal sites. Wade especially enjoyed getting to know the people on his route and made many friends.
While driving the shuttle bus, Wade was offered another position, which eventually became full-time. He took a custodial position at the Salisbury-Rowan Head Start, and did such a good job, he was promoted to transportation specialist.
Wade loved every minute of his job and the people he worked with, but his greatest joy was interacting with the preschoolers. Finally he decided he was too old to work at the age of 81, and he retired from Head Start with 23 years of service.
When I went to visit Dot and Wade several weeks ago, my husband, Michael, went along too. Having worked with Wade for over 20 years at Head Start, he was excited to see an old friend nicknamed, “Trouble.”
Laughing, Dot said that when Wade’s co-workers at Head Start called him that, he would answer by saying, “The only ‘trouble’ is in my name.”
Michael intuitively knew what to talk about to rekindle Wades’s memories of the old days. Watching their interaction, it was obvious Wade seemed comfortable reliving those times again. After the visit, Michael said that, though Wade seemed confused at times, the Wade everyone knew and loved was still present.
Dot says during this difficult time it’s been a great comfort to have the love and support of friends and family, including their children, James and Susan, and grandchildren, Jamie and Doug Rivenbark. Both Wade and Dot are also grateful to the members of Enon Baptist Church for their encouragement and support. Having served as Sunday School teacher, Sunday School superintendent and deacon at Enon, Wade sees that church as his church.
I learned about this love story from Wade and Dot’s grandson, Douglas Rivenbark. During a conversation with Doug at Knollwood Elementary School this past year, he mentioned his grandparents were celebrating their 70th wedding anniversary. Proud of his grandparents, Doug shared not only about their love, but also how as a young boy he spent many hours with his grandpa, fishing and learning to fix things. Now that Doug is having a son, there’s no doubt he will continue to pass on that legacy.
Although some people say there is no such thing as love at first sight, Wade and Dot’s story has proved them wrong. If you’re looking for love, take encouragement from a marriage that has lasted 70 years. Even though Wade may not understand everything that’s going on, all you have to do is listen to Dot speak about the man she loves and watch Wade’s reaction. It’s almost as if, right before your eyes, he’s 18 again.