Back In My Day | David and Mary Jo Corley

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Corleys knew they wanted to marry 63 years ago; that bond is just as strong for them today

By Kristin Beck

You never know where you will meet the love of your life. For David and Mary Jo Corley, it was the Carroll County Tobacco Festival in 1950.


David, a Trimble County native, came to the festival with his friend William Jackson. William was dating Betty Robbins at the time, who just happened to be friends with Mary Jo, a Carroll County native. The two hit it off right away and went to a movie at the Richland Theater after the festival.

After dating for a few years, David returned to Carroll County on leave from the United States Air Force and asked Mary Jo’s father for his permission to marry her.

“He proposed on Thursday, and we got married on Friday!” Mary Jo said.

“I was in on Thursday leave, and I had to do something quick!” David said. “… I went to ask her dad, and he said OK, so we went the next day and got our blood pressure and blood tests and everything, found a preacher.”

“We were married in Madison because in Kentucky then they had a three-day waiting period, and we didn’t think we could wait three days,” Mary Jo said, laughing.

David and Mary Jo married on June 25, 1954, at the minister’s house. David’s sister Yvonne Corley and Mary Jo’s brother Charles Willhoite were the only guests, standing up for the pair.

David is the oldest of 11 children to Wilda and Grace Corley. Wilda was a farmer and worked at Jeffboat, and Grace was a mother and housewife. David quit school in ninth grade in 1949. “I got smarter than the teacher and quit and joined the Air Force,” he said with a smile.

He joined the United States Air Force in 1952 as an 18-year-old and served 21 years. He was a tech sergeant when he retired.

Mary Jo is the only daughter of Fred and Josephine Willhoite. Fred was a farmer, and Josephine was a mother and housewife. She has three brothers, and the family grew up in a home located where Dow Corning now sits. She attended Locust grade school and then Carrollton High School for two years before dropping out. She later earned her GED.

She worked as a waitress at the Poppy Shop, located at Fifth and Main streets; Choo Choo Inn, a railroad car on Hwy. 42; and Gypsy Grill on Highland Avenue.

David began his military career in South Dakota, and Mary Jo moved there a couple months after the couple got married. She worked at the NCO club as a waitress.

David was then transferred to New Finland, and Mary Jo moved back to Carroll County and lived with her parents. Then, he was transferred to Bunker Hill, Ind., and Mary Jo left her parents to live in Indiana.

David was deployed to Vietnam from 1966-1967. He was in charge of supplying the airplanes with ammunition and flares.

“When I got to Vietnam, I moved in with a Chinese family and spent my whole year with a Chinese family. They had five kids, and they took care of me.”

There were seven soldiers living with the family, and they paid the family $35 per month to take care of them.

The Air Force moved Mary Jo and her mobile home back to Carroll County while David was in Vietnam. When he returned, the family moved to MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Fla.

Next, David was deployed to Okinawa, Japan. Once he found a place for the family to live, Mary Jo and their children, Grace and William, moved and lived there three years.

At Okinawa, David was in charge of a chemical escort, but since there weren’t any chemicals to move, he was in charge of dumping bad ammunition 10 miles out to sea.

“We would load it up on barges, take it 10 miles out to sea and dump it,” David said. “I took the kids with me on a lot of the sea dumps, come back in and she would get stiff legged once in a while because she would find out we would stop the ship and let them swim out there 10 miles out in the ocean!” At the time, Grace was 14 and William was 12, he said.

“It was very enjoyable living over there,” Mary Jo said. “It was an all different culture. The only bad thing was my mother passed away while I was there.

“The children and I enjoyed it. We saw a lot of the country. We got to go to Taiwan and different places.”

Grace and William attended American schools with other military family’s children, and Mary Jo took dental assistant training courses and volunteered for the Red Cross.

David’s final stop was at Hill Air Force base in Utah. “That’s where I finally pulled the plug and retired,” he said.

After he retired, the Corleys moved back to Carroll County and bought a plot of land located across the street from another one of Mary Jo’s childhood homes. “I grew up right across the road in that big house. I was seven years old when my parents moved there.”

The Corley’s have now lived in that home since 1974.

David went to work in maintenance for General Butler State Resort Park, retiring in 1996 after 26 years of service. He took two months off and began working at Earl Floyd Ford and has been there ever since, working as a “gopher.”

He also served on the Westside Volunteer Fire Department for 26 years — 10 years as assistant chief. He retired in 2001.

Mary Jo also worked at General Butler State Resort Park for three years as a cook. When Green Valley Health and Rehab opened, she worked there as a cook. She then worked for Carroll County Schools in the cafeteria, first for Carroll County Middle School and then Carroll County High School. When she retired in 1999, she was in charge of the high school cafeteria.

David and Mary Jo have two children, four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. Their son William died in 1999.

Mary Jo said one of her favorite things is spending time with her family. “Every Monday, I have my children come home. Grace and her family come home and we have our family meal together. Still do it, every Monday.”

She also enjoys volunteering at her church, Calvary Apostolic Church in Carrollton.

When he worked for the state park, David said they could visit other state parks for free. So every two or three months, the family would visit a park and go fishing, walking and golfing.

These days, David said he doesn’t have any spare time right now. “I tell all of them out there at work, we sit out on the front porch and I rub her back and she rubs my back and every once in a while, she’ll lean over and say, ‘I love you, honey’ and I say, ‘I love you too.’

“We sit on the front porch and watch cars go by. Traffic is getting heavier now.”

When asked how they would describe their spouse to someone who has never met them, David said Mary Jo has to warm up to people first “until she gets to know them real well.”

“He’s a practical joker. He’s played all kinds of pranks on everybody,” Mary Jo said.

“He tells some awful stories about me sometimes. I won’t have anything to do with anybody out at Ford because he comes in and tells me some of the tales he goes out there and tells them, and I hope to God they don’t believe!”

When asked if they had any marriage advice, David said, “Mostly doing everything she tells me to,” which elicited a look from Mary Jo and caused David to laugh. “I don’t listen to well,” he said.

“My secret I’ve learned is you can’t argue,” Mary Jo said. “And if you don’t make a response, you can’t have an argument.”

She added that marriage is a give and take situation. “And you have to do a lot of giving along with the taking of things to have a good relationship.”

“Just make sure you come home every night,” David said. “That will get her tore up quicker than anything, me staying out somewhere and not coming in for supper. Try to get home on time to eat.”