OHIO VALLEY — Lona Fetty-Wamsley was born June 9, 1910, in Point Pleasant, W.Va. Shortly after her birth, Lona’s mother passed away and she was taken in by her sister, Eva Murphy, who raised her as her own child.
She recalls shanty boat days, (these often crudely built boats were once used as floating mobile homes or businesses on many parts of the Ohio River) and speaks of living through the Great Depression and “Herbert Hoover’s days.”
“Back in the day, Point Pleasant was know as King Town,” Lona said.
She married Cecil Ray Wamsley on May 7, 1937, and they had one child from this union, Ken Wamsley.
The Flood of 1936 in the Ohio Valley was memorable in itself, but a personal adventure is foremost in her mind. Lona suffered a gall bladder attack. Unable to navigate the water-covered roads to obtain medical care, her husband Cecil brought her up the raging, muddy Ohio River in a row boat to see the doctor.
Before settling in Gallipolis, the Wamsleys made their homes in West Virginia, Gallipolis and Delaware, Ohio. Lona says she has called Gallipolis home ever since they moved back to the area.
Everyone in the area remembers the fall of the Silver Bridge, but Lona recounts her husband helping in the search and recovery efforts in the hours and days following the bridge’s collapse. Cecil was employed by Bob Bosworth, Okan Harbour Barge Company, as a deck hand, and along with other co-workers, spent long hours in the December weather searching for survivors.
Lona was a stay-at-home housewife until Cecil passed away unexpectedly in 1971. To support herself and her young son, she took a job on the river and became a river boat cook. Away from home for weeks at a time, she entrusted her son to a family friend, Clarence “Rabbitt” Stutler, while she was away working.
Lona smiles as she says she is blessed with four granddaughters, one grandson and two great-grandchildren, Caiden and Rylei, who she enjoys very much.
Along with her son Ken and his wife, Patricia, the family celebrated Lona’s birthday at Holzer Assisted Living in Gallipolis.
Asked what she believes has brought her to the age of 106, “I give credit for my long life to God,” she said. “He isn’t done here with me yet — and red tomatoes. I eat tomatoes daily.”
Contact Lorna Hart at 740-992-2155 , Ext. 2551