We’re crossing over the Ohio River on Interstate 376 – one of the many times we’ll cross the Ohio today as we head to West Virginia for our family reunion. My father-in-law’s side of the family is from New Martinsville. His maternal great grandfather, Henry Hassig, a Civil War Veteran, donated land for a church to be built up on Limestone Ridge. Henry’s buried next to that church along with many other family members. Hassigs still live up on that ridge. Our daughter loves making this road trip because she gets to reconnect with her cousins. She’s in the back seat singing “Country roads, take me home, to the place I belong, West Virginia, mountain momma, take me home, country roads!” Every time Naomi sees a plane passing overhead, she says “Follow that plane; it might lead us to West Virginia!”
Ohio Route 7 snakes along the Ohio River providing travelers with stunning views. Speaking of views, we were just passed by a rolling mini family reunion – 4 generations riding in a restored metallic green 70’s Oldsmobile. There’s a bit of blistering rust on the quarter panel, but the motor sounds good and the deep mag wheels are gleaming. With sunglasses on, windows down and arms out catching some A/C, they’re probably singing along with the radio and keeping an eye out for the exit that leads to their favorite ice cream stand. For at least one afternoon, the rest of the world is far from their minds. The Olds just disappeared around a bend and we’re going to have to take one of those “necessary” breaks at the next exit. Good Sunday morning Martin’s Ferry, Ohio! This is a busy little river town. It looks like church just let out. A little restaurant across the street from Grace Presbyterian Church is filled to capacity. A crowd of white-haired couples, all dressed in their Pentecost red is gathered on the sidewalk waiting to be called to their tables at the weekly reunion of the saints. The caffeine club is packing the McDonalds as they pour over the local headlines from the Times Leader. I get the feeling the senses of patriotism, community and kinship here are stronger than the bricks and steel that built these towns.
Down the road a piece at Hannibal, Ohio, back over the Ohio River we go as we enter West Virginia. There’s the sign welcoming us to New Martinsville! Walking into the Lewis Wetzel Community Center, we are greeted by several tables covered with the best salads, meatloaves and desserts anyone could ever want. I ate too much. I’ll let my wife visit with her cousins – I’m heading outdoors with my camera. I’m not surprised in the least to see my little daughter down by the pond with someone’s fishing pole in her hand and several of the cousins giving her pointers. After several hours of fishing, paddle boating, playground fun, and chasing Danny’s huge soap bubbles, it’s time to leave. However, there’s another reunion waiting for us up on Limestone Ridge. The wind blows through the tall grass next to the cemetery. After paying our respects, we drive past one of the homesteads. Cousins who were unable to come to the pot-luck lunch spot us and invite us to join them on the porch to ‘sit for a spell”. I don’t need to go home because I feel like I’m already there – almost Heaven.
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