CHASSAHOWTIZKA, Fla. – Life has been a wonderful ride for a Florida couple, so it was only fitting that they would celebrate their 75th anniversary with an excursion in a minivan that allowed them to wave to their many friends.
Friendship is nothing new for the Hartways. Warren Hartway Jr., 99, and Annabelle Crawford Hartway, 93, have been partners since they met in western New York during the 1940s. They have made friends along the way during Warren Hartway’s four decades as a pastor in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
Warren Hartway and Annabelle Crawford were married on Aug. 10, 1946, in Barre, New York, according to New York marriage records.
According to the Citrus County Chronicle, the couple celebrated their milestone anniversary last week with a ride through the streets of Chassahowitzka, a town located about 70 miles north of Tampa.
Annabelle Hartway wanted to ride through their neighborhood in a golf cart decorated with balloons, but her husband was having trouble walking, the newspaper reported.
The youngest of the couple’s three children, Judy Potter, solved the problem, opening up the hatchback of her minivan, securing her parents in the back seat and driving them through the neighborhood.
“Mom got her dream,” Potter, who lives with her parents, told the Chronicle. “That day was a full family affair with all three children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and nephews and nieces from both sides of the family. It was wonderful.”
Warren Hartway attended Houghton College in western New York and was ordained from the Temple School of Theology. He later spent time at Gettysburg Seminary in Pennsylvania and also taught evening classes at Shelton College in New Jersey, the Sun and Erie County Independent of Hamburg, New York, reported in 2003.
His life changed when he met Annabelle Crawford.
“It was World War II and I was in the Navy Seabees home on leave and went to church,” Warren Hartway told the Chronicle. “I was on the front porch of the church with some friends and I saw this girl walking in and thought, ‘Wow!’”
Annabelle had been dating Hartway’s brother, but one day after church she met Warren Hartway at the local cemetery, which was a local hangout for the town’s youths. After a year, Warren Hartway proposed, according to the Chronicle.
After receiving her mother’s blessing, Annabelle accepted. Their marriage has produced three children, four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
Warren Hartway began his career in the ministry in 1947. He helped pioneer the building of the Wesleyan Methodist Mission of Big Tree (later known as Big Tree Wesleyan Methodist Church) in western New York in 1950 after the old structure was damaged by heavy winds, the Sun and Erie County Independent reported.
“There was no house for us to live in,” Annabelle Hartway told the Citrus County Chronicle in a 2016 interview. “But there was a 30-by-60 building on-site, and we partitioned off a 10-by-20 room, and that’s where we lived. The rest of it was for church services and Sunday school. But I was raised on a farm in a family with nine kids, so I knew what to do.”
Warren Hartway also had stints as a pastor for the Cookman Methodist Church in Columbia, Pennsylvania; the Alice Focht Methodist Church in Birdsboro, Pennsylvania; the West End Chapel in North Plainfield, New Jersey; and the Bloomingdale Methodist Church in Bloomingdale, New Jersey.
He also spent one month on a mission trip to India in 1973, according to the Paterson News.
While Warren was a pastor, Annabelle kept busy, teaching weekly Bible classes in their communities through the years.
After four decades serving the church, the Hartways retired to Citrus County in 1987. They live down the street from their church, the First Baptist Church of Chassahowitzka, according to the Chronicle. When needed, Warren Hartway served as a fill-in pastor at the church, the newspaper reported in 2011.
For his 90th birthday on Nov. 18, 2011, Warren Hartway was honored with a day in his honor by the First Baptist Church, the Chronicle reported. The sermon that day was preached by his son, Rev. Gene Hartway, who followed his father’s footsteps and was the pastor of the New Life Fellowship Church in Bordentown, New Jersey.
On his “day,” Warren Hartway spoke about the secret to a long, happy marriage.
“You have to give and take,” he told the Chronicle. “If one person tries to have it all one way, it doesn’t work out. Sometimes you give in and sometimes she gives in. After a while you get to know each other enough so it’s just harmonious.”
“My advice for a lasting marriage is a lot of forgiveness and a lot of overlooking small stuff,” Annabelle Hartway told the newspaper. “Live one day at a time, but always with the Lord. … We have a song from World War II that goes, ‘Kiss me once and kiss me twice and kiss me once again. …’
“It’s meaningful to us because you can’t go to bed mad and kiss and still stay mad. So, if we’re having a goodnight kiss, we won’t be mad at one another.”
Or, as Warren Hartway’s favorite saying goes, “There’s the right way, the wrong way, and the Hartway.”
That credo has worked for 75 years and counting.
Information from online newspaper archives was also used in compiling this story.
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