February 14, 2014

Lasting Love (Celebrating 50 plus years of marriage): The Hagedorns

By Dana Labhart

LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — A chance encounter on a Sunday afternoon in the small town of Troy, Ind., sparked an immediate dislike that ended up in marriage which will celebrate its 65th wedding anniversary on May 28, 2014.

In 1947, Evelyn Goffinet and her friend were heading back home after her family picnic at the park. They were pushing their bicycles up a big hill because they were tired. Hearing a loud car with noisy passengers and loud music drive up behind them, they skirted the side of the road. The vehicle slowed down and was full of young men. One of them was a Hagedorn boy. The boys asked if they were tired of walking. Evelyn’s answer was, “Yes, I guess so.” The young men replied, “Try running.” Then they sped off.

Evelyn was so angry, when she returned home she told her mother what happened and instructed her if a Hagedorn boy ever called, to say she was not there.  After several days passed, the phone rang and Evelyn had to answer it. It was Louis Hagedorn whom Evelyn had no desire so see. Speaking on the phone with him, she was overcome by his gentle speaking and kind voice, also remembering he was very handsome.  Louis asked her if she would go on a date with him. Her mind said “no,” but her heart said “yes.” They dated about two years.

Both being from Catholic families, they were married at St. Paul’s Catholic Church on May 28, 1949. It was a picturesque wedding with white dress and tux and bridesmaids all wearing pastel spring colors. They had every detail covered, or so they thought. They forgot to arrange for Evelyn to be picked up and taken to the church. As the church bells were ringing, she was standing in her front yard, adorned in her wedding attire, waving at her friends who worked at General Electric (GE) across the street when finally a good friend arrived to pick her up. She was 15 minutes late and Louis was already thinking she had changed her mind.

Louis worked with his father and brothers at HH Hagedorn and Sons Lumber Company. The company’s saw mill was across the Ohio River in Kentucky. Louis would get up early Monday morning, leave for work and return home on Friday with a big load of lumber. On Saturdays, he would deliver the lumber to Tell City Chair Company. Evelyn went to work at the GE Plant.

Evelyn missed Louis being gone all the time and took a leave of absence from GE to go with him to Kentucky. 

They were housed with Louis’ father and two brothers in a small 20 by 24 foot cabin with bunk beds on one end and a small kitchen on the other. There was one door and one window in the kitchen. No running water, no electricity, no heat, no gas, no bathroom. They used lanterns for lighting and retrieved water for drinking, cooking and bathing from a spring in the woods.

Evelyn’s job was to cook for the guys while they were working all day at the sawmill.  On an old cast iron step stove, she would cook breakfast, then a pot of beans almost every night and lunch would consist of leftovers from dinner.

After Louis and his brother, Lee, visited London, they decided it would be a great place to start a veneer and plywood mill. They rented a house and in February 1951 with their 7-month-old son Dan, Louis and Evelyn moved to London and opened Cumberland Forest Products Company.

During the years from 1952 through 1965, Louis and Evelyn added five more children to their family. Stephen in 1952, Tom in 1955, Mark in 1959, Jenny in 1953 and Jane in 1965. These were joyous and prosperous times for the Hagedorn family.

But in 1957, unthinkable tragedy struck the family. One which would tax any relationship or family. Her sons, Dan and Stephen, were  outside playing when they were struck by a speeding car that lost control and ran into her yard, hit a tree and continued toward the house. As the car came toward the house, it knocked Dan to the ground and ran over him. Stephen was frantically running toward the porch when the car ran over him. The vehicle nearly hit Louis as it came to rest under the kitchen window.

They were rushed to the hospital. At the hospital, they learned their son Stephen, 5, was dead. Dan, 7, survived with a broken collar bone and emotional trauma over losing his brother.

“The loss was almost more than we could stand and to have seen it all,” Evelyn said. “Since then, there has been a hole in our hearts that has never been filled.”

Hardship continued in October 1966 when the sawmill burned. It was a huge financial loss for the Hagedorns, as they had a $10,000 order setting right by the front door of the mill ready to deliver.

Their youngest child was just a year old, and with no income and five children to feed, times were pretty tough. It took a pretty good while to completely rebuild the mill. Since then, the years have blessed them as their sons, Tom and Mark, have taken over the family business. They are a tight knit family who enjoy the company of each other and “would do anything for each other,” said Evelyn. 

Louis and Evelyn, at ages 90 and 85 respectively, are still happily married with five living children and loving memories of Stephen, eight living grandchildren, fond memories of one deceased grandchild, and four great-grandchildren, all of Laurel County.

Evelyn’s tip for young, married couples today, “If you love each other, don’t give up at the first hardship. Even if you are put out with them, know that you still love them.”

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Dana Labhart is a freelance writer for The Sentinel-Echo.