By Nita Johnson
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — Anita Anderson Larkey has a strong belief in lasting marriage.
In fact, of her nine siblings, she is the only one in her family who has not divorced.
Her reasoning is simple: “I feel like God put us together and we always tried to do what was right.”
The “we” includes her husband of nearly 55 years, David Larkey.
Anita’s father worked as a truck driver and a farmer, and her mother gardened, canned foods, and did sewing to support their 10 children. There was 21 years between the oldest and youngest Anderson child, so Anita only remembers five children living at home as she grew up on south U.S. 25.
The Larkeys lived on what is now North Mill Street where his father Pete Tilmon “P.T.” Larkey operated a small grocery store and later began selling Stoker coal furnaces to support his wife and nine children.
David and Anita met when she was 12 years old. Her neighbor, Opal Miller, taught Sunday School at First Assembly Church, then on Fifth Street in London, and invited her to go. David was in the same Sunday School class as Anita.
“We didn’t like each other much,” David said, laughing. “I thought she was snooty and she thought I was a smart aleck — and I was.”
“I wasn’t snooty; I was always shy,” Anita replied.
But when David and his friends, Bill Smith and Don House, joined the Army on the “Buddy Plan,” Mrs. Miller thought it would be nice for the Sunday School class to write to some of the soldiers from the area.
“I decided to write to David,” Anita said. “After we started writing, we found out our families knew each other. His mother stayed with my mother while my dad was away working.”
The couple got to know each other through letters. David, meanwhile, would take his furlough time from the Army to come home, even hitchhiking on two different times when he could not get a ride from Battle Creek, Mich., during his training.
“I’d come home and we’d go out on a date,” he said.
“We just hit it off,”Anita added.
On May 17, 1959, the couple were married at the First Assembly of God Church in London by Larkey’s brother-in-law, Troy Boggs. Anita was 17 and David was 18 years old. Anita went with her husband to Michigan, but once he completed his service time, the couple headed closer to their native home.
“I had some family in Cincinnati and we went there to stay with them while I looked for a job,” David said. “But there were 6,000 people laid off at that time.”
After a few months with no job for David, the couple returned to London and stayed with David’s parents for a month. Those days were hard, and jobs were scarce.
“I had two weeks of unemployment left and a wife and a five-month-old child (Dwight),” David said. “I went from January 21 until June of 1961 looking for a job. I knocked on every door of every business in London.”
David and Anita’s cousin were planning to go to Indianapolis to try their luck, but the plans changed when David called the London Western Auto Store on Main Street.
“That store was owned by Gene Lowe and George Mistler and I heard they needed help,” David said. “I called the store and told them I needed a job and whoever answered said OK. After I started working there, they said it was lucky I got the job, because if the other one had answered the phone, they would have told me no because they thought someone should ask for a job in person instead of calling.”
“I was making less working there than I was drawing unemployment, but it was getting ready to run out and I had a family to take care of,” he said.
After eight years at Western Auto, Larkey joined his father’s business.
The couple had added to their family by that time, welcoming daughter Lisa when Dwight was five years old. The Larkeys were content to have a boy and girl each, but soon David urged Anita to have a third child.
“David is David William and Dwight is Dwight David,” Anita explained. “He kept saying he needed a son named William, so we had William Anderson, which is his middle name and my maiden name. All of our children are five years apart.”
When William started school, Anita joined the family business, where the couple said they got along well. Their relationship had become stronger during the time they lived away from their families, they said, because they had to depend on each other.
That, combined with their faith in God, is the tie that binds the family together even now.
“We both were raised in Christian homes and we raised our children in church,” Anita added.
They also credit good management and luck for their success in the business, Larkey HVAC, now located on North Mill Street.
“Our business did well and we sold our house and made a little money, and we’ve been blessed,” David said. “We’ve always had our faith in God and we’ve always kept our eyes where they’re supposed to be. That’s the bottom line for us.”