LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
“They lived about a mile from the church. Of course, I was fortunate enough to have a car, a Model A,” Sumner said. “I’d drive it down to the church, walk her home and walk back to the church to get the car. Her mom wouldn’t allow any car rides.”
“Times have really changed,” Dora added.
These walks, referred to as “dates” by Lester and Dora, continued for about a year before the couple married. The marriage was a small affair with only one other couple in attendance – Mark and Jean Sumner, Lester’s cousin and his soon-to-be wife.
The two couples drove in Lester’s Model A to Jellico, Tenn., to get a two-hour blood test before heading off to Williamsburg to be wed. Soon after, the two couples simply drove back home to McCreary County.
“I saw on the news the other day that most weddings cost at least $4,400 dollars – some of them go up to $25,000. I suppose we spent less than $10,” Lester said. “We didn’t tell many people that we were getting married. Our parents knew about it – I did talk to her dad about it.”
No one was present on that day in 1943 knew this was the start of an extraordinary family story. Lester worked as a coal miner, had a brief stint in the Army, only to wind up at the Forestry Service for 31 years. Dora spent most of her days at home gardening, canning, sewing – anything that needed to be done. However, most of her time was spent raising the couple’s seven children.
From those seven children came 18 grandchildren. From those 18 grandchildren came 22 great-grandchildren. Two great-great grandchildren have made their way into the world, adding to the already impressive Sumner legacy.
“All of our children had a good education. Four of them have master’s degrees, one of them has a doctorate degree,” Dora said. “We’ve got two grandchildren who are into medical school now. They’re going to be doctors. We’ve done pretty good – we’ve been blessed with a family and a roof over our head.”