Area couple looks back on life together

An Elkins native, Zan White was born in the Elkins jail and lived there for 16 years. Rather than pursuing a life of crime, he stayed on the right side of the law, especially since his father was a Randolph County deputy sheriff and the jailer.

“In those days, from 1925 to 1940, half of the jail behind the Elkins Courthouse was living quarters for employees,” White said.

“My mother cooked meals for the prisoners, and at one time, nine of us lived there.”

After Army Air Corps service and graduation from West Virginia University with an electrical engineering degree, White began working full-time for the phone company in management.

He and his future wife, Sarah, met at the telephone company, dated for two years and will celebrate their 65th anniversary on Sept 5.

The Chesapeake and Potomac Telephone Co. was integral to their marriage. Sarah was a telephone operator, and Zan was working there part-time while he went to WVU. They met at a union meeting and later went on a blind date. A short-term job for Zan morphed into a thriving career that took the couple all over the country.

“I really don’t know the secret of being married so long,” Sarah said. “We don’t quarrel much, we just get along.”

After Army Air Corps service and graduation from WVU with an electrical engineering degree, Zan began working full-time for the phone company in management.

“I used to say Sarah got married to me to change her last name – it was Fink,” Zan said.

Sarah, a Morgantown native, stopped working after the birth of the first of their three sons.

“I put him through school for two years,” Sarah said.

Zan’s burgeoning career took the family to Baltimore, Bethesda, Charleston, Fairmont, Summit, New Jersey and Washington, D.C. His 40-year career with the company also spanned the corporate name changes from C&P to Bell Atlantic, to AT&T and finally Verizon.

“I loved New York City. It was so much fun,” Sarah said. She would take a Erie-Lackawanna train from from Summit to the Hoboken, N.J. terminal and then take the subway to uptown Manhattan.

The Erie Lackawanna Railroad and Ferry Terminal in Hoboken is now listed on the New Jersey and National Register of Historic Places. The entire structure sits over water on a steel and concrete foundation. It is still used for commuter rail, rapid transit rail, buses and ferries.

Prior to retiring in 1982, Zan was a department head in charge of contracting and engineering for the state of West Virginia.

A sense of humor seems a key component of their long marriage.

“He’s always right, and I’m always wrong,” Sarah said.

And the couple has stayed busy since retirement. They traveled for a while following WVU football games which took them to Boston, Honolulu, and New Orleans and other major cities.

“We used to go five or six times a year to D.C. One of our sons lives there,” Sarah said. “But I’ll be 85, and Zan will be 90 soon, so now it’s time to settle down and be happy.”

Golf is still a favorite activity for the Whites. Zan has been in a senior golf league for over 20 years. Sarah took up golf when her children were young.

“It was a way to keep an eye on three little boys all the time,” she said.

For a while, the Whites hosted Forest Festival princesses.

“One year it was so cold in October that I got them long johns to wear under their gowns,” Sarah said All told, the couple hosted 40 members of Forest Festival royalty.

Volunteering also is a way of life for the Whites. Zan was active in Rotary and the Junior Chamber of Commerce. Sarah has volunteered for more than 15 years at the Davis Memorial Hospital Cancer Center.

“I’m giving something back to the community,” Sarah said. “Cancer patients are pretty special. I enjoy going there.”

Meanwhile, Zan is a member of the ROMEOs, -Retired Old Men Eating Out – which meets at McDonald’s every day.

“We wouldn’t move from Elkins because of the friendships we have here,” Sarah said.