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Love Stories: Joe and Trudy Harsh

On June 28, Centreville's Trudy and Joe Harsh will be married 40 years. She's from New York and he's from Hagerstown, Md., and they met in 1962 at Gettysburg College in Gettysburg, Pa. But they never had a class there together.

"I was a waitress and Joe was a waiter at the school cafeteria," recalled Trudy. "We were doing a banquet at adjacent tables."

She liked his sense of humor and the way he told a story. Said Trudy: "We'd go out and have a good time and, when he'd talk about it afterward, it sounded better than it was."

On his part, Joe was attracted to her and also liked her calmness and stability. However, he said, "We never agreed on politics — we just don't talk about it."

At college, the couple enjoyed going for walks on the Civil War battlefield, seeing movies and spending time with friends. They dated for two years and married in June 1964 in Trudy's hometown of Baldwin, N.Y.

At that time, Joe was a student at Rice University in Houston, Texas, where he got his Ph.D. He became a visiting professor of history at Oklahoma State and then taught three years at Texas Southern University and three years at the University of Tennessee.

The Harshes moved to Centreville in 1973, living in Chalet Woods for the past 15 years, and Joe — an author and noted expert on the Civil War — taught history at George Mason University for 30 years until retiring in 2003. Trudy concentrated on raising their three children, Laura, 36, and Greg, 31, both of Centreville, and Drew, 33, of Fairfax.

When their family was younger, Joe coached T-Ball for the Centreville T-Ball League, in the 1970s, when both Drew and Greg played. He also served three years as president of the Southwestern Youth Association (SYA) and coached SYA Little League baseball for six years.

Trudy became a Realtor in 1978 and is employed by Long & Foster, Realtors, in Centreville. And last year, she and Centreville resident Marnie Whiteman started The Brain Foundation to raise money to help people afflicted with mental illness.

Nowadays, Joe, 62, and Trudy, 61, like relaxing in their backyard, listening to music and playing cards with their bridge group. "We like the same things; we enjoy spending time together," said Joe. "A day's not really a day until you've talked it over and found out what each other's done."

Trudy believes the secret to their long-time success as a couple is "having such a wonderful husband. He's easier to get along with than I am. I like to have my way, and he'll let me." On Valentine's Day, she said, "We usually exchange cards and Joe gets me flowers."

Joe says the most important thing in marriage is "making the right choice" in the first place. "When I tell someone I've been married 40 years, they say, 'Wow,'" he said. "But you have to work at a marriage, like any relationship. And if the good will is there, you can find the answers."