Ernie and Rose Pinkston will be observing two special occasions on June 30 when they celebrate, along with family and friends, Ernie’s 90th birthday and the couple’s 70th wedding anniversary.
It’s apparently going to be quite an event, but more about that later. To truly appreciate the specialness of any celebration like this one, it’s always helpful to know a little bit about the people being recognized.
Ernie Pinkston was born to Ethal (Archambo) and Herman Pinkston on Feb. 14, 1929, in an old St. Joe house, in Flat River — the area where the Park Hills Social Security office is located today. The family moved out to the country, in Ste Genevieve County, when Ernie was around 2 years old. He was the middle child of his parent’s nine children, made up of seven boys and two girls.
During his early years, Ernie worked his Grandpa Archambo’s farm near French Village. In addition, he attended school and hunted with his brothers and friends. They sold animal hides from opossums, squirrel, rabbits, raccoon, muskrat, deer and even skunks. Times were hard, so everyone worked. Ernie went barefoot all summer but got new shoes every fall for school.
His “public life” began around the age of 12 when he was chosen as a “runner” by his teacher due to the fact that he had proven himself to be a very responsible student — and he could run fast. Because of his fleetness of foot, Ernie was to warn schools and others of the danger if the Japanese were to bomb the United States. He was given the responsibility to run from Cave Springs, now Ausbury Chapel, to Fairview Church. Ernie recalls the distance as being about eight miles. Thankfully Ernie never had to perform that duty.
At age 13, Ernie came down with pneumonia and so a doctor from the Farmington State Hospital made a house call as a favor to Ernie’s father. Luckily the young man survived what was then an often times fatal disease.
Ernie was the first of his family to attend high school. He rode a bus from way out in the country to Desloge High School. It was while riding the bus that he met a sweet young lady named Rose Eaton. So, the couple’s love story actually started in 1944 — 75 years ago. Today they are high school sweethearts who have now been married for 70 years.
Ernie played a bass horn in the high school band and has several interesting stories of how he walked home from basketball games in brutal winter weather where the band had played. He loved music and played guitar for fun. Ernie later taught his son Gary some things about music and encouraged him when he later formed a band.
In September 1946, Ernie begged his mom to sign papers giving him permission join the Army. He was 5 foot, 5 inches when he entered the service at a time when recruits had to be at least 5 foot, 1 inch to qualify. After Ernie’s mom signed the forms, he was sent to Japan, so instead of attending his senior year of high school, he spent the year sleeping in a cold barracks.
While Ernie was away, Rose attended school where she was learning to cook and sew in her home economics class, as well as picking up tips at home from her mom, Mattie Eaton. Rose said it was good that she learned to cook, because she has fed people from all over the world in their dining room.
“Thanks to my kids,” she said with a chuckle.
Rose wrote to Ernie every day, even though there was only mail call once a week, he said the letters kept him going.
World War II was officially over on Dec. 31, 1946, but Ernie was not sent home immediately. He wrote Rose and told her he would see her on Christmas Eve 1947. Rose was excited Ernie was coming home. She sat, waited and watched until one day she finally spotted Ernie’s car lights. He came home with a diamond ring and asked Rose to be his wife. Seventy years later they still talk about how exciting it was for him to be back home from the war and how they then started planning their lives after both were out of school.
Ernie credits his teacher, Mr. Brightwell, for encouraging him to finish high school after he returned to the states. He took two English classes, as well as trade school welding. Ernie proudly walked with the graduating class of 1948. Rose graduated in May 1949 and the couple married June 25, 1949. Rev. Lewis married them at the Desloge Methodist Church with Rose’s best friend Pat Seal serving as her bridesmaid. Both Ernie and Rose had to have their parents sign for them due to their young ages.
The couple began their married life living in St. Louis where Ernie had a job working for International Hat Company making helmets for the war. Rose was hired by the Southwestern Bell Telephone Company. They returned to the rural Farmington area where Ernie worked for his father-in-law, John S. Eaton. Asked why, the couple explained that it was because every time they came back home to visit, Rose’s grandpa, John T. Eaton, cried and wanted them to “come home.” So, they moved back before their first child was born Sept. 11, 1950.
Ernie and Rose spoke of many proud moments they experienced as parents over their 70 years of wedded life — when one of their sons, Gary, was drafted into the Army and stationed in Germany, in special services with music. Other cherished memories include the day he became a teacher and his involvement with foreign exchange students.
The couple’s daughter, Pam, attended Southeast Missouri State University and later worked with the Department of Family Services. Their other son, Dwaine, played football in 9th grade and worked for several airlines that included North Central, Republic, Northwestern and Delta. Dwaine and his family have lived in several states.
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With the typical pride of a grandpa and grandma, Ernie and Rose talked about how much they’ve enjoyed watching their grandson Jared when he won the state champion for running a mile and other grandson, Alex, ride his bike in the BMX bike races where he won state at the ages of 5, 6, 9, 10, 11 and 12. He also won regional in baseball, went on to state and eventually played in the Cal Ripken World Series in Maryland. As a side note, Cal Ripken signed a baseball for Alex which he gave to his grandpa. The two also enjoyed watching Ben Arand play basketball together when he was in high school and college.
Ernie and Rose are proud of their granddaughters as well. Audra is a teacher in the Farmington School District, Megan is an eye doctor at Clarkson Eye Care. Natalie was a dancer in the Nutcracker and now teaches in Pennsylvania, Lindsay was a volleyball player and Kortney is a beautician.
Rose and Ernie are quick to say that they are also blessed to have 12 great-grandchildren.
During the conversation, the couple kept adding to the memories they shared as they remembered the joys each had brought to their lives. They both smiled as they remembered their children and grandchildren growing up. They also admitted it all happened too fast.
Some of the highlights of Ernie’s life were joining Farmington Elks Lodge 1765 in 1965. He has many memorable experiences such as meeting Dick Weber at Dick Weber Lanes in 1970. It was while competing at the Elks State Championship where Dick bowled a 666 and Ernie a 691.
Ernie also remembers making the longest putt — about 72 feet — at the Weedy Elk’s tournament held in Jackson. He has participated in all the Elk’s tournaments since 1972 and plans to play in September at the St. Francois Country Club. He is the only Elk to participate in all of the Weedy tournaments held through the years.
Ernie has earned many trophies in the sports of horseshoe pitching, golf, bowling, fishing and playing pool. He is extremely proud of his service in the U.S. Army, as well as proud of other family members who served in the Navy and Air Force.
As Ernie thinks back over the last 90 years, he expresses his pride in being elected to the first official ambulance board for St. Francois County around 1965. He even drove an ambulance back from Jefferson City.
Ernie is involved in the Men’s Club at Memorial United Methodist Church where he has helped with dinners and various other activities. He has also enjoyed the honor of carrying the huge American Flag in numerous parades with his brother Elks. Ernie is also a former member of the Jaycees.
He worked for the Missouri Natural Gas Company for 20 years and then 22 years for Laclede Gas until his retirement in 1994. He worked for several cities as an engineer for a total of more than 42 years.
Rose is proud of her sorority involvement and in the Cedar Falls Extension Club of which her mother was a charter member. Rose is still a member of Cedar Falls Friendship Club where she is the president.
Through the years Ernie and Rose have traveled to many destinations that include Mexico, Canada, Germany, Spain, Hawaii, Austria and many others in the state.
Rose held several interesting jobs over the years but admits she has most enjoyed her job as a wife, mother, grandmother and now great-grandmother.
An open house to celebrate Ernie’s 90th birthday and the couple’s 70th wedding anniversary will take place 3-5 p.m. June 30 at Memorial United Methodist Church in Farmington.
The event is being hosted by their children Gary (Jacki) Pinkston, Pamela (Larry) Agnew, Dwaine (Vicki) Pinkston and their grandchildren Jared (Martine) Pinkston, Natalie (Cody) Maximowicz, Audra (Carl)Redmond, Lindsay (Alex) Burgoudian, Ben (Rosie) Arand, Megan (Curt) Crowell, Kortney (Gary) Nichols, and Alex Pinkston.
Rose and Ernie, along with their family, are inviting family and friends to drop by to add another memory to their lives. The presence of friends is the only present the couple requests.