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Navy Nurse, Elsie Mason Peyton, 1952

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Boating in Portsmouth, Virginia

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Lt. j.g. William Jarvis and Ensign Elsie Peyton

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Wedding vows

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George Peyton and Elsie

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George Peyton

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Elsie and William in Stanford

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Christmas, 1961


Marriage, June 22, 1952 at the lovely
Presbyterian Church in Williamsburg, Virginia

Diane Lewis Jarvis, born 11/9/53
Eugene Peyton Jarvis, born 1/27/55
Helen Greer Jarvis, born 5/19/64

Elsie is a true Virginian, an old-style Virginian from the interior of the state. Her mother died when she was six-years-old and she was raised by her father who taught her the gentle life. After his retirement as a Latin Professor, his life’s work was as secretary of the American Peony Society. He published the quarterly Peony Society Bulletin. He nurtured a lovely garden of peonies, crossed them to achieve new varieties and sold modest numbers of peony roots. Two of the more famous peonies he developed were named Marion Furnival (after his wife) and Dunlora (his mother’s birthplace). His home and garden bordered the scenic Rapidan River in the tiny Virginia hamlet of Rapidan. Until he died in 1965 he was a living, breathing inspiration to those of us who are caught up in the work-a-day world.

In later years it seemed unreal to imagine that I was in the hospital with a simple duodenal ulcer, the most common type of ulcer. That was 40 years before the discovery of Zantac which would have stopped my ulcer overnight. The doctors at the time felt the best treatment was to put ulcer patients in the tranquility of a hospital and control our diet. The hospital where I met Elsie was certainly more relaxing than life as a deck officer on a destroyer where I had spent most of the previous four years.

Elsie remains loyal to her famous alma mater, Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore where she received her undergraduate degree and her nursing degree from the prestigious College of Medicine. In a 12 year residency, how many patients did she care for in her emergency room, that caldron of human pathos?

Then she joined the Navy as an Ensign, and worked several years at the Portsmouth Naval Hospital where we met.

After our brief romance at the hospital, Elsie and I had a simple wedding in nearby Williamsburg, Virginia. It was all the Navy would permit, one weekend away from duty, not enough time to plan nor include our parents which was unfortunate. Elsie’s Chief Nurse even at first refused her the weekend off, saying that too many nurses were getting married and leaving the service. Finally, to carry out our weekend wedding plans, I had to get permission from the Captain of the hospital with a man-to-man approach.

Elsie learned the value of friendship from her upbringing. Whenever Elsie made a friend it was for life; her old friends would always keep popping up. She would never forget that next-door neighbor in Palo Alto, where she lived many years ago. In fact, many years after moving to nearby Atherton she still did her weekly grocery shopping back at that little homey Midtown Market on Middlefield Road in Palo Alto. Elsie is without pretensions; she takes pride in her openness; what you see is what she is. She would usually say whatever came to her mind, sometimes an untoward remark.

Elsie’s role model was her Aunt Christina who had a country home not too far from Rapidan, with ponds and a group of peacocks promenading around, occasionally spreading their tail feathers showing their finery. Aunt Christina was a grande dame of the country, a very outspoken lady never hesitating to speak her piece. Her estate was in the tiny hamlet of Cuckoo, Virginia. I irreverently referred to her as “Aunt Cuckoo.”

That says it all about my mentality at the time. I just didn’t have time to soak in the culture of that region or what little was remaining of the old culture. Also, that life-style seemed to be diametrically opposed to my pursuits. I was always looking forward with scarcely a backward glance at my past. I had worked all my life to better myself. The question is, “Who is right, who is wrong?” The answer is, “No one.” Elsie was always accepting of things as they were, of old friends be they modest or eccentric. They were enough. They were what you started out with, they are what you have, they are what you come back to.

After I was over the hump and WILTRON was successful, due in part to Elsie’s moral support, patience and physical stamina, I had time for more personal life and this is when our difference in cultures caught up with Elsie and me and we decided to go our separate ways. Our divorce was final in 1972.

Elsie still makes yearly visits to her home in Rapidan from where she can see the Blue Ridge Mountains, a view her father loved so much as his scenic backdrop. She can see the railroad track winding into the mountains and remember her father’s long-time love affair with the trains that passed by his house. He recognized every type of train and would listen to each one as it passed by and rumbled into the distance.

It is interesting how our son, Eugene, and even our daughter Helen to some extent, picked up Elsie’s friends-for-life tradition. For better or for worse their old friends keep popping up and are never lost track of.

Our mutually agreeable divorce didn’t end our friendship, no exceptions there to Elsie’s tradition. In addition to our three children in common, Elsie has taken a friendly interest and some pride in my activities in business and as a winemaker, and I hear from time to time about her family in Virginia.


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