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‘Get-together’ unites West Virginia and England

A specialized and tight-knit group will gather in Cross Lanes this weekend for the biannual meeting of the local chapter of the Transatlantic Brides and Parents Association.

"It's a get-together," said Valarie Lilly, who will turn 80 on May 18. "You feel like you are home again."

The association was formed in 1946 by women who had left the shores of England to make new homes in the United States, according to the organization's website.

A similar group was formed in England by those left behind when young women moved away from their homeland to be the brides of American soldiers.

Lilly met her future husband in 1955 when Terry Lilly was serving in the U.S. Army and stationed near Chester, about 15 miles from her hometown of Wallasey. A friend asked her to tag along because the friend wanted to visit her beau, who was an American soldier.

She met Terry on a bus ride and later heard through a friend that the soldier wished to see her again.

He introduced her to the hamburger, a treat she found mouthwatering.

"I had never eaten a hamburger," she said. "I thought it was the best thing on this side of the earth."

They met in early December 1955, and she followed him to America in July 1956 to become his bride.

"My mother said, 'I hope you know what you are doing,' " said Lilly, who was one of eight children.

"We were married in St. Albans. I didn't know anybody. I was so homesick. I was 23. By the time I was 25, I had two children. Everything turned out OK. We'll celebrate 57 years this year."

Terry, 83, is a Carbide retiree.

Valarie said it's nice to get together with folks from her homeland and share stories. Those who have returned to England tell how things are there now.

"There are a lot from London," she said. "We have a real good time."

The local branch of the association includes members from West Virginia, Kentucky and Ohio. Folks will begin arriving on Friday night and stay in a hotel in Cross Lanes because some enjoy being near Mardi Gras Casino and Resort.

There will be a business meeting at the hotel as well as tea and food such as salmon and cucumber sandwiches, trifles and scones. The group will gather to go out to dinner and generally enjoy being together.

"We have British foods and English teas," said Joyce Williams of St. Albans. "We call it the British get-together."

She notes that is because the full name of the organization is a mouthful.

Williams, 74, was just 19 when she met her future husband, Frank Williams, in 1963 at a club in Norwich. They were married in England on Sept. 24, 1963.

"He was in the Air Force, stationed in England," she said. "We married and lived on a base for three years. He was from St. Albans."

They eventually moved to his hometown and became the parents of two sons. They will celebrate a 50th anniversary this year.

"I go home every two years," she said. "I've got two brothers over there."

She expects 15 to 20 people at this weekend's gathering. The group was once larger but shrinks as people move, grow older or pass away, she said.

"We keep it going, but it's getting smaller all the time," she said.  "We just get together and see each other. We all have in common that we are from over there. Some people are looking for someone from their home country."

Catherine McVey, 78, of Kanawha City, and her late husband, James, were both natives of Scotland.

"My husband died a couple of years ago," she said. "I just became part of the group because I was from the British Isles. We come from the same part of the world and share a lot in common."

The local branch meets twice a year, and some in the group meet more frequently. The national group meets in various locations once every two years.

She has loved traveling to the meetings and socializing with people who are inspiring, with stories to tell about their homelands as well as experiences in the United States.

"I am just lucky to be part of both worlds," she said. "It's good fun. We get to travel and meet people from all over the country and hear about their different backgrounds, professions they chose and travels."

Her husband was a draftsman with a job that led to Canada, Pennsylvania and eventually West Virginia.

"It has been an interesting journey," she said. "We were always welcomed in the U.S. and Canada, too. West Virginia is a lot like back home with the hills, and the people are kind of like each other, too. Once you get to know them, they make good friends."     

For more information about the group, call Williams at 304-727-5637.

Contact writer Charlotte Ferrell Smith at or 304-348-1246.


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