by Joni Astrup
Inside a shed at Bailey Point in Elk River was an old board carved with initials that John Babcock suspected was well worth saving.
So before he sold the property to the city last fall, he took out the board, dusted it off and brought it to work at The Bank of Elk River to show his colleague, Stewart Wilson.
Babcock figured one set of initials on the board belonged to Wilson’s dad, and he was right.
Turns out two pairs of initials — T.W. and P.L.P. — surrounded by a heart belong to Wilson’s parents, Tom and Prudy (LaPoint) Wilson, and that board stands as a testament to their lasting love.
Stewart cleaned up the board and gave it to his parents for Christmas this year, much to their surprise.
Tom figures he carved their initials about 70 years ago — likely in 1942 or 1943 while he and Prudy were still in high school. They’ve now been married for 63 years.
Tom grew up two houses away from the Baileys, who owned Bailey Point for years. He was good friends with the Bailey brothers and they spent many hours on the point.
“We covered every bit of that property,” Tom said.
He believes the board is the cover to a wood box that was inside a shop that the Baileys had on the point. The shop was well equipped with tools, which would have made it easy to do the carving, he said.
He and Prudy have been able to figure out the names represented by all of the initials carved on the board. Many were people they knew in high school.
Tom and Prudy met when he was a sophomore and she was a freshman at Elk River High School. He was from Elk River, she was from Dayton.
“She was kind of cute. She still is,” Tom said.
Prudy said their first date was two weeks after the Dec. 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor. He gave her a ride home from a Christmas dance at school. Prudy said Tom was her first date and she was “totally surprised.”
They went on to become high school sweethearts.
“The war really crimped the dating thing,” Tom recalled. “You just didn’t travel around.” People with cars were limited to three gallons of gas a week, he explained.
As a result, he and Prudy — whose nickname was Peanut — got to know each other mostly through school events.
Tom graduated from Elk River High School in 1944 and Prudy followed a year later.
After graduation, Tom went into the service. Prudy wrote to him nearly every day, and Tom said some of the guys he was in service with seemed kind of mad that he was getting so much mail.
They were married on Aug. 20, 1949. Today they have four children (a son and three daughters) as well as six grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
“We got married and had a wonderful family and a great life,” Tom said.
They raised their family in Elk River, where Tom started out in the automobile business and went on to manage some family business ventures. Both he and Prudy were also active in the Elk River community. Today they split their time between Florida and Minnesota.
Asked their secret to a long marriage, Prudy said: “I would say that we’ve had a very loving, respectful relationship.”
Tom said: “We’ve been together so long — we almost grew up together. We’ve been a part of each other’s lives and life has been good for us.”
And as for that initialed board?
They plan to have a polyurethane finish put on it, add some legs and turn it into a one-of-a-kind coffee table.