After 70 years together, it’s still family first

By David Fleet
Atlas Twp. — It was a chance meeting in church more than 70 years ago.
In the late 1940s, Flint native Bob Foy was a seminarian at the University of Notre Dame destined for the priesthood. Verda Lethbridge, also a Flint native, was the sister of his best friend.
Bob returned home to Flint for his best friend’s wedding, of which Verda was a bridesmaid.
“That wedding was the first time we met each other,” said Verda, now 92. “Bob was heading back to the seminary. His parents really wanted him to be a priest, but that never happened.”
Bob’s life changed direction on June 6, 1953, the couple were married at St. Michael’s Catholic Church, Flint, beginning a journey that included six children, military deployments and an unrelenting commitment to keep family first.
“We’re now coming up on 70 years together,” laughed Bob, 91.
The couple lived in Flint while Bob attended the University of Detroit-ROTC before serving 20 years in the United States Air Force where he flew 129 combat missions in Vietnam serving as a navigator.
As a military couple they lived in several communities throughout the United States and raised six children Robbie, Linda, Diane, Theresa, Kimberly and Bradley. Kimberly and Robbie are now deceased.
“Our time together over the years was great,” said Verda. “Bob was always very busy, but always found time for us, and family. Years ago we lived in Virginia and Bob was stationed at the Pentagon, he had a lot of responsibility, however we always kept the weekend for the family. Everything stopped for our family. My advice for couples, put your family first, that’s just so important for moms and dads today to hear.”
“We did not fight and don’t now,” said Verda. “If we got angry at each other we got over it quickly. He just can’t stay mad for very long. Bob took care of the babies, and would get up in the night with me. It was just not my job, we work very well together.”
Verda recalled celebrating Mass as a family.
“I had all my babies dressed up for church on Sunday morning when we lived in Virginia,” she said. “I had one priest that stood outside the door after Mass and asked me, “How long did it take you to get all those children ready for church?” I was just so proud of that. And Bob always helped me, dressing the kids and caring for them.”
Bob would retire in 1975 as a full colonel in the Air Force. The couple returned to Flint and later purchased a home and property in Atlas Township.
That same year he was hired by Flint Mass Transportation Authority, serving as general manager for 26 years before retiring in 2012, at 83 years old. Bob was one of six people inducted into the Michigan Transportation Hall of Fame in 2014. His plaque is on permanent display in the Van Wagoner Transportation Building in Lansing.
“Attending church was always a priority for our family,” she said.
In the 1970s, Bob along with other area families petitioned then Bishop Kenneth Povish to consider a Catholic Church for the Goodrich area.
“Bob was one of the letter writers that helped bring St. Mark’s to Atlas Township,” said Verda.
In 1978 the first Mass was celebrated at the Goodrich Library, however, the facility was not large enough to accommodate the number interested. The congregation moved to the Goodrich High School cafeteria, with high school classrooms serving as religious education areas.
In 1979, land was purchased for the building site and a fund drive began. The ground-breaking ceremony took place in 1981, with 150 registered families by this time.  The first Mass at St. Mark the Evanglist Catholic Church, 7296 Gale Road was celebrated in the newly constructed church in January 1982.
“I’d recommend being married,” said Verda. “It was hard leaving my parents when I first married. But being together for 70 years is wonderful and it’s a great life.”

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