Two-Week Courtship To 68-Year Romance

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Eleanor and Gar Baybrook have been together 68 years. Gar turned 90 this year and Eleanor will celebrate that milestone in June. They became engaged only two weeks after they met and were married within three months. Their wedding was on May 13, 68 years ago Sunday.

The couple has been a part of Payson since 1964 when they started the Seventh-day Adventist Church here.

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Gar and Eleanor Baybrook built and run Leaves of Autumn Books on Main Street. They celebrated their 68th anniversary on Sunday.

They held the church services in their home and then, in 1974, built the bookstore in front on Main Street. Services then moved to the second floor of the building.

Now the Seventh-day Adventist congregation has a home of its own on St. Phillips Street, across from the Catholic church.

Both Gar and Eleanor are still going strong. He gets up at 4 a.m. every morning and she is up by 5 a.m. They are usually in bed by 9 p.m., but have put in a full day at the store and in the print shop where they make many of the new books they sell.

Gar said he gets tired a little sooner than he used to, but he hasn't seen a doctor in decades.

"We're pretty healthy," Gar said.

"We'll probably keep going until we drop," Eleanor said.

The couple has always been interested in books and during one of their many travels, they stopped by a bookstore they'd seen advertised for sale, Helen's Choice Books. They bought the inventory for a few hundred dollars, but didn't expect to go into the book business right away.

"She said she was getting ready to retire. We thought it would be about a year. A month later, a truck showed up at our house loaded with the books," Gar said.

They cleared out their two-car garage and made it into the bookstore and hired a neighbor to run the store, since they were still working.

The store now has about 25,000 books in its inventory, all are of a religious nature, most are Seventh-day Adventist, "but we have material on all religions," Eleanor said. The bulk of the business is done by mail.

While Eleanor retired from the medical field, it was not the only area into which she ventured. In 1939, she was in business college. Before the United States entered World War II, she took advantage of one of Franklin Roosevelt's programs and learned to be a pilot.

"It was before World War II, but Roosevelt knew we were going to get into it and would need pilots," Eleanor said. "He created the Civilian Pilot Training Program. Everyone had to go to ground school first and then, only the top 10 who passed the test, were allowed to learn to fly."

Eleanor was the second woman pilot in western New York at the time.

When not busy with Leaves of Autumn Books, the couple is still active in their church, hosting a Wednesday night Bible study in their home. They also enjoy a stroll around Main Street and Green Valley Park, when Eleanor's back is not giving her problems.

The couple is not quite as busy as they used to be in the church. Gar resigned as head elder, though he is still an elder, and Eleanor gave up playing the organ at services. For the longest time, there was no one else to do it, but the congregation has grown and there are others with musical talents.

They invite the public to explore the store and its 25,000 volumes.

Leaves of Autumn is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday and from 8 a.m. to noon Friday.

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