By James Downing - 03/28/06 12:00 AM EST
Erma Ora James Byrd, the wife of Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.), died Saturday after struggling with a long illness. The couple had been married for 69 years.
Erma was a coal miner’s daughter who met her future husband at Mark Twain Grade School in Raleigh County. They were married in a simple ceremony when they were 19.
The Byrds came from humble beginnings. Their first refrigerator was half of an orange crate nailed to the side of their home.
Byrd was a state senator when he was elected to the U.S. House in 1952. Erma met presidents, kings and celebrities, but those around her say she never lost the common-sense values of West Virginia.
She is survived by her husband, two daughters, five grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.