Lifetime of Love
ALMA – After 65 years of marriage, Junior and Barbara Fletcher tend to finish each other sentences, kiss each other as they leave they the house and still hold each other’s hands in church. Going into Valentine’s Day weekend, they shared the secret of love and how their long marriage.
“The secret to a long marriage is being in the will of God and his blessings,”Junior said.
Barbara quickly added, “We always did everything together. He never stopped anywhere after work, but came home to be with his family. We talk and we argue, laugh and cry.”
The couple started dating as they were attending Tyler County High School. Junior was raised in the Jug while Barbara grew up nearby in Alma. She was a high school senior and he was a junior – about nine months separate the two.
“I’m nine months older, so I’m nine months smarter I guess,” she said with a laugh.
The two lovebirds spent time together roller skating at a rink that no longer exists and going to movies. She had a car.
“That’s all there was to do around here go skating or go to a movie in Middlebourne,” said Barbara Ann, who was then 19 years old.
There is a black and white photo of Barbara on the wall above the Fletcher’s fireplace that shows a classic beauty standing next to a young man by a tall tree.
“What did she have that made her want to go with me?” said Junior, who was then 18 years old and about to finish high school. “She was very pretty. A very pretty girl. A good kid. I was just attracted to her.”
Barbara added, “As for him, he’s very easy to get along with. Like I say, we talk. He is just a good guy. He’s helpful and real loving. We do things to please each other.”
They were married April 10, 1950 and have four sons – Larry, Terry, Garry and Barry – that they raised on their 115-acre farm deep in the heart of Tyler County. Years later, they would be the proud grandparents of 10 grandchildren, 15 great-grandchildren and three great-great grandchildren.
“We have a big family, a wonderful family,” said Barbara, 86, now a great-great grandmother. “Our kids are all good, honest, hardworking people. They are good to us. We have a wonderful family.”
Junior added, “We have been together a long time. We get more compliments on that more than anything.”
What is the secret to happy marriage? Junior said the answer is God.
“Oh yeah. Your spiritual life is your most important life,” said Junior, 85, a pastor for more than 38 years in local churches. “Get in the will of God and stay there.”
His advice for a long marriage is to be considerate of others.
“Don’t go your selfish ways,” he said. “You give up a lot of things when you are married you know. A lot of people like to go hunting. I hunt a little, but I never took off on weekend hunts with other people. I always felt that if I was married to a woman than I needed to be with her. Where you see Barbara, you see me. I always advised my kids not to get hobbies that takes you away from your house, your family.”
Junior said worship leads to good things.
“I never let my job, my farm or even my children interrupt our worship,” he said. “No matter what, our church life came first. Same way with your family. You got to show some attention. We try to go to all our kids ballgames. They were athletes in high school. We were there. Now, we go watch our great-grandkids play football, baseball, volleyball, soccer all there is. We’re a close family, but you got to work at it.”
Junior explained how a family stays happy, together.
“You can’t hold grudges,” he said. “You can get mad, but don’t stay there. If you stay mad, it becomes hatred. The Bible says to love your wife as Christ loved the church.”
Barbara added, “The thing of it is, you got to put God first; husband, wife family.”
Junior said keep disagreements in perspective and gain strength from family and friends.
“You know, if you have a disagreement, have a disagreement but get over it,” he said. “Don’t harbor on it for very long. We are not strong enough to carry all the burdens in life that we have. You got to let the Lord help with it. You get your strength through other people. That’s why you go to church.”
The Fletcher’s don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day too much, though they’ll spend time together.
“We don’t make big deals out of anything,” Barbara said. “We give each other a Valentine, tell each other you love them.”
Junior lightly dismissed Valentine’s Day, and said almost in unison with Barbara, said, “Thanksgiving and Christmas are our big days because that’s when our family gets together.”
She said, “When we’re all here, there’s like 40 of us with all of our kids and grandkids.”
Though it has been 65 years since they’ve made their marriage vows, they still act like teenagers.
“We hold hands in church. We do,” Barbara said. “We kiss each other good-bye all the time.”
Junior broke in, “We’re always together.”
Barbara finished, “We’re close. That’s the only way you can be happy. Let the Lord in you know you’re doing right.”