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An everlasting love

FRANKLIN LIVING—

“Loving you is some kind of wonderful because you’ve shown me just how much you care. You’ve given me the thrill of a lifetime and made me believe you have more thrills to spare.” Natalie Cole might well have been singing about the lifelong commitment of several Franklin County couples with her hit 1975 single “This Will Be” – couples who, with more than 50 years of marriage under their belts, are dedicated to an everlasting love. After decades of successful marriage, these couples also have everlasting memories and advice to share.

The golden anniversary has long been a treasured milestone for married couples, and that’s just as true for Franklin County lovebirds – like Ellis and Willodean Davis, who were wed Christmas Day, 1955, at Eastside Baptist Church. She was 15, and he was 19, and 64 years later, the Davises still cherish the love they felt for each other then.

The Davises first met going to gospel singings. At one time, Ellis was dating Willodean’s aunt, while Ellis’ buddy was dating Willodean. Ellis and Willodean, however, seemed meant to be together, and after they spent one Saturday going for a drive and attending a singing, Ellis told Willodean he planned to marry her. “I liked her, and she was a real pretty girl – still is,” Ellis said. They dated one year, got married and have been “having adventures” together ever since. “We have had a lot of great experiences of different kinds,” said Ellis – from operating their garment factory, to traveling the nation in a motorhome, to promoting wrestling, to working in real estate and auctions.

For the Davises, in addition to relying on their faith and putting God first, staying together for so many years has required being a team no matter what came their way. “Through all of the bad times we had, we always stuck together. We never blamed each other for anything,” Willodean said. Ellis agreed. “If we made it great, we did it together. If we went bust, we did it together.”

Cecil and Suzanne Langcuster married in July 1957. “The war was over, and I wanted to get married and try to live right,” said Cecil. He knew Suzanne was the one, and she felt the same. “I thought he was the finest thing. He was a good man and good-looking man,” Suzanne said. They were wed at the First Methodist Church in Russellville. “I’m just glad I married him.” And what does Cecil think of Suzanne as a wife? “She’s perfect,” Cecil said.

Celebrating their own 50th anniversary in August 2019, Sheila and Joe Tucker first met when they were both students at Florence State College – now the University of North Alabama. They lived in the small overflow dormitories on campus, and all the students in those dorms spent time together. Joe and Sheila caught each other’s eyes during those group gatherings. “There were like 10 or 12 couples from those dorms that got married and are still together,” Sheila said. She and Joe dated off and during college and married just before they both graduated.

In keeping love alive across the decades, Sheila said she has always remembered something the pastor said in their pre-marital counseling. “Marriage is not a 50-50, give-and-take situation. It’s 100-100,” Sheila said. “You both have to be willing to give and take 100 percent.” The Tuckers also emphasized the importance of two people being certain about one another before they tie the knot. “It should be forever,” Joe said. “You have to be sure before you make that commitment.”

Terry and Carol Bolton were so sure of each other that they didn’t wait around. The Boltons dated for two years, but once they decided to get married, they ran off and eloped – March 1962. Just before midnight, they slipped over to Speake with a couple of friends who also wanted to get married. “It was the justice of the peace, and he had married half of my senior class,” said Carol. The justice of the peace performed a no-nonsense double ceremony, and that was that.

Although Terry jokes the key to their marriage has been “doing what she tells me to,” the truth goes a little deeper. “We’ve always loved each other, even if we haven’t always liked each other. We loved each other enough to work through the dislike,” Carol said. “You have to work at it. You can’t go in it thinking everything is going to be peaches and cream because it’s not.” Terry added, “You have to take care of your mistakes – because you know you’re going to make them.”

Roy and Carolyn Medley were married in 1967 – before she graduated from Belgreen High School. He had worked on projects with her father, as both were involved in construction – Roy with Strickland Electric and Carolyn’s father as a contractor – and met Carolyn on a job, building a new cafeteria at Vina. She stood him up for their first date – she didn’t think he was serious about going out – but they wound up together nonetheless. They were wed at the preacher’s house on a Saturday night.

“He married me because I was a good cook,” Carolyn joked. For each of them, though, there were a few more reasons than good cooking. Roy added, “You know if you love somebody or not. That comes natural. We both knew we were compatible.”

When it comes to a long, successful marriage, Roy said it’s important to remember marriage is a two-way street. “If you don’t agree with what somebody’s saying, you talk about it and work it out. Her opinion is just as good as my opinion.” Carolyn agreed, noting she and Roy have always talked things out. “If you don’t, you don’t love each other.”

The bottom line for each of these couple just might be another line from that Natalie Cole song: “You gave me more joy than I ever dreamed of, and no one – no one – can take the place of you … This will be an everlasting love.”

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