After 55 years, couple just as much in love

Published 12:00 am Friday, February 17, 2006

NATCHEZ &8212; A box of chocolates for her valentine, a nice card for him &8212; Bazile and Ann Lanneau will celebrate Valentine&8217;s Day in the low-key way that has been their style for the 55 years of their marriage.

Not big on showy gifts, they are a couple whose devotion to each other has plenty to teach young lovers and families.

&8220;I think the most important thing in a marriage is respect for each other and support of each other,&8221; she said.

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He responded, pulling her close to him, &8220;You just have to love each other. I never get tired of it.&8221;

They met when asked to serve as king and queen of the Spring Pilgrimage pageant in 1948.

&8220;He didn&8217;t know who I was,&8221; she said. &8220;He was three years ahead of me in school.&8221;

It was true, he said.

&8220;My mother wanted me to do this, and, thank goodness, I did. It changed my life forever.&8221;

At that time, the king represented one garden club and the queen, another. Therefore, the royals spent many evenings together at the pageant through the entire month.

&8220;We were with each other 17 times,&8221; she said.

As he came to know her, Bazile Lanneau had no doubt that Ann Metcalfe was the girl he would marry. She was 18; he was 21.

&8220;I knew Ann was what I wanted and that I would get her,&8221; he said. He recalled asking her, &8220;Would you like to know when we will get married?&8221; He told her they would marry three years later, June 1951.

&8220;Ann had three full years to go at Randolph-Macon,&8221; he said. &8220;Do you know when we married? June 1951.&8221;

She had laughed when he predicted that, but she was falling in love with him by then.

&8220;By that summer, I knew,&8221; she said.

He had given her some advice, however.

&8220;I told her, &8216;If you find someone you like better than me, just let me know.&8217;&8221;

The three-year courtship was not easy, they agreed. Only the summers allowed them to spend time together.

&8220;We wrote each other every day,&8221; she said, recalling the scented paper she used for her letters.

With marriage, children came right away &8212; three children within the first four years.

&8220;We were very fortunate,&8221; she said. &8220;Both of my parents were here, and Bazile&8217;s mother was here. We couldn&8217;t have done it without their help.&8221;

There were difficult years with three small children. &8220;But they grew up together and were very close,&8221; she said.

He recalls an important rule they had with one another.

&8220;Very early on, I said to her that she is number one with me, and I have to be number one with her,&8221; he said.

She concurred.

&8220;Children come and go. They grow up.&8221; But husband and wife have each other for the lifetime.

A fourth child came as a surprise and a delight for them 19 years later.

&8220;He became the most wonderful thing that ever happened to us,&8221; Bazile said.

As older parents, they were completely different, she said. &8220;He was like an only child.&8221;

Losing one child through a tragic illness was a difficult thing for all the family, but their strength kept them grounded, she said.

Their strong love for one another has been an example they know children and grandchildren have noticed, both said.

&8220;The children know that 55 years later, here we are,&8221; he said.

Since 1979, they have made travel one of the interests they share.

&8220;We&8217;ve had a remarkable marriage,&8221; he said. &8220;In 1979, we started taking trips. At first, it was every other year. And now it&8217;s every year. This summer, we&8217;re going to Russia.&8221;

The upcoming wedding anniversary is somewhat of a surprise for them.

&8220;When you get married, you wonder if you will make it to 50 years. We&8217;ve made it to 55,&8221; she said.

Like Valentine&8217;s Day, the anniversary celebration may be a modest one. But there will be romance.

&8220;I tell Ann every day that she is beautiful, and I believe it,&8221; he said.