For these three couples, marriage is more than a kiss

Published 12:00 am Sunday, February 14, 2010

Love comes in all types of packages today.

Heart-shaped candy boxes, flower vases and teddy bears will fill hearts and homes across the country. But when this special day is over, love will remain.

For these three Miss-Lou couples love and marriage have endured, prospered and flourished for more than 50 years.

Determination, work crucial to Williams’ marriage

NATCHEZ — With no fuss or frills, Jim and Nell Williams were married Jan. 14, 1950, in a small country church in Newton County.

She wore a blue skirt suit, and he wore slacks, a dress shirt and maybe a jacket — there are no pictures to confirm.

The preacher, his wife and the couple were the only people in attendance.

Now, 60 years later, the couple might not have any pictures to look back on, but they do have lots of love-filled memories.

“It’s not the fancy dress or the flowers that make a marriage last,” Nell said. “They are nice, but its what is left after all that is over that has to make the marriage work.”

At just 18 years of age, the couple was admittedly young, but love, coupled with determination, is what got them through.

“It hasn’t been easy, but we were determined to make marriage work for us,” Nell said. “There was never a time when I thought ‘I’m going to leave and go back to momma.’

“We haven’t always agreed, but no one is going to always agree, but we aren’t the type of people to get mad and stay mad for three days and not talk.”

Jim and Nell grew up together in the farming community of Union in Newton County. Jim worked from time-to-time with Nell’s stepfather and the couple formed a friendship long before they started dating.

“We would always do things as a group, but never just the two of us before we started dating,” Nell said. “He knew he wanted to marry me before I wanted to marry him, but he never told me.”

Jim said growing up in a small town, there were not a lot of girls his age, but Nell stood out to him because of her friendly demeanor.

“I guess it was a little bit of shyness back then, but it took a while for me to say anything to her,” Jim said. “We went to church together, and I just liked her.”

After getting married, Jim struggled a bit to find steady work to support the family. The family moved to Natchez in 1957 after Jim got a job with International Paper.

“The first 10 or 15 years of our marriage were hard, a struggle,” Jim said. “It taught us to appreciate what we have and brought us closer as a family, I think.”

Despite the difficult times, Jim said it never crossed his mind to give up on marriage. He said he didn’t get married thinking life would be easy.

“If you work at your marriage, it will grow and you will grow as a couple,” he said. “If you both want it to work, you can find a way to make it work.”

That is the example the couple tried to set for their children, Barbara, Jimmy Dale and Ted.

“I think we did teach them what a marriage would be like and that it takes both people working to make it,” Nell said. “They are all married and have Christian families, and you can’t ask for more than that.”

Nell said the biggest difference in her marriage and marriages that don’t last is an appreciation for each other. She said Jim shows her he appreciates her in small ways and those are the things that mean the most to her.

“He always eats anything I cook for him — anything,” she said. “I’ll ask him what he wants for breakfast or lunch, and he always says, ‘I’ll eat anything you fix.’”

Fitzgeralds’ marriage based on mutual love, respect

VIDALIA — Will Fitzgerald still remembers what he was doing when he met his future wife in 1956.

He had been discharged from the U.S. Army, and had missed a bus connection in Jackson. But he had an aunt in the area, and so he went to stay with her until he could catch the next bus home.

And while he listened on the radio to the Brooklyn Dodgers and the New York Giants play baseball, his aunt went next door and brought back Nann, the girl who was living there while she attended Jackson State College.

“I have always considered that day God’s gift to me,” Will said.

Will eventually made it back to Natchez, and briefly worked in the county school system before it was consolidated with the Natchez school system. Once the consolidation was completed, Will found himself working at Brumfield School.

Meanwhile, the late Robert Lewis had gone to Jackson State to recruit six new female teachers to come to Natchez to teach at Brumfield School. Nann was one of those.

“I was working there, and behold, I looked up and one day he was at Brumfield,” she said.

And fate seemed to be sealed when Nann started attending Zion Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church and found Will already there.

They started dating, and on Feb. 22, 1958, they were married.

The next 52 years were happy ones. They had a daughter, and now have two grandchildren, and throughout their careers they always taught at the same schools — in the Natchez and Louisiana systems — until Will’s retirement.

Working together and living together was never a hard arrangement, Nann said.

“We made it because we loved each other,” she said. “He has been good to me and I to him. You may have a little fussy day, but you get over it and move on.

“I’ve enjoyed my time with him thus far.”

Daniels find time to pray, work and live together

NATCHEZ — Sonny and Edra Daniels have been all across the continental United States together.

Only the Daniels, who have been married for 52 years, did it on a Honda motorcycle. The only states they have missed while biking are Oregon and Washington.

And their trips brought them not only closer together, but closer to God, Edra said.

“What I liked about it, was as I was riding along I felt closer to what God had made,” Edra said. “I felt so relaxed with Sonny driving that I could fall asleep.”

But it was Edra’s help and support that kept Sonny moving, he said.

“We could set the bike on cruise, turn the intercom system on and just talk as we rode along,” he said. “Riding the motorcycle brought us closer together — it made us bond for all of those years.”

One time the couple drove to Maine and back just to have Maine lobster.

“We camped all the way up there and back,” he said. “We camped a lot.”

Rain and sleet are the only things Edra does not remember fondly — it feels like needles hitting you, she said.

“We’d sometimes have to find an overpass to get under and wait it out,” he said.

Sonny, 74, said they sold the bike 10 years ago, but that didn’t stop them from traveling. They still roll together around the country in a camper home, this time helping build homes with Nail Benders for Jesus.

“The more you can be together, work, play and pray together, the closer you will be,” he said.

Edra, 71, said performing missionary work together, like their motorcycle trips, has brought them closer together.

“Every thing we do, we do together,” she said. “Other than fishing — that is his thing. But when he brings the fish home, I’ll eat them.”