Daily Mountain Eagle
Several residents at The Terrace in Jasper are proof that love, like a fine wine, gets better with age.
The senior living community recently hosted a special luncheon for three couples who are celebrating more than 50 years of marriage this Valentine's Day.
Dwight and Bonnie Williams and John and Zola Abbott were serenaded by a saxophonist and pianist during their meal, and the women were presented with roses at its conclusion. Chester and Cora King were unable to attend.
There are several similarities in the love stories of the Williamses and Abbotts.
Both men were soldiers before they became local principals and needed some help from the United States Postal Service to court their future brides.
Dwight Williams' sister orchestrated a romance for her brother with a girl she knew at church while he was in the Army.
"She asked me first thing if I was going steady with anybody. I said, 'No.' Then she asked if I would mind writing to her brother in the service," Bonnie Williams said.
The two began dating after Williams fulfilled his commitment to Uncle Sam and were married in 1953 at Westside Baptist Church in Jasper.
They still laugh about how Bonnie was so eager to leave for her honeymoon after the ceremony that she left some of her luggage behind.
"I got about a block or two and had to go back to get it," Dwight Williams said.
Williams made his career in county education, rising through the ranks from teacher and coach to the position of Lupton principal by the time of his retirement. His wife taught piano for many years.
They have been married for 58 years and are proud of their two children and two grandchildren.
A typical Valentine's Day for the Williamses includes a cake because Bonnie likes sweets. Sugar-free dessert was served at the luncheon last week.
Their advice for young couples who want to know how to make love last is simple -- always tell the truth and don't go to sleep angry.
Bonnie remembers that the preacher who married them joked during the rehearsal that the pianist should play the fighting song as they walked down the aisle.
She doesn't believe that fighting is the best way to describe how they settled differences.
"We just argued and then we'd make up," she said.
"We got tired of one and decided we'd do the other one," Dwight Williams added.
John Abbott said he would be lying if he claimed that he and his wife never had a cross word.
Still, he'll never forget the way he felt the first time he saw her.
She was standing in the Jasper bus station waiting to return to Florence after visiting a friend in Florence.
John Abbott had just arrived from working in shipyards at Mobile.
It was love at first site, but only for one of them.
"I was fascinated with what I saw, and I pursued it from then on," John Abbott said.
"He didn't impress me at all," Zola said.
Zola agreed to write to him while he was in the service. They were pen pals for two years.
John came to see her in Chattanooga, Tenn. as soon as he got out of the military. Then he went to Cleveland, Ohio to look for work.
They had their only real date when Zola stayed with her aunt in Findlay, Ohio for a while after she graduated from high school.
Since they didn't have a car, they walked the town and went to the movies.
John was sure that he had found the woman for him because he couldn't eat around her. They wed in her aunt and uncle's church in Ohio.
Married life didn't begin quite the way Zola had hoped.
"I wanted to stay in a hotel because I never had stayed in one before, but he had rented this apartment. So I had to go there," Zola Abbott said.
She accidentally caused her husband to lose his eyebrows on their first Thanksgiving when she asked him to light their oven after she had already turned on the gas.
She remembers that her first attempt at dumplings turned out more like baseballs.
For their first anniversary, her husband gave her a pot.
They moved to Jasper four months after they became man and wife and have lived here ever since.
They were high school graduates when they married and now both have masters degrees.
Zola Abbott taught at T.R. Simmons Elementary School until 1987. John Abbott worked at several schools in the county and was a principal as well as a lunchroom supervisor at the central office later in his career.
The Abbotts have been married for 64 years. They have three children, six grandchildren, four great-grandchildren and one great-great grandchild.
They used to celebrate Valentine's Day by attending a dance at the C.H.S. Building but now joke that they just "take medicine."
They are hesitant to share advice about the secrets of love because they said they never interfere in other people's relationships.
"It won't be a bed of roses all the time," John Abbott said.