More than four decades after saying “I do,” these local couples are still as much in love as ever. Read on to find out how they met, fell in love, and made their marriages work.
A chance meeting between two college students. A persistent co-worker. A friend from summer camp. Fate has a funny way of putting two people on different paths in the right place at the right time. Case in point: these local couples who have spent more than 40 years by each other’s side. Their meet-cute stories and tales spanning decades of married life show not only their long-lasting love for each other, but their understanding that relationships take work, commitment, and balance. So grab a tissue, turn the page, and read on for heartwarming stories that will make you believe in love again—or for the first time.
Summer romances aren’t usually known for their longevity. But for Carol and Scott Collier, a chance meeting at a campground was the beginning of a life together. It was the summer of ’69 when the two met while staying at the same campground. Though they were just 14 years old, Carol already had a boyfriend (who ended up being a good friend of Scott’s and his best man at their wedding!).
“Initially we just enjoyed being with each other,” Scott says. “Carol’s relationship didn’t last past that first summer, so in the ones following we would hang out, ride bikes together, and go on walks while our parents were at the campground. We were friends.”
That friendship blossomed the summer they were both 17. “Our romance was gradual,” Carol explains. “We were very comfortable with each other, and we kind of ‘got’ each other. I feel like there was definitely a point when we both thought, ‘This is probably the one.’ I don’t think we ever doubted that.”Since their families lived 30 minutes apart, the teens had to rely on various methods of staying in touch during the first few years of heir courtship. These included everything from toll phone calls (“Our parents complained about the bills!”) to even hitchhiking (“It was definitely a different time!”).
“Even though we were ‘going together,’ we couldn’t talk to each other every day,” Carol says. “When we would visit each other, it was pretty low key. We would walk around town and talk, or we would do homework. A lot of it was the simplicity of talking or hanging out.”
In 1974, after several years of dating, the 20-year-olds tied the knot in an October wedding. And just three days after that, the couple moved to Chattanooga, where Scott became a student at Covenant College.
After more than four decades of marriage and four children, Scott and Carol often reflect back on their time together. They credit their faith as the main reason why their marriage has survived the ups and downs, and they also ask each other the same courageous question every year: “If you could change one thing about each other, what would it be?” From the answers, they’ve been able to glean valuable insight into each other’s needs and personalities.
“I think one of our marriage’s strengths, and one reason for its longevity, is that our history goes way back,” Carol says. “We got married young, we grew up together in our marriage, and it gave us an understanding of each other that maybe we wouldn’t have if we hadn’t known each other in our youth.”
It All Started with a Dance / Chuck & Joanne Zeiser / Married 57 years
Much like a chance encounter in a romantic movie, Joanne and Chuck Zeiser’s introduction seems to have been destined in the stars.
The couple first crossed paths while attending the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. The Presbyterian Student Center on campus was holding a get-together before the start of term, and Joanne, a Knoxville native, and Chuck, from Signal Mountain, both came out for the event. Each was involved in Greek life—Joanne as a Chi Omega and Chuck as a Kappa Sigma.
“We passed by each other at the Presbyterian Student Center, but that was it,” Chuck says. “I’ll have to admit, I was looking for the person I was going to marry. I dated different people at the university.”
Joanne adds with a laugh, “He dated everybody I knew! He had a sister who was in Chi Omega, so I knew the name Zeiser. But that first year, we kept walking out of the same door of the same building at the same time.”
Nothing more than acquaintances for a while, the two carried on with school and life. And then during their sophomore
year at UT, Chuck called Joanne and asked if she would attend a campus-wide dance as his date. She accepted, and they ended up as dates to a Chi Omega formal a few weeks later. But after those two occasions, Joanne and Chuck didn’t date again for another year and a half.
It was spring of their junior year when Chuck finally called Joanne again. “He started talking without saying who he was, and I was about to hang up,” Joanne says. “But then he said, ‘It’s Chuck and I was wondering if you’d like to go to a dance.’ We went, we danced, and from then on, it was us.”
The couple tied the knot on Labor Day weekend of 1958. Soon after, they moved to Chattanooga to begin their lives as a married couple. Their first son, John,
was born two years later, followed by Bruce a few years after that. In the years since, Chuck and Joanne have both stayed actively involved with their church and community, which they cite as one reason they’re so compatible.
“Our life priorities and passions are in sync,” Joanne says. “Basically everything we’ve done over the years revolves around faith, family, friends, and serving.”
And although they’ve now been married nearly 60 years, the duo is able to recognize the longevity of their marriage is something special, and that they have much for which to be thankful.
“We’ve lived a pretty basic and simple life in a fast-changing world, and it’s been good,” Chuck expounds. “God has been good to us and our family.”
“Simple is good,” adds Joanne. “Faith and family is the basis of our lives. Chuck has been a wonderful husband, father, grandfather, and mentor to many. I love him and respect him for that.”
Small Town Sweethearts / Linda & Jay Leggett / Married 52 years
They might have married in 1963, but Jay and Linda Leggett have a history that goes way back—all the way to their births.
“We were born in the same hospital in Virginia three months apart. So we go back a long way!” Jay says. “Our families are both from a small town in North Carolina, and during WWII, they both moved to Virginia to work in the shipyards before moving back to their hometown when the war ended.”
The pair attended the same church and went through school together. When they were just kids, Linda’s father, a compassionate man, would often visit people in town who were ill – including Jay’s grandmother. Linda would tag along just so she could watch “Davy Crockett” with Jay. “She was chasing me from the start!” Jay says, laughing.
Jay and Linda gradually began dating during high school, driving around the small town, going to drive-in movies, and hanging out at local spots. When Jay began college at the University of North Carolina (a three-hour drive from home) and Linda began working as a nurse in their hometown, the distance couldn’t keep the duo apart. “He hitchhiked home almost every weekend!” Linda says.
After they married, Linda moved to Chapel Hill to be with Jay and began working in the university hospital. The couple then moved to Charlotte after Jay was hired at Eckerd Corporation. An opportunity arose for Jay with M&M Mars, and the family packed up and headed south to New Orleans. After several more moves across the country, the company brought the Leggetts to Cleveland in 1977, and they’ve been in the area ever since.
The couple credits a multitude of reasons for the long life of their marriage. “Both of our parents were married for more than 50 years, and I think it was good for us to be able to observe that,” Linda says.
Jay adds, “I think the foundation is our faith. And we both believe that marriage is a commitment. When you start from the place of knowing you’re going to work through it, that’s half the battle. We have confidence in our different strengths, too. We complement each other.”
Like any marriage, the Leggetts have seen their share of highs and lows. “We were blessed with two sons. Our oldest, Jay Junior, is a banker and lives in Cleveland. He hosted a wonderful gathering for family and friends for our 50th wedding anniversary,” Jay says. “Our youngest son, Christopher, had a special love for God and all of God’s people. He did humanitarian work, and he was assassinated in the country of Mauritania while doing this work in 2009.
“It was a tragedy, but we also recognize he died doing the work he wanted to do,” Jay continues. “We miss him, but we rejoice in that.”
Jay and Linda also cite two Bible verses, Colossians 3:13 and 1:27, in helping them find comfort and strength. The couple proves that by the grace of God they’re able to find strength through each other, and the relationship that began more than half a century ago grows stronger all the time.
Adventures Together / Joy and Roger Gulick / Married 53 years
Thanks to a little initial encouragement from their friends and family, Joy and Roger Gulick have spent more than 50 years together.
The couple first connected in the fall of 1960. Roger was a naval officer based out of Philadelphia, and Joy was a Young Life staffer in Baltimore. Roger met Joy’s brother through church, and he would sometimes stay with him during leave.
“My brother introduced me to Roger, and I thought he was very good looking!” Joy recounts. “I started visiting my brother more after that!”
When Joy would visit her brother, her friends would work to pair Joy and Roger up, although Roger was oblivious to their intentions. “We would have to walk in twos because the sidewalk wasn’t wide enough, and Joy was always the one walking by herself. At restaurants, the only empty seat was beside her,” Roger says. “I never picked up on it!” After months of being around each other, Joy had nearly given up on her crush. But then one night, Roger asked her to join him on a walk. Soon after, the couple began dating, until Roger was shipped out and Joy went to work temporarily in Colorado. Without much communication, Joy thought the relationship was done. That is until they were reunited after five months, and Roger made his intentions known.
“I came home, and we spent some great weekends together,” Roger recalls. “I started thinking that this was the girl I wanted to marry. So when I went down to Baltimore, I mentioned it to her.” Joy adds, “He said, ‘Maybe at Christmas we can get engaged and then in the summer get married.’ I don’t think I really believed him!”
But that’s exactly what happened. They were married in June of 1962. After the wedding, Roger was set to attend seminary school in California, so the couple camped their way across the United States. They enjoyed their time on the West Coast thoroughly—even when their budget was extremely tight.
“Every Tuesday we would get an ice cream cone. At 25 cents, it was our big splurge!” Roger says. “If we had extra funds, we’d go to Baskin-Robbins and get a 39 cent cone.”
After three years in California, Roger, Joy, and their infant son headed east to Maryland when Roger received a job offer. Four years later, the couple, along with their son and daughter, landed on Lookout Mountain for 12 years before relocating to West Virginia and then South Carolina.
The couple came back to Lookout Mountain after retiring. Since then, they’ve traveled extensively (to Uzbekistan, Romania, and Iraq, among others), pastoring to a global missionary staff. “It’s been quite an adventure!” Joy says.
Their travels and many years together have allowed the pair to learn lessons about marriage and each other. “Any time you bring two people together that are different, there are going to be things that you have to work through,” they say. “We always knew that we would work things out, and having something we could do together, like mentoring and working with young adults, helped to bring us closer together.”
The practical pair cites a few things they do regularly to keep their marriage strong, including never going to bed angry, praying regularly together, having a date night each week, and attending marriage and
Co-Workers to Couple / Annette & Michael Reynolds / Married 41 years
It took time for Annette and Michael Reynolds to warm up to each other after they met. “I chased her for two years before she caught me!” Michael laughs.
Their first encounter was on the day they were both interviewed for jobs at a church in Lexington, Kentucky. Michael was hired as the student associate pastor and Annette was brought on as the choir director.
“She was interviewed first, and when she came out, I thought ‘Wow!’” Michael says.
“I didn’t care much for him in the beginning,” Annette admits with a laugh. “I thought he was a smart aleck and overly persistent. But over the years I’ve really come to appreciate that quality.”
Love first blossomed after the two partnered on an idea Michael had developed for the church—a contemporary, religious rock band. The project was their first opportunity to see how their differing temperaments could actually make them a great team.
“He came knocking on my door three times before I agreed to help,” Annette explains. “When I finally said yes, we separated the tasks among ourselves. This is something that really makes our relationship strong—a division of duties. As we began working together, him doing his part and me doing mine, we gained respect for each other.”After less than a year of dating (“We were crazy in love after that first kiss!”), Annette and Michael got married in February of 1974. One week later, Michael received a call asking if he was ready to go on active duty as a military chaplain. The newlyweds began active duty in September 1974 and spent the next 21 years moving 11 different times across the United States. From Fort Knox, Kentucky, to Hawaii to New Jersey to Colorado, and several other stops in between, the couple and their two sons worked together to make military life an adventure with every move. They also kept their relationship strong throughout their many moves, a return to nursing school for Annette, and various life obstacles.
“He’s always been totally supportive of me being the best thing I want to be,” Annette says. “We’re loyal to each other and always on each other’s side. As they say in the military, he’s got my six. He is my number one go-to guy and my best friend.”
Adds Michael, “People sometimes think they’ll ‘try’ marriage out. But if you get married, it’s a commitment and you do things together, give and take, all the way through,” Michael says. “The key is to find a person you’re going to be excited about for the rest of your life.”