Growing Golden Together

5 Local Couples Who Have Been Married for 50+ Years Share Their Secrets


At some point, you’ve probably heard that 1 in 2 marriages will end in divorce. But it’s time these outdated numbers were ousted. Recent studies show that lasting marriages are not only on the rise, they’re also beneficial to your health. Plus, it’s just downright nice to have a partner to journey through life with you. Here to bolster your faith and hope in long-lasting marriage are five local couples who have gone the distance and are ready to share their secrets. (Scrapbooks and photo albums not included.)

 

By Nicole Jennings  |  Photography by Lanewood Studio

(above) Question: What one word would you use to describe your wedding day?


“He claims it was 110 degrees outside … it wasn’t that hot,” laughs Mickey.


Roger & Mickey Vieth

60 years  |  Married August 1957

As a medical student and cafeteria worker at Duke University, Roger Vieth says with a wink, he felt obligated to sit at each lunch table and meet all the student nurses. That’s when he met Mickey. Unfortunately, dressed as a cafeteria worker, he didn’t make much of an impression on her.

When he called to ask her on a date, she had no memory of him and turned him down, claiming to be busy. So, he asked if he could take her to church on Sunday instead, to which, she consented. “I was impressed that this man was going to church, since I myself was a believer. I figured church was a safe date, plus, he’d have to dress up a bit,” Mickey admits slyly.

The date went well, and they quickly discovered they loved spending time together. The following spring, Roger committed his life to Christ. That’s when Mickey knew she had found the man she wanted to marry. They married the next year in Duke Chapel, despite Mickey arriving late to her own wedding, delayed by a funeral procession and then a freight train. “When she was ten minutes late, my dad said, ‘Well son, I guess she’s not going to show up,’” laughs Roger.

The life the Vieths have built together is rich and full. They each had satisfying careers in the medical field, all while raising three daughters and a son. They love trying new things, being active in their church, traveling, discussing books together, frequenting local restaurants, entertaining friends in their home, and playing with their dog.

Mickey credits the success of their marriage to putting in the effort: reading books, going to counseling if necessary, attending marriage retreats, and continuing to grow in their faith. “Bottom line: You really need to be intentional and work at it. It doesn’t just happen on its own,” she says. Roger agrees and advises couples to continue to date even after they’re married. “You should laugh a lot. I was in a very intense profession and under a lot of stress, so when I retired, we decided we wanted to laugh a lot. And we’ve done that,” he says.

(above) Question: What is the best thing about being married to your spouse?


“We have built a wonderful life together, celebrating our family and our adventures,” shares Bob.


Bob & Sally Clark

“62 short years”  |  Married January 1956

Bob and Sally Clark met at the University of Tennessee in Memphis when they were set up because Bob needed a date to a party. A few months later, Bob graduated medical school and was headed to Louisiana for a yearlong internship. “He was serious when he graduated, and I wasn’t ready to be that serious,” Sally tells about their relationship. “She was just uninformed,” quips Bob.

As the story goes, Bob went off to Shreveport and sent Sally an orchid for Easter. Being the polite young lady she was, she felt obligated to write a thank you note, and so began their correspondence. “After that, it just started evolving, and eventually we set a wedding date for when he finished his internship,” says Sally.

After they married, Bob was drafted into the United States Air Force. Being a pediatrician, there wasn’t much demand for his skill set in any conflict zones, so the Clarks were sent to the U.S. territory of Alaska. During this time, they started their family, but having been born and raised in Chattanooga, Bob knew he wanted to raise his own family here. So, when they could, they returned home, and in 1960, Bob went into private practice.

By 1971, the Clark family needed a break from the constantly ringing phone and never-ending demand that came along with private practice. They bought a motorhome, pulled their three children out of school, and made plans to drive to South America. “We didn’t get that far, we only made it to Costa Rica, but we were gone for four months. Ask any of our kids and they’ll tell you those are some of their best memories,” Bob recounts.

To enhance a relationship, Bob and Sally recommended having fun with your partner and finding activities you can enjoy together. From becoming national shuffleboard champions at the Senior Games to hiking 2,000 miles of the Appalachian Trail to traveling the world together, the Clarks have done exactly that.

“Marriage? We recommend it. It’s one big adventure. And you know, you just make your own happiness,” advises Sally.

(above) Question: What one word would you use to describe your wedding day?


“We weren’t scared to get married,” says Bob. “Just scared to tell our families!” Susie laughs.


Bob & Susie Fisher

53 years  |  Married August 1964

When you know, you know. At least that was the case for Bob and Susie Fisher. They met when they were just 16 years old, while Susie was in Tullahoma to babysit for her sister, who lived a few doors down from Bob.

It didn’t take long before they were smitten and knew they wanted to spend the rest of their lives together. Susie says Bob’s gentle and caring attitude is what drew her to him. “I never had much self-confidence. Bob always built me up, and he still does.”

“I knew Susie was the one when I came to realize the only time I was really happy was when she was around. If she wasn’t there, I wasn’t content,” Bob recalls. At 18 years old, after being told by nearly everyone that they were too young to get married, they eloped. “We got married at the courthouse in Ringgold,” remembers Susie.

In hindsight, Bob admits he was too young to get married and didn’t know how to be a good husband. But the Fishers sought counsel and wisdom from older couples in their church to help them learn how to become good partners. They credit the survival of their marriage to the guidance and advice they received from strong Christian couples in those early years.

Both agree some of the best advice they can pass along to new marriages is to become involved with a church. “People can help you along; you share the same beliefs, and they’ll help you through your trials,” recommends Susie. “I really believe no marriage can be successful unless Jesus is the glue that holds it together,” Bob adds fervently.

The close-knit family Bob always longed for growing up, he feels he’s been blessed with as an adult. Together, Bob and Susie have three children, five grandchildren, and one great-grandchild. “Bob is an excellent father, grandfather, and great-grandfather. And an even better husband,” Susie smiles.

Parting advice from Bob? “It’s small but important. I still tell her I love her every day.”

(above) Question: When did you know your spouse was the one?


“I knew the second I saw her, she was the one,” says Wallace. “We weren’t able to talk the first time we laid eyes on each other, so I made it my mission to meet her.”


Wallace & Shirley Powers

57 Years  |  Married June 1960

It may sound cliché, but for Wallace and Shirley Powers, it was love at first sight. Wallace had seen Shirley at a function without getting a chance to speak with her, but he knew he’d like to meet her. Luckily, soon after, they bumped into each other at a teachers’ meeting at Howard School, Shirley’s first teaching assignment in Chattanooga. They struck up a conversation, and “I knew immediately,” Wallace says. “I had the same feeling – he was somebody special,” acknowledges Shirley.

They married in June 1960 at a simple, sweet ceremony. “Nothing elaborate, we married at her parents’ home, standing before the mantle,” tells Wallace. Like many young newlyweds, they didn’t have much money for a honeymoon. Instead, they invested the money they did have to attend summer school at Tennessee State University. Shirley worked on a teaching certification, and Wallace worked toward his master’s degree.

Wallace has always admired Shirley’s patience, work ethic, and her strong relationship with God. Shirley says she was drawn to the same things in Wallace, “I was impressed with what he was doing. It was what I wanted to do in my own life, and I liked the idea of someone to share the same things with,” says Shirley.

The Powers take great pride in their children Wallace Jr., Denise, and Cindy, all of whom graduated from Notre Dame High School. “Our kids were honor students, involved in extracurricular activities, and never got into trouble. The training they received growing up has helped to carry them through life,” Shirley beams. Being school teachers encouraged Wallace and Shirley to lead by example, doing their best at all times, never willing to settle for second. “Our children have lived good, decent, honest lives, and we thank God most of all,” agrees Wallace.

In addition to putting God first, Shirley says the key to their marriage is treating each other with love and respect. Wallace advises new couples that the husband shouldn’t dominate the marriage, or vice versa. “Just because he’s the man, doesn’t mean he’s the boss. Don’t let your marriage be one-sided.”

(above) Question: What is the best vacation you and your spouse have taken?


“Each year we go back to North Carolina to celebrate our anniversary,” says Natalie. “We love getting to reminisce,” Jim adds.


Jim & Natalie Brown

51 Years  |  Married August 1966

“We met over a rock,” teases Jim. Technically, it was a geology class at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga in 1964. Students sat in alphabetical order, but those who wished to move forward could do so with permission from the professor. That’s just what Natalie did, and lo and behold, she ended up next to Jim Brown.

Natalie’s blue eyes and loving nature caught his attention immediately, and she recognized his kind, gentle, and caring personality. But Natalie knew Jim was the one when he took a big step by inviting her to a party in Virginia. “I don’t take airplane trips for just anyone,” Natalie says.

The couple got married at UTC’s Danforth Chapel on a windy, but beautiful, August morning. “My grandmother told us nobody gets married in the morning, but it seemed like a great way to start the day,” laughs Natalie.

Jim’s career in the military moved the Brown family nearly a dozen times throughout the years, offering them adventures all over the world from Germany to Alaska. In 2014, after more than 20 years in Colorado, they returned home to Chattanooga to be closer to family. Starting over in the community has taken some time, but they have enjoyed getting reacquainted with Tennessee.

The Browns spend their days having fun together. Jim makes breakfast and brings Natalie coffee in bed. “He’s a good cook and pretty smart to boot,” brags Natalie. They love to travel, whether it’s to see their son in California or just a quick day trip nearby.

They enjoy time with family, their work as volunteers with the local chapter of Meals on Wheels, and being active members of Apison United Methodist Church. Jim and Natalie share a love for animals, including their six cats, three of whom they inherited along with their house from Natalie’s mother.

When it comes to marriage, “be prepared to work at it. It will not always come easy,” advises Jim. “You’ve got to be committed. Love of course helps, but commitment is essential. Anything that’s worthwhile requires work, period,” agrees Natalie.

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