Updated: Nov 16
We live in an era where Love seems to be an afterthought. TV shows such as Say Yes to the Dress, My Celebrity Dream Wedding, and 90-day Fiancé, have Brides to be and their future husbands looking for the most extravagant ways to show off. The result is often divorce. In fact, according to the UN, The United States has the record for the highest divorce rate. There is one divorce every 36 seconds in this country.
Then you have Jerry and Wanda Johnson.
The Johnsons Celebrated 70 Years of Marriage surrounded by friends and family at the Oaklea Mansion in Winnsboro Sunday. This puts Jerry and Wanda in an exclusive 0.1% club. That is how many marriages make it to their platinum Anniversary. I had the unique privilege of interviewing Jerry (89) and Wanda (90), and a family member or two during the celebration.
Wanda recalls a night in 1952 at a restaurant her family had visited for Dinner. She saw a handsome young man in Jeans, cowboy boots, and a felt hat. As they left, he said: "I guess I am going to see more of you." her reply was, "You think so?" A few days later, she found out why. They were both working at the Wells Lemont Glove Factory in Mt. Vernon, Tx.
One day he stuck his head in the window where she was working as a leather clerk and said, " I guess I'm taking you to the ball game tonight." Again she replied with her own quick remark to his forwardness, but yet they went to that game. Little did Wanda know, but Jerry was broke and could not afford the tickets to the game, so they listened to it from the parking lot while sitting in his car(the reason he had no money). That was in October 1952; by July 3, 1953, they were Married. They picked July 3 as it was a long weekend, and he had to go to National Guard camp. They wanted the long weekend to be together.
There was no fancy wedding, Just him and her in the Nazarene Church that neither of them was a member of. He still didn't have money, he was only 18, and she was 20, so she gave her last $5 to the priest to marry them.
The honeymoon was spent not in a fancy hotel but with family members, including his brother, where the morning after they got married, they milked his brother's cows! They did not have much, but they had each other.
I asked Wanda if her life had turned out the way she thought it would. She said no. She had always wanted to be a Nurse, and although she did work at the hospital, she also worked many other jobs, including for the city of Mt Vernon. She recalls coming home after 8 hours of work and cooking Dinner, canning vegetables from the garden, and sometimes sewing a whole dress during the night so she would have something to wear in the morning. Her big break, or as she called it, blessing, came when she was elected to District Clerk. She said she is still trying to figure out how she won that election. She recalled feeling like others qualified more than she did, but she was happy to be able to have such a privilege.
Jerry worked as a carpenter until 1965 and then got a job at a refinery where he made $3 an hour. She said, "We thought we were living High on the hog!"
They did travel after retirement, which she never thought they would be able to do. Their favorite place to visit was Alaska, and they traveled there several times.
Next, I asked her what the best thing that happened to them besides marriage was. Her answer was the births of her three children, Donna, Steven, and Lori. She also wanted to emphasize that they are grateful for their stepdaughter and step-great-granddaughter, who also have been a blessing to them.
She got a little teary-eyed when I asked what world event was the most memorable during their marriage. Her answer was similar to what I figured would be the most common of responses from people of any age, 911. She said she had a Bone Scan that day and almost thought better than to go after the first plane had hit. She went anyway, and the second plane hit while sitting in the waiting room. Nothing was ever the same after that day. A close second was the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995. She said it was impactful because her daughter Donna was close to that one. It blew the windows out of her office and injured her.
Jerry and Wanda have remained steadfast in their marriage through all these ups and downs. So the big question everyone is asking is :
What advice could young people today learn from your marriage?
Jerry: " Find someone you truly love and who will help you."
Wanda: "Trust in God early. I promise he will be there; he will help you!"
As I walked through the beautiful reception and spoke to the friends and family of this wonderful couple, I had to admire the legacy of Jerry and Wanda Johnson.
When they got married, they had no money. Not thousands of dollars to spend on dresses, food, and venues, but only $5 to pay a priest. There were not hundreds of people gathered around to lavish them with gifts—just them and a love that would stand the test of time. Marriage was, and is a commitment. Would we not be better off following their example than TV examples that have become so popular? Young ones getting married today would do well to follow the example of Jerry, Wanda, and others who share the incredible privilege of Celebrating their platinum jubilee!