While divorce rates in the U.S. hover around 50 percent, one Clarendon county couple is setting the example of long-term commitment.
Marrying at the ages of 19, Robert and Jeanette Brown will celebrate their 70th wedding anniversary on Aug. 9.
How did they do it?
“That’s a question I can’t answer,” Jeanette said. “I guess it was meant to be.”
Growing up in Sumter, Robert and Jeanette met in a high school typing class.
“When we were coming up, people just met at somebody’s house,” Robert said. “The girls and boys went to different schools after a certain grade. I needed a typing class, and it was my job to lead the football team over to the girl’s school for it. We ended up sitting by each other in the class.”
“He was dating someone else at the time,” added Jeanette. “But they broke up, and I mended his heart.”
On Aug. 9, 1939, the two were married in a Lutheran church on the corner of North Washington Street and Hampton Avenue in Sumter, where a Tuomey Hospital parking garage now stands.
“There wasn’t any air conditioning in the church and the men wore white linen suites,” recalled Robert. “I remember it was so hot we were sweating through the suits and one boy had to go home and change because you could see his blue striped shorts.
“They pinned white sheets all over the pulpit and put smilax on there. It was beautiful.”
“That was the trend back then,” added Jeanette.
The couple spent their honeymoon in Washington D.C. with only $100.
CHRIS BULLARD/Manning Times
|Robert and Jeanette Brown stand together on the front porch of their home on Lake Marion. The Browns, married at the age of 19, will soon celebrate their 70th wedding anniversary.|
“I kept books of our money and we came home with 68 cents,” said Jeanette. “We said we didn’t live on money, but on love. But I learned that wasn’t true.”
As life continued on for the couple, they had one child, Robert Brown III. Jeanette retired from Sumter County Health Department Vital Statistics in 1978 and Robert retired as Vice President of Wachovia Bank in Sumter in 1982.
Robert III, who now lives in West Palm Beach, Fla., sees his parents as a model for maintaining a long-lived relationship.
“Mom and Dad have always enjoyed life and have many good friends in the Manning and Sumter area,” he said. “I believe their ability to enjoy the best in people and to enjoy time spent with good friends has been a part of their long marriage. In these times of marriages that only last a few years, they are a model of what a marriage contract really means.”
“As we aged we’ve gotten into a social group. We go to a breakfast club and a supper club,” said Jeanette. “We love Clarendon.”
“Our neighbors really look out for us and we live in a great community,” said Robert.
To celebrate this anniversary, many of the Brown’s friends and neighbors planned a party.
“We had a big 50th anniversary,” said Jeanette. “For our 60th anniversary there was a banner that said ‘For 60 loving years.’ I told them they spelled love wrong – it should be endure.”
The Browns now also have one grandson and three great-grandchildren. So what’s next for this enduring couple?
“We live day by day,” said Jeanette.
“We’re just going on with our plans,” added Robert. “Why stop?”