Love, sweet love|Romance not just for young

Published 12:00 am Saturday, February 14, 2009

Jimmy and Patsy Stanford have been married for 45 years — and they still love each other. In fact, they still like each other. Their key? Being together — and apart.

Being active in church together — they attend Wayside Baptist — is one of the things that has cemented the Stanfords’ happy marriage and kept them in love.

“Our church affiliation is very important to us,” Patsy Stanford said. “It helps you to be able to blow little things off and not make a big deal out of them. It gives you a whole new attitude, that little things are not important.” It’s just one of the things they do together.

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“You have to make time to be together,” Jimmy Stanford said. While they have their separate interests — Jimmy working on cars in his shop, Patsy playing cards at the Vicksburg Senior Center — they like to go camping, love country music and frequently go out dancing.

Music, dancing and going out with friends keeps the spark alive in long-term relationships, but they have helped ignite it for other Vicksburg seniors, like Sue and David Carnell.

Sue Carnell’s husband died in the 1990s after a long marriage. A remarriage ended in divorce before she moved to Vicksburg in 2004. An artist and musician, Sue was performing at Buck’s Playhouse one night when she introduced herself to David, who was sitting with some of her friends. “He seemed like a nice person,” she said. “We were there in line getting (potluck) food and started talking.”

Shortly after, Sue called and invited David to the 2007 Valentine’s Day dance at the senior center. He was sick and said he’d give her a call in a couple of days to let her know if he was well enough to go. Sue thought perhaps he was brushing her off, but found out later that he was thrilled at the invitation. “It was the first time a woman had ever asked him out,” she said, laughing.

David went to a doctor who told him he could have one shot or another. David said, “Give me both, this is an emergency. I have to get better!”

The two began dating steadily after the dance and married that September. The friends David had been with the night he met Sue were best man and matron-of-honor at the wedding at Buck’s — with Sue performing on drums.

“It was just as exciting as when you’re young,” Sue said with a giggle. “It’s a mature love, but a good love. You feel just like a teenager — just as giddy. I know I was, and I think he was, too.”

Both Sue and Dave love to dance and get out with friends frequently.

“I think as you get older you need people more than you do when you’re young,” said Joyce Grey, who was widowed early in 2002 after 48 years of marriage.

Grey met and fell in love with her companion, J.W. Wright, at a ’50s dance at the senior center the following October. She was wearing a poodle skirt, bobby socks and shoes painted to look like oxfords, and had a fake ponytail in her hair. “We’ve been together ever since,” she said.

Like the Carnells and Stanfords, Grey and Wright love to get out together, going dancing or out to eat at the casinos. They enjoy the companionship and plenty of laughter. “Anybody that’s been married 48 years wants a companion,” Grey said. “You’ve been married all your life. You’re lost without anybody.”

Older couples often find that they accept each other, flaws and all, much more easily than they did when they were younger. Like Grey and Wright, they can “laugh at each other without getting mad.”

“The best part is that it’s such a mature love that you really appreciate the things your mate can give you, and what you can give back,” Sue Carnell said.

“And one thing I’ve learned is not to run my mouth too quick,” David Carnell said.

Jimmy Stanford said he and Patsy are “just an average couple,” but with about half of all marriages ending in divorce, they’re a different breed. “I still feel about her the same as I did 45 years ago,” he said. “She’s my soul mate. I know what she’s feeling without her telling me.”

Another wife of more that 50 years said the secret of staying in love and happily married is summed up in the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Of course, that doesn’t always happen.

A 2000 census report showed that unmarried heads-of-households in Mississippi surpassed those headed by married couples, 50.2 percent to 49.8 percent. Adults living alone comprised about 25 percent of households in the state that year, according to the American Association for Single People.

Including Internet dating and social Web sites, those singles do have some choices when it comes to seeking out romance or even just friendly fun, but in Vicksburg, going dancing just might be the secret.

“Just because your spouse dies doesn’t mean you should quit living,” Grey said. “You have to live life the fullest and best you can.”


Contact Pamela Hitchins at