Valentine's Day tends to bring out the romantic in us here at the Huffington Post. In search of the longest married Huff/Post50 reader, we found Jo Ann and Carl Spivey of Lexington, Kentucky, who have been married for 61 years.
Jo Ann, 81, and Carl, 85, met at Asbury University in Willmore, Kentucy in 1949, Jo Ann told Huff/Post50 in a phone interview. The pair first met while hanging out at a dormitory with friends.
"Carl had been in the service for four years. He came to Asbury two years before me," Jo Ann explained. "He was standing there wearing a shirt and a tie. He was always well-dressed. We started talking and he asked if he could walk me back to my dorm. He walked me home and we never separated. It's just a strong love."
Jo Ann still remembers what drew her to the friendly and polite older co-ed whom would become her husband.
"I liked the way that he dressed. He was always immaculately dressed. I keep telling him now that he's in jeans, 'I remember you in your sports jackets and ties'," Jo Ann says with a hearty laugh.
After dating for two years, Carl and Jo Ann decided they were ready to get married. But just who did the proposing is up for debate.
"I don't know that he proposed. I believe I did. We were on the campus sitting on the bench and I do believe I proposed," Jo Ann said, as Carl says in the background, "No, you didn't!"
"We were talking about getting married and being together for the rest of our lives," Jo Ann continued. "[And I said,] 'Well, why don't we just get married then?'"
But the rules of their Christian college frowned on students getting married while still in school. Jo Ann and Carl went to the school to ask for permission to get married during spring break, a request that was summarily dismissed by the college's dean and president. But the president offered a solution: "They can wait until June and see if it will last."
Jo Ann and Carl were married on May 30, 1951 -- the same day as Carl's graduation. "He graduated in the morning at 10 and then we got married at 2," Jo Ann said.
Jo Ann followed her parents wishes to finish her schooling, turning their marriage into a long-distance one as Carl lived with Jo Ann's parents 30 miles away.
"He would come and get me on Friday night and bring me back to school on Monday afternoon," Jo Ann remembers. "For a year, I went to college and Carl lived with my parents. He raised the tobacco crop and that's how we saved a little money."
The Spiveys moved out and got their master's (both of them retired from teaching after 35 years). They also grew their family, having three girls in four years. Now Carl and Jo Ann have 10 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.
Jo Ann said that after 61 years of marriage, she still loves her husband for his sense of humor and his romantic nature.
"He sends me a love note every night. He started it on Valentine's Day four years ago," Jo Ann told Huff/Post50. "It's just a note on a yellow post it note. I have books of them. There's 300 some odd a notes a year [with messages like] 'I love you forever. You're my sweetheart forever.'
"He brings the notes up to me. He watches television downstairs, and he'll bring the notes to me before he goes to bed. He flaps that little packet of notes and something comes all over me."
The couple's marriage hasn't been without the rough patches that can come when you're trying to raise a family while holding down a job, Jo Ann allows. But for a strong marriage to last, you "just overlook a few things and keep going," she advised.
But there was a moment in their marriage that Jo Ann thought she had lost her husband forever.
"Back in August of this past year we heard this loud crash about 2 o'clock in the morning and it jarred the house," Jo Ann said. "We have about 10 acres in the country. Carl grabbed his pistol, checked inside the house, and saw there was a tree on fire."
Lightening had felled a 300-year-old tree in their backyard. Carl ran into the yard with a hose to keep the dry grass from catching on fire along with the tree.
"He yelled at me to call 911. I was on the phone with them on the patio when all of a sudden there was a crack," Jo Ann continued, somewhat breathlessly, as if she were reliving that evening again. "He was running toward me, yelling, 'Get out of the way, get out of the way!' The tree caught him and a branch fell on him.
"You can't imagine seeing someone practically disappear in a second. It was the most disturbing thing. He came out from under that tree and he was covered with blood. I thought he was gone. It still gets to me."
Carl was fine, but nearly losing her husband in a freak accident makes Jo Ann all the more appreciative of him, she said.
"Every time I look at him I think, 'Well, that's the last time I could've seen him,'" Jo Ann said. "You get aggravated every now and then but that's just a part of living. It's the part after that you can make up and love one another even stronger. Every day [our love] seems to get more and more and stronger and stronger."
As the phone call with one half of Huff/Post50's longest married couple ends, Jo Ann adds one last thought:
"He's been a good man. I don't know what I'll do without him."
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