Valentine's Day is a reminder of the importance of having someone to love and of having someone love you, and three Quoddy area couples reveal what has helped keep their marriages long and happy.
Marriage is 57 years strong
Sandra Garnett of Dennysville says the secret to the success of her 57-year marriage to Russell may be advice given to them by their pastor on the couple's wedding day. "Reverend Hans Schillen told us to never go to bed angry, and it struck a chord," she recalls with a chuckle. "It was one bit of sage advice that stuck with us."
The couple met when Sandra was a junior at Dennysville High School and was walking home after cheering practice. Russell stopped his truck to ask if he could buy gas in town. "He was from Machias, and I think he was going hunting in Marion."
"About three weeks later he came back for some reason," Sandra recalls. "He did know my parents, John and Kathleen Hallowell."
Russell was five years older than Sandra, and as they got to know each other, she learned that he was "a nice and quiet man." And despite all of the times she told her mother that she didn't want a husband who hunted and fished all of the time, "I married somebody like that."
"We had a small wedding at the Dennysville parsonage with a sister and brother and a couple of friends," Sandra says. "And then we went all the way to Bangor for our honeymoon, which was a long way back then, visiting Bar Harbor and just getting to know the State of Maine."
"He's a tease, and sometimes it aggravates me, but I knew what I was in for," notes Sandra of her now 80-year-old husband. "His mother told me that when his elderly grandmother lived with them in Machias, Russell would stop in and tease her mercilessly, but she loved him for it."
The Garnetts became parents to a daughter and twin boys and now have "four beautiful grandchildren and two great-grandchildren." "They live in Madison, so I'm glad that we can see them once in a while because we love them to pieces."
Couple took pastor’s advice
Like the Garnetts, Arthur and Cynthia Carter of Charlotte credit advice on their wedding day 61 years ago for helping their marriage last. "The priest said, "Don't ever go to bed angry," recalls Cynthia. "We've both tried to follow that. Although sometimes I have needed to stay awake longer than him," she adds with a chuckle.
"I do family genealogy, and I can definitely say we have real good genes," points out Art.
Art had just come back from serving in Korea and was attending Ithaca College of Technology, and Cynthia Coupe had recently moved with her family from Harrisville, R.I., when friends introduced them at a dinner in North Chelmsford, Mass.
"I thought she was beautiful, and she fell for my 1950 Oldsmobile 88," laughs Art, while Cynthia points out, "The car had nothing to do with it."
Four years apart in age, they dated for 24 months before being joined in a big church wedding with family and friends in September of 1956.
Art went back into the military and retired as a major after 21 years of service. He and Cynthia and their family, which grew to three boys and two girls, lived in Paris, France; Alaska; Fort Devens, Mass.; and Washington, D.C. "And he went on two unoccupied tours in Korea and Vietnam," adds Cynthia.
Art's parents, Samuel Carter and Alice Goodwin, were both Washington County natives, "and my father had built this place in Charlotte, which my sister didn't want after he passed away in 1984. So in 1994 Cynthia and I decided to fix it up and stay."
Over the years, their family has grown to 10 grandchildren and one great-grandchild, and Art and Cynthia have been involved with many groups and organizations, including Down East Hospice, local historical societies and the ecumenical food pantry in Calais. They have been very happy with their choice to retire in Charlotte.
A shared faith
They courted for five years before tying the knot, so Keith and Bellmon Pendleton of Deer Island have known each other for a long time, and the secret to their long lasting love for one another is their commitment to attending church regularly.
"I met him when I was 12 years old," recalls Bellmon, whose father, Merton Newman, was the captain of the mailboat Rex IV when they moved from Campobello to Lords' Cove, Deer Island. "I met Keith the next morning in my homeroom, and we got together. He and his cousin were after the 'new girl,' and he jokes that my sister and I were the only other students who weren't a cousin! Everyone else was related."
"He and his cousin were both nice, but Keith was awfully good looking, and I chose him," recalls Bellmon.
"After a few years, my parents went back to Campobello, but I stayed behind with my older sister Constance."
Keith and Bellmon, who are now 86 years old, were only 17 when they married on April 17, 1949, in the Lord's Cove Church of Christ.
"Keith and his brothers all fished together," she points out. "On days like this [February 1], they had to smash through the ice to get to the boats. And all of our boys worked with him as they grew up, although one became a civil engineer."
"I think we have been happy all of those years because we still go to church every Sunday, and although we lost three sons in our [family of seven children], we are close to the others."
"We are living across the road from one. We bought the little house on the edge of the water so we can see everything."