Don Elrod, 72, of Oakwood, remembers the moment 53 years ago when he first laid eyes on his wife.
“I was a soda jerk in the Dixie Drug Store in the old Dixie Hunt Hotel in downtown Gainesville,” Elrod said. “There was a beauty shop in the hotel at that time. And then I saw her coming in and out of the beauty shop and I asked one of the beauticians to get her number because I wanted to call her. That’s how it started.”
Elrod said the moment he met his wife, Martha Elrod, 68, it was “like at first sight,” but it took more than a year of getting to know each other to realize they wanted to spent the rest of their lives together.
On Sept. 7, the couple celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. And during the month of February, many couples celebrate their love and longevity on Valentine’s Day.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 5.6 percent of marriages last at least 50 years.
Don Elrod said it’s because of their Christian faith that they’ve been able to make their love last.
“(Marriage is) a lifetime commitment, it’s not something you try on a whim,” he said. “It’s something you go into with the idea that we’re going to make it work and it’s not always easy. You have to work at your marriage to make it successful.”
Sometimes, it’s working together that can make a marriage more successful.
Chuck Gleason, 85, and Janet Gleason, 84, of Dahlonega have been married for 63 years and have spent nearly half of their marriage working side by side. Chuck Gleason worked as an insurance salesman for a number of years and hired his wife to work in his office when she was 52. Janet laughed and said couples who work closely together have to find ways to separate business from their lives or they’ll end up working all the time.
To divide their work and home life, the Gleasons had a simple rule. No business discussions after work, those conversations had to wait until the next day at the office.
Janet Gleason said there was only one time in their careers together that their tempers flared, but the problem was rectified after both persons shared their frustrations.
“I think communication is the most important thing,” Janet said. “ ... I think you have to tell each person what you really feel. Then have them repeat it to you and you can say no, that’s not what I said or yes, you’ve got it right. I think communication solves a lot of problems.”
After he retired, Chuck Gleason began writing romance novels and his wife edited the books. The latest novel, “Collision Course,” is available on Amazon.com or Barnes and Noble.
Chuck Gleason said he writes romance novels because he “ought to know something about love.”
The couple went on their first date when they were teenagers and continued dating through college.
“It was one date and that was it,” Chuck said, laughing. “She’s been my best friend ever since. If you’re lucky enough to marry your best friend, that’s the real key. If you marry your best friend, you’re going to have a happy life.”
Sometimes life-altering encounters happen at unexpected times.
John Pearce, 80, met his wife Ina Mae Pearce, 81, after she moved into Lanier Village Estates in 2005. The Gainesville pair were both widowed when they met.
John Pearce walked Ina Mae to her apartment after having supper with a friend one evening and asked her if she would like to accompany him to the center’s dance class the following day.
“I said, ‘Well, I don’t dance. I’ve never gone dancing,’” Ina Mae said. “Then he said ‘Oh, I can teach you.’ And I said ‘OK, buddy. If you think so, good luck.’”
The next day Ina Mae arrived at the class before John and sat behind a number of women at the end of the row waiting for class to start.
As the instructor made his way down the row of ladies asking each to dance “they’d said ‘No. I’m waiting to dance with John Pearce,’” Ina Mae said.
But when John Pearce arrived, he walked directly to Ina Mae and tried to lead her onto the dance floor. Ina Mae hesitated, afraid the other ladies would be jealous.
“He said ‘Oh, we won’t worry about that,’” Ina Mae said. “But we had a little competition on the dance floor.”
“But here’s the winner,” John said, laughing as he pointed to his bride. “One thing lead to another and by Dec. 18 of that year we married.”
The Pearces laugh and said “patience” is beneficial in a marriage, as is shared faith.
“There’s a lot of give and take,” Ina Mae said. “But he gives a lot more than he takes.”