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Couples rekindle romance by renewing vows
Lanier Village Estates to host ceremony
Lanier Village Estates residents Joe and Pinky Whitenton have decided to renew their wedding vows on Valentine’s Day. The longtime married couple will be joined by other residents wishing to do the same.

While on weekend leave in late 1943 from the U.S. Army base at Fort Benning, Joe Whitenton called one of his friends and told him to "get the girls."

His friend set him up on a blind date that would change his life.

"So as we were walking up the steps of her porch he said ‘Oh by the way, she's a redhead.' And I said ‘I've never been with a redhead and I'm not planning on going with one now.' He says ‘You can't do that!' So then he opened the door and I changed my mind. Just like that," Joe said snapping his fingers. "Her red hair was down to her waist."

Pinky smiled slyly when she remembered her first impression of Joe.

"I had never dated anybody under 6 feet tall and he was shorter than that. So I wasn't too thrilled going in either," Pinky said.

Despite their initial hesitance, the couple have been married for the last 65 years and will renew their vows for the second time in 40 years this afternoon at Lanier Village Estates in Gainesville.

The Whitentons fondly remember that first fateful night roasting hot dogs over a fire at a friend's family farm.
Joe laughed as he recounted how he impressed Pinky with his cooking.

He said he left the cellophane wrapper on the hot dog he was roasting for her; he blames the darkness for his mistake — a mistake neither noticed until Pinky took a bite.

"He even put it in the bun," Pinky said laughing. "It was terrible."

The cellophane hot dog didn't keep the two from falling in love. The couple continued to see each other while he was stationed at Fort Benning and when he returned from the war in 1946.

Joe was only two quarters shy of graduating with a degree in business from Emory University in Atlanta before joining the Army.

He was able to make up one quarter while he was still in the service.

Joe and Pinky were ready to be married when he returned from the Pacific. He wanted to have the wedding in June so he could take his final exams before the wedding but Pinky said there was no way.

"She said no because redheads get freckles in June. So May the 18th was the day we married," Joe said.

The next week he took his final exams and graduated.

Joe said he's seen a lot of things change in the time since he married Pinky.

"People knew each other better. They didn't depend on money as much as they counted on a friend," Joe said.

For example, he said their honeymoon never would have happened if his new brother-in-law hadn't loaned him his car, with a full tank of gas.

Over the years, the Whitentons have picked up a lot of pointers for couples considering marriage.

"It's a time that a couple really needs to know each other, to know what they're getting into," Joe said.

"But that's always been the case," Pinky added.

Joe and Pinky said faith in God and being spiritually compatible is critically important in a marriage.

"I tell people this all the time, it is extremely important to know that you aren't just marrying the girl, you're marrying her family too," Joe said.

The couple have two daughters and a son, six grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.

At least eight couples will renew their vows at 4 p.m. at Lanier Village Estates. A wedding cake reception will immediately follow the ceremony.