CHINCOTEAGUE, Va. (AP) — Marlene Carpenter and a friend were walking home from church on a Sunday evening in October 1954 when Jim Carpenter and his friend stopped to give them a ride.
The Carpenters have been together ever since.
“When I saw her that night…it’s just something…I don’t know what it was,” said Jim of the moment she climbed into the car.
However, Marlene took some convincing.
“I didn’t like him at first,” said Marlene. “He was going with my girlfriend and I thought he was overbearing and I thought ‘how does she stand him,’ you know?”
“I talked her right into it,” interrupts Jim, laughing. “I had a way with ’em I guess.”
Jim proposed behind Louise’s soda shop on Chincoteague with a ring he had purchased from Sears, Roebuck & Company when he was 19 and Marlene was 15 years old.
“I said, ‘Are you crazy?'” said Marlene. “I said, ‘I’m 15 years old.'”
Jim had joined the Coast Guard and was leaving for thirteen weeks of boot camp. He wanted to make sure she was his, alone.
“I wanted to get married before I left,” he said. “These Chincoteaguers. I’d have lost her I suspect. I wanted to make sure we were married before I took off and went up there.”
Marlene agreed to wear the ring, but told him she wasn’t getting married before she finished high school. Anyway, she had just been voted a cheerleader. It was April. By June, the Carpenters were married.
“She’s still wearing that ring,” said Jim, pointing to his wife’s hand.
“We’ve never had our wedding bands off in 61 years,” said Marlene. Her ring had to be sized once and she removed her ring for about an hour, she said, but when the jeweler was finished she and Jim put their rings back on one another, again. The ring has indented her finger like a rope around a tree.
The secret to their long, happy marriage?
“I hit harder than he hits,” said Marlene.
“She told me she was going to kill me if anything happened and I’ve thought about that and I believe she’d do it,” joked Jim.
The Carpenters say the key to any relationship is learning to work through problems, together. Neither can remember an argument they’ve had where one or both have walked away still angry. Jim doesn’t reckon Marlene would let him go anywhere, anyway. The most frequent argument they have, however, is over driving.
“If I drive, we argue,” said Jim, who has purchased Marlene an unofficial backseat driver’s license. “If she drives, we don’t argue. So, I just let her drive.”
Marlene and Jim have side-by-side La-Z-Boy recliners in their living room where they sit and hold hands. Jim thinks they should get rid of both chairs and get one big chair to sit closer together. Sometimes, he suggests that Marlene could sit in his lap but she replies that he doesn’t have a lap.
“We pick on each other, we tease each other we just. sometimes we get a little mad or something but the fun is making up,” said Marlene, with a smile.
(© Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)