This is a valentine about how 10 hearts came together and stayed together.
They were members of the Greatest Generation. Their five marriages were cemented in sacrifice and deep-rooted in love.
One couple -- Joe and Ezma Chambers -- will celebrate their 78th wedding anniversary on Saturday. The others are now deceased, but their love stories still deserve to be shared. One was married 77 years. Cupid’s arrows flew for more than 60 years for two others and 54 years for another.
Joe and Ezma were married the day after Valentine’s Day on Feb. 15, 1936. Both will turn 97 this year. They are only a few years behind the oldest married couple in the U.S. -- John and Ann Betar, of Fairfield, Conn., who celebrated their 81st anniversary last November.
They grew up in Juliette, so you might say Ezma found her Romeo in Juliette. She bought her wedding ring for $6 from the Sears Roebuck catalog.
They would have gotten married on Valentine’s Day except both had to work their shifts at the mill. They drove 23 miles to the Jones County Courthouse the next day, a Saturday. The justice of the peace would not marry them, so they traveled another 26 miles to the courthouse in Monticello.
Betty Braswell’s obituary appeared in the paper this past Sunday. She and her husband, the late Gene Braswell, were married for 63 years. Gene was president of the Middle Georgia Camera Club when they lived in Macon.
A camera and a photograph brought their hearts and lives together in 1947. While stationed on the USS Yorktown in the Pacific during World War II, Gene became friends with Lt. Fred Gary Weatherford. They were on an ocean 6,000 miles away, but their hometowns were just 30 miles apart. Gene was from rural Tattnall County. Weatherford hailed from Emanuel County.
Weatherford and four other crewmen were killed on March 18, 1945, when the aircraft carrier was attacked by Japanese planes. He was buried at sea. After the war, Gene returned home on leave and delivered his buddy’s camera to the family. He noticed a framed photograph of Betty, the youngest of the family’s 10 children. She was a nursing student at Grady Hospital in Atlanta.
A romance soon developed. While attending Emory, Gene would ride the trolley to meet her. He proposed at Piedmont Park on Feb. 15, 1947 -- his 25th birthday and the day after Valentine’s Day.
Aldine and Rowena Buford met at a tent revival in McRae. He had hitchhiked from Hazlehurst. Her daddy, a minister, had taken her to see a faith healer. She and Aldine communicated the only way they knew how -- with their eyes and hands. They were both deaf.
Aldine had lost his hearing as a young boy. He fell down some steps and punctured both eardrums. Rowena suffered permanent hearing loss when she contracted rheumatic fever as a child.
Aldine courted her across the country miles. He thumbed rides on the backs of trucks. Sometimes he would walk the entire 26 miles, crossing the Ocmulgee River at Lumber City.
They said their vows in sign language on Dec. 21, 1952, the first day of winter. They raised a family and were remarkably self-sufficient. Aldine died in 2006. Rowena passed away in 2008.
Roney Crews and his wife, Mildred, were from Mississippi but lived several years at the Cherry Blossom Health Care nursing home in Bloomfield. Mildred died in 2006, Roney four years later.
They met at a church in Nashville, Tenn. It took a half-dozen dates for him to summon the courage to kiss her. His mother always told him to be a gentleman and treat every girl as if she were his sister.
He popped the question on Valentine’s Day in 1942 but had already taken a leap of faith. He had a pair of hearts with their names tattooed on his arm before she ever said “yes.” He always gave her a special Valentine’s gift for the 64 years they were married.
Lee and Georgie Lawson, who lived in Johnson County, were married for 77 years and died 18 hours apart in a nursing home.
They were childhood sweethearts. They walked to school together. They eloped five days before Christmas 1923 and married in Laurens County.
Lee worked on the family farm, hauled timber from the sawmill, drove a school bus, worked at a service station in Wrightsville and delivered dairy cream to Macon in an old Model-T truck that didn’t have a windshield.
Folks in Wrightsville could never remember a time when the Lawsons were not together. They were inseparable. She could be hanging clothes in the yard and, at the snap of a finger, be riding shotgun on a dusty road on the way to town.
Lee was 96 when he died. Georgie was 94. They were side-by-side in a nursing home when the angels came a week before Valentine’s Day in 2001.
“I prayed that the Lord would take them together,” their daughter said. “They didn’t want to live without each other.”
That’s the way love is supposed to be. We can never get enough Valentine’s Day cards like the ones we just read.
Reach Gris at 744-4275 or firstname.lastname@example.org.