By ANDREW NELSON, Staff Writer | Published October 14, 2013
JOHNS CREEK—Three Atlanta couples who knew each other from the now-closed St. Joseph Nursing School and St. Michael Club dances and socials were among the 150 couples who celebrated 50 and 60 years of marriage at a special Jubilee Mass at St. Brigid Church on Saturday, Oct. 5. Two of the husbands are first cousins. Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory was the celebrant at the annual Mass.
As one of the wives, Nancy Carman, said, “It’s been a wild ride. It’s been interesting. There have been hard times, but the good times far outweigh the hard times.”
Here are their stories:
Bill and Judy Carman
Bill, 74, and Judy Carman, 71, only had a few dates before the Army called him up for active duty. He returned to Atlanta after months of being away and their relationship took off from there.
He grew up around Atlanta’s Little Five Points neighborhood. He was in the medical corps of the Army. She grew up in East Point and attended St. Joseph School of Nursing.
They were married on Feb. 23, 1963 at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Atlanta.
He worked for many years with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, where his last project was to ensure none of the Olympic horses brought diseases into Georgia. She worked for many years at Newton Medical Center as a nurse. Retired and living on Lake Oconee, they are members of Christ Our King and Savior Church, Greensboro. They have three children.
How did you meet?
Bill: She was in nursing school at St. Joseph. And I frequented that area and I met her there. It was just before leaving to go on active duty for the Army. We dated a few times then and communicated the whole time I was gone.
Judy: I remember that the first time I met him I was out on the tennis courts. He came up with a guy I used to date, and they had just come from Lake Lanier. He introduced me to Bill and that was about all of it then. And then, he was supposed to go out with my roommate, and my roommate didn’t show. She sent me instead. I was the one that came down the steps, not my roommate, who he was looking for.
What was your courtship like? Did you expect you’d remain a couple when you went on active duty?
Judy: We played tennis; we did normal things. We went target shooting. You taught me how to shoot a gun. I didn’t expect we’d be together after his Army duties. I just figured people go into the military. C’est la vie.
Bill: No, but we communicated the whole time I was gone. It was before Vietnam and otherwise I would have gone there. I was in the medical corps, worked in the laboratory.
When you returned, what led to the engagement?
Bill: We just started going out again. I was in college at Georgia State then. Before I knew it, I was hooked.
Judy: It wasn’t on the bended knee. But he did go ask my dad for permission to marry me. After he had already asked me. He said something like, I have an idea, in a typical Bill way, and that was it.
Bill: No. I think I said, “You know what we need to do?” and she said, “no.” And I said, get married.
What are some challenges you faced as a couple?
Judy: It wasn’t a severe challenge. Our daughter had to have major back surgery. As a family, we had to kind of work around that.
Bill: It’s been charmed.
Judy: We feel we’ve been pretty lucky.
Before you got married, did you talk about how you would raise the children in faith? (Bill is Catholic, and Judy was Episcopalian and later joined the Catholic Church.)
Bill: There wasn’t anything to talk about.
Judy: Back then, you almost signed over that you were going to do that. Episcopalian is pretty close to Catholic. It was never a big issue. I will say this: Bill never pushed it. Nobody kept harping on it. They let me come to it on my own date and time. They never once said, are you going to become Catholic? If I had been pushed, I probably would have dug my feet in because I can be kind of stubborn.
Bill: Since she became Catholic, she has been very active—a Eucharistic minister, a lector for I don’t know how many years, and teaches Bible study at our church now.
What does it mean to celebrate your 50 years together with the Catholic community?
Judy: I am just so glad he (Archbishop Gregory) does it. When I saw that the bishop did that, I said if we are married 50 years, this is one thing that I want to do. Because it is just so nice that he honors people who have made it 50 years. I never thought when I married, I never thought of 50 years. It’s been quite a ride.
Bill: That it’s an accomplishment. It never occurred to me that I wouldn’t be married if I lived that long. I’m real proud of it. I couldn’t comprehend anything else.
Any advice you would give to people who are getting married?
Bill: Be open and fair with one another. Sometimes you have to give up something you may want or want to do. You have to determine this is what you are going to do.
Judy: It’s a commitment. In this throwaway society, this isn’t something you throw away. It helps we are of the same religion, or even when I wasn’t, we were in a close religion.
What do you admire about each other?
Bill: Everything about her. I taught her how to cook, but she’s gone on to great heights compared to me. Her honesty, integrity, willingness to work hard. Loves life. She was always open to hosting people for many nights in our home.
Judy: Bill is very strong in his faith; he’s very strong in his morals. If he says he’s going to do something, he’ll do it. He’s always been able to fix things around the house, and that was wonderful, because my dad couldn’t fix anything, bless his heart. He’s always been there for me. I think he did well in raising our children.
Theron and Nancy Carman
Theron, 73, and Nancy Carman, 72, met at a young adult Catholic club. She grew up in Florida and attended St. Joseph Nursing School. He graduated from Marist School, class of 1958, and was a leader at St. Michael Club for young adults.
They were married on Jan. 26, 1963, at St. Monica Church, Palatka, Fla.
He worked in sales, eventually having his own business. She worked as a nurse at Gwinnett Medical Center before retiring. They live in Snellville and attend St. Oliver Plunkett Church, Snellville. They have six children.
How did you meet?
Theron: Nancy was a student nurse, at St. Joseph. I was the president of the young adults club called St. Michael Club out of Sacred Heart parish. My mother was in the hospital, at St. Joseph, and I went by. I saw another close friend, a girl, and the club was having a party, so I invited her and Nancy to the party. I picked them up, and we’ve been together ever since.
Nancy: The first time, our first date, it wasn’t really a date, we always went out in a group. I had bought this black flapper dress, with all these little tasselTs and all that. I am coming down the stairs of the dorm, and Theron is waiting at the bottom, and he was just, because of the dress, I think, he was just kind of captivated, as I came down the stairs in that black flapper dress.
Theron: When she did, it was all over.
How soon did you know this person was the one you’d like to marry?
Nancy: I knew very quickly that this was the person I wanted to spend the rest of my life with.
Theron: Very soon. I knew her a little bit before we started dating. She has always been a girl who always impressed me with being my type.
Tell me when you got engaged?
Theron: Her mother and father lived in Florida. I never met her parents until the day Nancy graduated from St. Joseph, and that was the day I asked her to marry me and gave her the ring. I had asked her before but without a ring. She had written her mother, and her mother wrote back and said that they were a very formal family and I should ask her father for her hand in marriage. That day, after the graduation ceremony, I took them to dinner. I asked him at the end of the evening for her hand in marriage. Before he could answer, her mother said, we’ll have to talk about that.
Nancy: It wasn’t a shoo-in.
Theron: It was on the way back from where they were staying, I asked her to reach into the glove compartment. When she reaches in, there’s the ring.
What was your early marriage like?
Theron: We talked about maybe we’d like to have six kids. This was before you were thinking how expensive college was. Our first child first was born on Nov 10, 1963. The next one was Nov. 23, 1964; the following one was Dec. 12, 1965. Then her parents ripped into us something fierce.
Nancy: (They asked) What are you doing?
Theron: It was three years later we had our fourth one. And then our next two were born two years later, 1971 and 1973. The kids are great.
How did having all the youngsters challenge your early marriage?
Nancy: The fact that there were six, and three just a year apart. You do have three in diapers at one time. It was a handful. They are all different. It was a challenge, raising six.
Theron: My sales area was Alabama, Tennessee, the panhandle of Florida, Georgia. I traveled when we were starting out.
Did you feel bad about leaving the children?
Theron: The most important thing was to get food on the table and get them educated. The beautiful part about raising a family that is close in age—they learn to take care of each other.
Nancy: I adapted to it. It was difficult. He was gone Monday through Friday, and I always worked full time. He got home Friday evening. And I would say, OK, they are yours. That was just Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
Theron: That and the fact that I belonged to the Knights of Columbus and played softball and basketball. Everywhere I went to play a game I brought a crowd of kids with me.
What’s a happy memory of the past 50 years?
Theron: There were so many of them and to pick one is kind of tough to do. Every year we’d go to her parents and spend a month at the beach. She’d stay there for the month, and I’d go back and forth for work.
Nancy: That time when we spent a month at the beach. It was still chaos and confusion a lot of the times. Today, it is one of the most precious times. Now when we all get together, with all the husbands and wives, and grandkids, that is a really, really special week.
Theron: Her parents were born and raised in Savannah. We have probably missed four years out of the last 40 years of the St. Patrick’s Day celebration in Savannah. We’ve been going down there for 40 years.
What does it mean for you to celebrate 50 years together?
Nancy: Fifty years with one person, living together, all the time, 365 days of the year, 50 years—it means, of course, you love the person, you understand all the faults, all the good points, all the bad points, you take all this into consideration. It’s been a wild ride. It’s been interesting—there have been hard times, but the good times far outweigh the hard times. We are very compatible. Now there are certain things I like to do, that Theron necessary doesn’t like to do, but the majority of the time we really enjoy each other and really like to do things together.
Theron: It’s a milestone. If I lived long enough, I never had a doubt in my mind that it would happen. When tough times came, we just sort of bowed our backs and handled it. There were a lot of Christmases early on that we didn’t pay off our credit card until June or July.
What do you admire about each other?
Nancy: He is a very responsible person. He grew up in a family that did not have a lot of money. He has always provided for his family—that has never, ever been a problem. He has always arisen to the occasion, whatever it took, he did. He is a very loving person. I know that he loves me, and he always will. He is a very loyal person. He’s a good Boy Scout … he’s loyal, he’s trustworthy.
Theron: Without a doubt, she is the most beautiful person I have ever met. Besides being an extremely attractive woman, she far outshines that with who she is, how she treats people, what she does. She doesn’t have enemies. And for whatever reason she doesn’t like someone, that has to be somebody nobody in the world would ever like. She is just a beautiful person.
Thomas and Gloria Daly
Thomas, 73, and Gloria Daly, 73, attended Atlanta colleges when they met at the St. Michael Club, a Catholic young adult club. He grew up in Savannah and studied engineering at Georgia Tech. She lived in Atlanta’s Kirkwood neighborhood, and worked and studied history at Georgia State University. She graduated in the last class from Sacred Heart School, a girls high school in downtown Atlanta.
They were married on Aug. 17, 1963 at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. Their wedding announcement appeared in the Aug. 22, 1963, issue of The Georgia Bulletin.
They raised their three children in DeKalb County and attended Sts. Peter and Paul Church, Decatur. He retired after a career at Bell South and they live now in Stone Mountain and are members of St. Oliver Plunkett Church, Snellville.
How did you meet?
Gloria: I was going to Georgia State and working there. And he was a student at Tech. My good friend Theron invited me to join the St. Michael Club—it was a Catholic young adult club out of Sacred Heart Church. Some of the Georgia Tech boys from Savannah joined the club also and that’s where we met. We say Theron is responsible.
Thomas: We had a lot of fun. I could tell right away she was special. It was something being at Tech, away from home like that, it was really nice to have a place to go. We had a lot of fun. You can say love at first sight.
How did the courtship proceed from friends to dating to engagement?
Thomas: At the St. Michael Club we constantly thought of different activities we could do, all of us. We put on dances. One by one, we started marrying off. St. Michael was for young single adults.
Gloria: When he went home that summer (of 1962) we had just been dating several months. We talked about how we could date other people during the summer. So, I went to a St. Michael’s function with a date. And his best friend stuck to me like glue. It wasn’t long before I had a letter from him saying maybe we don’t need to be dating others.
Thomas: I was feeling a little threatened. I had a spy up here.
What were some of your dates like?
Gloria: We’d go to a movie from time to time. You have to remember he’s attending Georgia Tech, with not a whole lot of money to go out on a big date. On Friday, we’d go to get a cheese pizza because you could not eat meat then.
Thomas: It was simple living. I had a car to pick her up. My dad put together a jalopy to take to Tech, a 1953 Plymouth station wagon that had been wrecked a couple of times.
Gloria: I did not marry him for his car.
Tell me about the proposal.
Gloria: I visited Savannah, riding the ‘Nancy Hanks,’ a train that left from Atlanta. We picnicked at Hilton Head, S.C.
Thomas: The families very much approved. The engagement was at Hilton Head beach. We pretty much knew what was going to happen, but we needed to make it formal. I asked her to marry me on a romantic night on Hilton Head beach. And we never looked back.
What challenges has your marriage faced?
Thomas: The situation developed several times when I had to change jobs—those transitions and looking for work, there were some difficult times. We pushed through them and came through just fine. I finally ended up at Bell South for my career. It all worked out great.
Gloria: There was one time he was looking for work. It was just a couple of months. Back then jobs were a lot more plentiful. It was easier. We managed; we managed fine.
Why has it lasted? What has been the secret of 50 years?
Gloria: I always say respect. Treat one another with respect. If you are out and about, and you may not agree on things, wait till the proper time to discuss. Try to be respectful and understand the other person’s point of view. It’s easier said than done, but it’s what we’ve tried to do.
Thomas: We pretty much followed traditional trails where I was out working and Gloria was handling the house. Her job was much bigger than mine. We got along just great because we both seemed to know which part we need to take responsibility for. It worked well.
What do you admire about each other?
Thomas: She is just beautiful. I was in love with her the first time I met her. She takes full responsibility for things that fall into her purview, and I don’t ever have a worry in the world. We both share a very strong love for our children. We know when to come together and get things done. We’ve been through things all couples have, with sickness and illness, funerals—you name it, we’ve always stuck together. And we continue to stick together.
Gloria: He has always been such a kind and giving person. He doesn’t really give me a hard time about things. We just think a lot a like. We never put real heavy demands on one another.
What does it mean to celebrate the 50 years with the Catholic community?
Gloria: It’s the sense of pride. We’ve worked hard to make it happen, to make it all work. And we’ve worked together. It’s not one person running the show—it’s been a collaborative effort.
Thomas: It’s a great sense of pride to know we’re 50 years and still going strong and getting stronger. We’re very optimistic about our future together and real proud of our family. So far it’s been wonderful, and we looking forward to whatever years we have left, which we think will be a nice big sackful of years.