A Valentine story that spans 50+ years

Feb-12-2015

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Love that transcends time

In honor of Valentines Day, two Cornerstone couples provide tips for how to make your marriage last

As Valentine Day approaches the focus often turns to romance and love. Yet statistics show that even though the U.S. divorce rate has dropped from a high of 50 percent in the 1970s, fully one-third of marriages today will not survive past 10 years. The creators of National Celebrate Marriage Week, which occurs annually from Feb. 7 to 14, hope to counter this trend. Learn more at http://nationalmarriageweekusa.org

Two couples living at Cornerstone retirement community in Texarkana have defied these odds to forge marriages that have lasted well over 50 years. Both now enjoy leisurely days and pleasant activities, but their unions have survived plenty of life's pressures. So their stories offer lessons on the art of making marriage last.

Earl and Phyllis Page-married 62 years

Earl Page and Phyllis Keiper grew up in Johnstown, Pa. and met at church before dating in high school. After graduating and working for a few years, they married and he joined the Air Force. The two then embarked on a travel-the-world-together adventure for the next 22 years.

"She was a good military wife," said Earl. "She accepted and never complained."

That may seem like a tall order given the number of places and times the couple uprooted their kids and lives to go where the Air Force sent him. The places ranged widely in longitude and latitude-from Florida, to Boston, to Germany, even to Greenland, which was the one place Earl had to go alone while Phyllis stayed home with her parents to give birth to their first child, Dennis. The family also lived in Port Lavaca while Earl was stationed at what was then the SAC radar station on Matagorda Island. 

In 1974, after retiring from the service, Earl and Phyllis became distributors for Shaklee, a manufacturer and distributor of natural nutrition supplements, along with beauty and household products. Their travel adventures continued through attending Shaklee conventions, which took them as far away as Australia, Hong Kong and Spain. 

It was friends from their military days that brought them to Texarkana.  

They originally moved here in 1974, before relocating to a house they built on the lake in Cypress Springs, Tex. in 1991. From 2002, they lived on a farm in Mt. Vernon, Tex. and moved back to Texarkana to live at Cornerstone in 2014. 

Through all the moves, the Pages raised a daughter and two boys and now have four granddaughters. Multiple relocations often place tremendous pressures on a marriage, but Earl and Phyllis both agree that the main reason they have made their marriage work is through a strong foundation in faith.

"Talk with and trust the Lord, that's the Number One thing," said Phyllis. But she adds other words of advice.

"Look for the good things in each other and your marriage. Don't look for what's wrong. Think about what you have and love each other."

Ed and Bernice Embry-married 62 years


Ed Embry and Bernice Tillman grew up in Mississippi about ten miles from each other and met in high school. She recalls with a laugh that "I couldn't stand him at first," but that changed in her junior year when they had a class together. Still, theirs was an off-on relationship for the next three years before Ed left town to join the Air Force. She dated other boys, one of whom was also serving in the Air Force with Ed. When that beau posted a photo of Bernice on his locker, Ed recognized her and decided he needed to re-connect. They were married after the end of the Korean War when Ed was release from service.

"We had no jobs. No money. But we didn't care, because we had love," recalls Bernice. 

With a new wife and no money, Ed decided the practical thing to do was re-enlist, and he ended up serving a total of 22 years. The couple spent four of those years living in London. Their children, Wallace Edwin, Jr. and Cheryl, were just 21 months and 5 months old when they moved to England in 1956. Bernice recalls it "was like going back in time 20 years." The couple laughs about having to put a "two-pence" in the gas meter just to be able to have hot water to take a bath.

After retiring from the Air Force, Ed joined the Postal Service in Wichita Falls and retired again after 17 years. At this point, he and Bernice entered the entrepreneural stage of their marriage. He formed a re-sell business dealing in retail store fixtures, and in 1978 she opened "Bernice's Flower Scenter."

Six years into her floral business, Ed retired for the third and last time. In 1989, he purchase a van fully outfitted with all the accessories. Ed had big dreams of traveling across the country with Bernice. 

"She would always tell me, 'I can't leave the business right now,' so we never did really travel that much. When she closed her shop in 2007, that van was still sitting in the driveway," said Ed with a laugh.

Five grandchildren, and soon to be four great grandchildren later, the couple is enjoying the many leisure activities available at Cornerstone. As for their secret to achieving a long-lasting marriage, both agree that putting God first makes all the difference. The next most important trait, according to Ed, is patience.

"Lots of patience," he said with a smile. To which Bernice added, "Forget the glamor. It's a partnership!" But along the way, glamor does happen."