For Jack and Omie Whitener, a walk to the country store in the mid-1940s has turned into a 74-year union that is still going strong.
“My daddy moved to Tennessee in ’21 and he raised all of his 16 kids up there. I had never met [Jack], but my uncle raised him,” Mrs. Whitener said, referring to her husband being adopted. “… We came back here in ’44. Daddy hadn’t seen none of his [siblings] and every one of them was still living — for all them years.
“We went to their house. The first time I ever saw him, he had the prettiest black, curly hair. He was standing against a tree with his foot against it. I [thought], ‘God, if I don’t get that man, I don’t ever want one.’ So I got him. It took me a year.”
Known for his quiet nature, Whitener shared he “was out of school” and “had never seen her before until she came to Georgia” in July 1944. Noting he was attracted to her from the start, he said there is a “whole lot” to love about his wife.
Nearly a year after meeting when they were 18, the Whiteners — now both 93 — took a stroll to the county store on their first date.
On June 30, 1945, the couple tied the knot at the 1903 Bartow County Courthouse. For their wedding, Mrs. Whitener made a pleated gray-and-black plaid skirt that she paired with a white blouse, and her husband wore black pants and a white shirt.
While today’s marriage ceremonies can cost thousands of dollars, the Whiteners’ nuptials totaled $5 — $3 of which was the marriage license.
“It was about 8 miles from the courthouse to where he lived. We went to the movie after we got married,” she said, adding they received a ride into town from people, who were staying in Cartersville all day. “Well, they ran off and left us. We walked that 8 miles that night. So that’s the way we spent our wedding night — walking the road.”
After marrying in June, the Whiteners celebrated the birth of their first child, Martha, in March 1946.
“She came real early,” she said, about her daughter weighing 2 pounds at birth. “I put a pillow a banana box. I painted a light bulb black and hung it over that box to keep her warm. Everybody around us had measles and mumps and whooping cough, and I put a sign on my front door — ‘No visitors.’”
Following the birth of Martha, who later died from cancer in 2007 at the age of 62, the Whiteners welcomed three children into the world: Elizabeth, Nancy and Jackie. Through the years, the couple remained in Cartersville, working at carpet mills, with Mrs. Whitener retiring from Shaw Industries as a machine operator in 1992.
While she admits there have been “good days and some you think the top’s coming off,” Mrs. Whitener said her faith in her marriage never wavered.
“I’ve never been untrue to him,” she said. “I’ve never had a thought that I wanted to be untrue to him. I’ve worked every year ever since we’ve been married to help him — more than some men work. I’ve never doubted him. I’ve always had confidence in him.”
For Rydal resident Nancy Young, her parents’ contrasting personalities complement each other. While her father is introverted, her mother is very engaging, even saying herself that she has “never met a stranger.” Young noted “hard work and being there for each other” are the keys to her parents having a successful, lengthy marriage.
“They do everything together. They spend 24/7 together,” Young said. “What one of them does, the other one does. They’ve always sewed and quilted, [embroidered], crocheted.
“They like going to thrift stores,” she said, adding they also enjoy dining out. “They disagree, but they always make up.”
Describing their get-up-and-go disposition as inspirational, Young noted that she and her siblings assist her parents — who no longer drive — daily.
“We come out every day, and take them to eat, just get them out every day so they can keep going,” Young said. “They’re amazing — the things they do and they can keep going at this age.
“They live by themself, and they can take care of theirselves. He’s got a lot of handicaps, and she’s got some with health, but they still push and they go. It’s amazing how they can keep going. Some days they wear me out.”