50 Years of Love

by Tonya Dixon | May 10th, 2014
(Jeannie and Robert Stockham) Photo by Perfect Lenz

(Jeannie and Robert Stockham) Photo by Perfect Lenz Photography

Fifty years ago, Jeannie and Robert Stockham went on their first date. When they returned home they were engaged. It was a warm day in March 1963. The pair rode out; not too far; somewhere near Jones Beach in New York. The details are a bit fuzzy, but the results of their date will forever be imprinted in their minds. They spent the evening talking; telling each other of their dreams and desires. They just knew. He was the one. She was the one.

The months that followed were spent making introductions to family members and utilizing every possible opportunity to spend time together. Robert would be shipping out in May, only two months after their engagement for boot camp. He had enlisted in the Marines. A wedding was planned for March 1964.

Theirs is a love story that truly defies the modern sense of courtship, yet their love has unflinchingly remained and grown with each passing year. It’s a feat most marriages fail to achieve. However, if not for divine intervention their union would have never been.

In 1961, Jeannie was engaged to be married; but it wasn’t to Robert. The date was set for the weekend immediately following her high school graduation. An apartment had been rented, furniture purchased and all the necessary arrangements made. The date arrived, but Jeanie Mae didn’t get married that day; however, her fiancé did. Jeannie was astonished to discover that her fiancé had been seeing another woman whom he chose to marry that weekend. Her name was Jeannie too.

The entire event was devastating. “Almost like the death of a loved one,” she says. Nevertheless, she responded by asking God to relieve her of the disappointment and trauma she felt. She prayed that she would not become involved with anyone else until she met the man who would become her husband.

Meanwhile, quiet and shy, Robert was busy working as a teacher’s assistant at a high school in New York. He had a steady girlfriend and was basically content. Jeannie and Robert eventually crossed paths when she decided to spend a few months visiting family members in New York for the summer before heading to Chicago for school. She found work as a seamstress at a local dry cleaner. Robert knew the manager and often stopped by on his way home. Jeannie was attracted, but Robert never showed interest and she also remembered her prayer request. Still intrigued, she sent word through Robert’s friend, (her boss), of her interest but the friend never relayed the message and decided he wanted to woo her instead. Jeannie made it clear she was smitten by only Robert. Even still, it took some time before Robert built up enough courage to approach her. “I was shy back then and was leery because she was super fine,” he says. Ultimately he asked to spend some time with her. They have been “spending time” with each other ever since that day.

They both agree their love story has nothing to do with luck or chance, rather they recognize it’s the invisible hand and plan of God that has been guiding them. They recall examples of situations in their marriage they simply can’t explain by ordinary means; situations that are just as divinely orchestrated as their marriage. They tell the story of the maid of honor from their wedding named Carol Carter, who they believe God had strategically connected them to.

Following the wedding the friends lost contact. Robert and Jeannie began to build their lives and they assumed the same about Carter. However, it was Roberts’ love of movies that reconnected the friends. After a Sunday service in 1995, he decided to stop for a DVD rental. While talking to the store clerk he noticed her accent and asked where she was from (he had a habit of trying to guess someone’s origin by their accent). Jamaica Queens, she said. (Robert’s hometown) It was Carol Carter.

Well over 25 years later, from New York to Greensboro, the friends were reunited again. They have since lost contact with Carter, although it’s not because they haven’t tried to reach out, it’s because they simply believe it’s the plan of God for them to find each other all over again. They say it’s not just coincidence. It’s God. “I don’t understand why. We don’t know how she ended up here, but it’s all God’s plans. There is a connection. We know it’s something God has for us to do,” Robert says.

Over and over again they tell stories that simply signify they made the right choice 50 years ago. They reiterate it’s just the hand of God. A love like theirs doesn’t come by happenstance. How have they maintained their love for 50 years? “First of all, it doesn’t seem like it’s been 50 years. I would say it feels like it might be 25 or 30 years; but it just doesn’t feel like 50,” says Jeannie. “I don’t ask anything of him that I can’t give myself.” Plus Robert jokingly adds, “I’m 100 percent domesticated. I can do anything on both sides. I can wash clothes, change diapers and cook and I do it all to this day.”

They admit they don’t always enjoy the same things but that’s okay. Robert loves being outside in the yard, whereas Jeannie had enough of the outdoors when she was growing up in Alabama. They agree that doing things together as a couple is what helped them make it to their golden anniversary. They have an ongoing game of Rummy 500 they have been playing every night for 50 years. Robert says he gets beat down every time, but loves every minute of it. Jeannie says of course they agitate each other at times and usually have spats about something every day, but they calm down, make up, and then move forward. “I’ll tell you another thing that keeps you going,” he says reluctantly. “You have to always remain in love with each other.”

It’s obvious the Stockhams love and adore one another. It’s the kind of love that compels others to smile, and hope and pray for a love like theirs in this lifetime.

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