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Local couple credits love for marriage’s staying power

PHOTO SUBMITTED / Jerry and Bernice Wilson are reaching a milestone few couples achieve these days, a 70th wedding anniversary.

PHOTO SUBMITTED / Jerry and Bernice Wilson are reaching a milestone few couples achieve these days, a 70th wedding anniversary.

Recent divorce statistics indicate that nearly 50 percent of all marriages end in divorce, giving much reason for rejoicing when a couple celebrates any wedding anniversary.

However, special celebration is in order when couples hit longevity anniversaries, such as the “silver” 25th anniversary, the “ruby” 40th anniversary, the “gold” 50th anniversary, the “diamond” 60th anniversary and so on.

Jerry and Bernice Wilson, of the East Lincoln community of Lincoln County, have collected their silver, ruby, gold and diamond anniversary accolades and will soon add another to their impressive list: the “platinum” 70th anniversary.

The couple (Jerry, now 88 years old and Bernice, now 85) will celebrate seven decades of wedded bliss on Aug. 7, 2014.

To properly put seven decades of marriage into perspective, consider this: The couple married in 1944, one year before the end of World War II. That’s six years before the Korean War started; 15 years before Hawaii became a U.S. state; 30 years before Nixon resigned because of Watergate; and 57 years before the September 2001 terrorist attacks.

Or, for a stronger perspective, consider these sobering statistics: Only 33 percent of couples mark their 25th wedding anniversary, with 20 percent marking their 35th and only five percent marking their 50th.

Research is thin when it comes to data about couples making it to the platinum anniversary, but one statistic rates this accomplishment as something that less than one percent of couples achieve.

For the Wilsons, this anniversary will be just another milestone in a lifetime full of them.

The then-teenagers were married at the Methodist parsonage in Monticello by the Rev. T.E. Ainsworth, the circuit preacher assigned to the area that included their home church, Pleasant Grove Methodist. They had met at the church and courted for a period of time, a time that involved Jerry walking two miles (one-way, he’s quick to point out) three times a week to Bernice’s home in the nearby Harmony community.

Their married life began on a hill overlooking a peaceful stream known as Perch Creek on what’s now East Lincoln Road. During their seven-decade marriage, they have never lived anywhere else, save a six-month detour to Port Arthur, Texas.

They raised their three boys on that patch of land, with the first son arriving in 1946. Tommy would soon be followed by Mickey in 1948 and then Roger 10 years later. The Wilsons doted on their sons while instilling in them the value of hard work and the importance of God, love and family.

Love has been an intertwining theme for the Wilsons throughout their lives. They claim to have never had an argument (“I never found anything to argue about,” said Bernice) and credit their long marriage’s success to the strong love they have for each other.

“We genuinely love each other and respect each other,” said Bernice.

They also love and respect their family, friends and church family. Both have been active at Pleasant Grove Methodist for their entire lives, with Jerry serving in leadership positions too numerous to count and Bernice always being present, ready to help, for any event. The couple also helped launch and staff the church’s food pantry ministry to assist people in their community.

After their respective retirements (Jerry as a supervisor from the Brookhaven Jacobsen plant and Bernice from Stahl-Urban and Fred’s), the couple took up full-time babysitting and loving on their grandchildren. They now have 33 in total, including eight grandchildren, 21 great-grandchildren and four great-great-grandchildren.

The Wilsons consider their family to be their greatest legacy. In turn, their family considers the Wilsons’ love to be their legacy, an amazing one that has stood the test of time and the twists and turns of life.

And, even after 70 years together and lives well-lived, that love is still as bright as it was in 1944.

“Some things never change,” said a smiling Jerry.

Joshua Wilson, of Hattiesburg, is the grandson of Jerry and Bernice Wilson and a former staff writer and columnist for The Daily Leader. Write him at jwilson@jowilmedia.com.