James Melvin Hilley and Naomi Hilley will celebrate their marriage of 70 years Nov. 22.
The couple got married in 1947 at a local pastor’s home, and seven years later they had their only child, Anita Johnson.
Johnson said her parents have always had strong religious beliefs. She said her father spent most of his life behind a pulpit and retired from preaching God’s word just four years ago. The couple now attends Antioch Baptist Church in Fyffe.
“Daddy pastored several churches,”Johnson said. “The last church he pastored at was Flat Rock Baptist Church in Fyffe. They lived in Fyffe the majority of their lives and he pastored with six churches and filled in with eight.”
Johnson said the couple has a host of grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
“They have two grandchildren,” Johnson said. “A grandson, Justin Johnson, and a granddaughter, Alyson McCaskell, and they have three great granddaughters, Abby Kate, Maddie and Naomi.”
Johnson said her parents still make time for several of their hobbies.
“They are still very active,” Johnson said. “They love to do crossword puzzles, mother still quilts some and they love to have a garden. They still go to the senior center and play Rook with their friends, and they also like to go to assisted living and sing with a group. For 87 and 91-years-old they are still active.”
Johnson said her parents have crossed many milestones in their lifetimes. She said her father is a veteran from WWII and that the couple survived the Palm Sunday Tornado, a tornado outbreak in 1994 that struck Texas, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina, and together rebuilt the home it destroyed.
Johnson said her parents’ faith, and from watching them work through challenges together in life, showed her what makes a marriage work.
“First and foremost, they each have their relationship with Jesus,” Johnson said. “They love each other and that love is a commitment that they are together until they die. That is what that means.
“It has been a great impact, because I have seen them handle situations in life and have watched how they handled things.”
She said her parent’s marriage 70 years ago was a lifelong commitment that they will continue to live out together.
“I’ve been very blessed and I know that it’s because of the relationship they had with Jesus and their love for each other and their love for me,” Johnson said. “They are committed to be there for each other for the rest of their lives and that’s what it takes.”