Staff Photo by Stacey Hairston:
A.J. Reeves and his wife, Lillie Young-Reeves, have spent 71 Christmases as a married couple. Their home in Penhook is decorated for the Christmas holiday.
Monday, December 24, 2012
By STACEY HAIRSTON - Staff Writer
A local couple has not only seen their platinum wedding anniversary, but will celebrate their 71st Christmas together as a married couple this year.
A.J. Reeves, 98, and Lillie Young-Reeves, 89, said "I do" on January 24, 1941, the same year Japan attacked Pearl Harbor and gas was only 12 cents a gallon.
"We will be married 72 years this January," said Lillie.
The couple remembers Christmases when they were children and Christmases when their children were children.
"The first Christmas we had together as parents," said A.J., "we got our daughter a wagon."
Perhaps the most memorable gift A.J. gave his wife was her bridal set, 10 years after they were married.
"And she gave me a wood slicer and a toolbox with several trays," said A.J. "I still use that toolbox."
When they were children, Christmas was not about toys, they said.
"We got gifts, but not many toys," said A.J. "We would get candy, fruits and nuts, but I do remember I got a cap gun and a roll of caps one year."
"And sometimes I would get a doll," said Lillie.
A.J. grew up on a farm in Truevine, attending a one-room school that only had one teacher for 65 students. After finishing the seventh grade, he went to work on the farm. The only living sibling of 12, he eventually inherited his father's farm, adding it to farmland of his own.
Later, he bought a truck and did hauling to earn money.
Lillie, the oldest of 13 children, grew up a short distance away in Sontag and attended Brown School before enrolling in Franklin County Training School for the eighth through 12th grade.
While attending Holy Trinity Church, she met A.J., who was a member of Truevine Baptist Church.
"We'd meet outside of church and talk some," said A.J. "The more I met her, the more I thought about it."
"Then he started to come see me at my house," said Lillie.
A year or two later, the couple was married by Rev. Morton Hopkins at Hopkins' home in Sontag shortly after Lillie finished training school. They lived in a rental house that A.J.'s father owned while A.J. worked on building them a home of their own.
In the meantime, the couple had their first child, a daughter, Claudette. A son, Alfonsa, came next.
It took A.J. just two years to build their house, which has six rooms, including a special sewing room for Lillie.
"I tried to get a loan from the local bank for windows and other supplies," said A.J. "They told me I would have to get a co-signer, so I told them 'no thank you' and saved the money and paid for it myself. I've never owed anybody anything."
The couple settled their family into their new home, and Lillie became a stay-at-home mom and began sewing for residents of the community. As an accomplished seamstress, her services are still sought out by people who know of her talent.
"She made me several suits," said A.J.
After their children were grown and out of the house, she became the cook and cafeteria manager of Truevine Elementary for about 15 years before the school closed down.
A.J. raised chickens for about 12 years, producing around 32,000 chickens each year. When the price of the broilers and fryers went down, carpentry and a saw mill became a way of making money. A.J. even cut the rough timber for his own home with his saw mill.
"The army got all my good help, so I stopped building and got into electricity and plumbing," he said.
He was an electrician and plumber in his community for over 40 years and retired at age 80.
"I never met a plumbing problem I couldn't solve," he said. "I taught myself how to plumb and I learned along the way."
The couple says there is no secret to long life.
"We eat three hot meals a day at the same time every day," they said, "or close to it. Breakfast is at 7:30, lunch at 12 and supper is at 6 every day."
"I only have one cup of coffee a day, and I never drank alcohol," said A.J. "I drink water, juice and soda sometimes."
According to their doctors, the couple is still in good health, with only a few prescriptions being taken between the two of them.
"We still grow our own garden," said Lillie. "I freeze and can foods during the summer months. I make his meals every day, and I use foods that are fresh out of the garden. And we thank the good Lord that we are still here."
Today, the couple is happy at home and enjoys spending time together and with their two children, three grandchildren, two step-grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.
"We have two great-grandchildren that are in their 20's, so maybe we will have a few great-great grandchildren," said A.J.
A.J. is currently into woodworking and has a woodworking shop right outside his house, where he makes clocks, curio cabinets and many other items out of wood. He also has a secretary's desk that is for sale.
"I work in my shop every day," he said. "Even if it is just to piddle a little bit, I still work in my shop every day."
When asked the secret of a long and happy marriage, they both agreed that "when everybody thinks they are right, no one is right."
"Give and take," A.J. added.
Lillie summed up their life together with an excerpt from the program used for their 65th wedding anniversary. It reads: "For better or worse, we've been side by side, sharing losses and tears through life's uncertain ride. We don't know what the future holds, but we have made it this far. A bit broken down, but still running strong and hoping the best is yet to be."