- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 21, 2014

GADSDEN, Ala. (AP) - Love endures all things. Just ask Jack and Florence Sansom.

The Whorton Bend couple has been married for 73 years. How did they do it?

“We’re still in love,” the 92-year-old Florence said. “I’m not going to say we never had a cross word, but we’ve never had any great big fusses. We never went to bed mad.”

Jack is 94 years old and they still live at the home where Jack’s family moved when he was 3 months old.

He’s still the tall, quiet one, and she’s still cute and feisty.

They met as students at Etowah High School back in the 1930s. “We would meet at this certain window in the hall,” Florence recalled.

Jack would bring her the Hershey’s Kisses she loved. His reaction one day to her eagerness to eat the treat could have ended the relationship. But they laugh now as they recall the day he told her to eat them a little slower.

“I said, ‘Don’t just gobble them down. Suck on ‘em.’” he recalled. “I said, ‘I had to comb my mother’s hair to get a dime to buy those Kisses.’”

His mother had long hair and would pay him 10 cents to comb it for her.

They were together for five years before they got married, but the first year they kept their courting quiet.

“For a long time I didn’t pay much attention to him,” Florence said. “Then we’d slip around. We didn’t do like they do this day and time.”

Jack would ride his bicycle to visit, tying a handkerchief over his mouth to keep the cold air from his lungs.

“But one time it froze on there,” she said.

He would visit at her family’s house and they would sit in the living room. They laughed as they recalled sneaking a kiss when her daddy went outside to get firewood.

“But he looked back in the window and saw us,” Florence said. “He came back and said, ‘Cut that out.’”

So they did.

Recalling stories of their early days together, Florence encouraged Jack to tell a few more of the stories.

“I’m not about to,” he said with a big smile.

Times were tough back then, and both families moved around.

Florence’s family moved to Douglas and she graduated from there in 1940. Jack changed schools and graduated from Southside High School the same year.

They were married in December 1940.

Their friends, Tommy and Lila, took them to the preacher’s house in Southside. “Then we went back to Tommy and Lila’s house and we had supper,” she said. “Then they took us over to the Morris Hotel, and I’m leaving out part of that story.”

The next morning, they walked to her parents’ house, where they stayed for a few days before moving to Whorton Bend to live with Jack’s parents.

“They gave us a room in the front of the house,” Florence said.

She said their fathers knew and liked each other.

Mr. Sansom and Daddy liked to trade mules,” she said. “So if I’d wanted to date anybody else, Daddy wouldn’t have let me.”

Jack worked at Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. for about two years, but quit to farm his family’s land.

He grew cotton and his fields were well kept and free of weeds. For the first several years, he didn’t have a tractor and plowed with mules.

Florence said it was her job to patch the pick sacks. She loved to sew and made her own clothes, but the repairs to the sacks to haul the cotton were a different story.

“It’s the hardest job I had to do,” she said.

It was even harder than milking the cow and churning the butter.

“The cow’s foot came up in the bucket and his tail hit me,” she said.

But it was all part of a day on the farm.

“We didn’t have much,” Florence said. “So I would churn the milk and make butter. Then I’d mold the butter and carry it to Western Market (a small grocery on Bay Street) to sell.”

By then their oldest daughter, Jacquelyn, had been born, and Florence would carry her in one arm and the butter in the other.

“That was my money to do what I wanted to,” she said.

So one day she used her money for a down payment for a lamp she liked.

When she got home, she told Jack about the lamp, thinking he’d give her the rest of the money.

“But he didn’t,” she said. “He said if you can’t pay for something, it’s not worth having. So I had to sell enough butter to pay for the rest of it.”

They worked hard all week and looked forward to Saturday nights when they went to town to the Dixie Theater. “That’s what we did for fun,” she said.

Daughters Sandra and Karon followed. All three Sansom girls were raised in the family’s farm house.

Florence said they didn’t have a lot of money, “But we had everything we needed. We thought we were rich.”

In those days, the family would visit Jack’s first cousin’s family in Ball Play. The men would fish and hunt, while the women played with the kids and visited.

“We’d stay for three or four days and called that our vacation,” Florence said.

Eventually the girls moved out, got married and had children of their own.

Jacquelyn Stephens, Sandra Wanner and Karon Fortenberry all live nearby, and each daughter does her part to help out with their parents.

“We’ve got three good girls,” Florence said. They have seven grandchildren, six great-grandchildren and four great-great-grandchildren.

Jack farmed until seven or eight years ago, when he had to give it up.

Florence finally gave in several weeks ago and allowed a woman to come to her house and clean every other week.

“I always wanted to do it myself,” she said. “But I just can’t bend down anymore. But she did such a good job, I think I’ll let her come every week.”

The couple said they feel blessed to have lived a long, happy life.

They got a phone call from Rep. Robert Aderholt, R-Haleyville, to congratulate them on 73 years of marriage.

“It’s great to see anybody celebrate that many years together,” Aderholt, on speaker phone, told the couple.

Florence thanked him for his call. “We’re still in love, too,” she told him.

She and Jack were unaware their congressman was on the other end of the line until she hung up and someone told them.

They both were pleased that he called. “If I’d know that it was him, I’d have told him we need a little money down here,” Jack said, smiling. Then, with a more serious look, he questioned the call.

“What did he want?” he asked.

“He’s never heard of a woman who’s been with one man this long,” Florence quipped.

They still joke a lot, but the love and respect the couple has for each other, after 73 years, is evident.

“We’ve been mighty lucky,” Jack said.

Florence said some might consider their lives together to have been dreary.

“But we’ve lived a good life,” she said. “I still tell him every day how much I love him.”

___

Information from: The Gadsden Times, http://www.gadsdentimes.com

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