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Meet Two Residents of Carillon Assisted Living of Southport Who Have Been Sweethearts for 62 Years’ Worth of Valentine’s Days

While George “Buck” Matthews can’t drive any longer, he will rely on his son, George Jr.—better known as Matt—to soon pick up a box of chocolates and a card. Buck plans to present them to his wife, Helen, during a Feb. 14 meal in her Garden Place dining room at Southport.

It’s been more than 62 years since the couple first walked the aisle in Helen’s hometown of Laurel Hill on July 29, 1955. But as this Valentine’s Day approaches, George’s love for his wife is still burning bright.

“I would tell you now she’s the best friend I have, and I think she would tell you the same thing,” says Buck, a retired engineer whose long career with telephone companies concluded in 1987 with Bell South. “The thing about marriages that last is we were great friends before we started thinking about anything beyond that.

“The other thing is each person must think about trying to make the other person happy than himself or herself. We’ve practiced that and have had a long and happy marriage. We were sitting in the dining room recently waiting for food to be served and holding hands. Someone asked, ‘Are you honeymooners?’ and I said, ‘Yeah, and we don’t see any reason to stop now.’”

To be technical, Buck and Helen’s first wedding took place in grade school. That’s when they played the bride and groom in a production of “Tom Thumb,” the character from English folklore that has lived on for centuries.

They knew each other throughout school and finally went on a few movie dates in high school before heading off to other places. When both returned home later they resumed dating. Just as they thought of getting married, the Korean War intervened.

Not wanting to leave a spouse behind while he served in the military, George departed for four years in the Navy. However, they corresponded regularly and knew they would marry once he returned to civilian status.

“Helen was working for Eastern Airlines in Charlotte and I decided I would use my GI bill benefits to go to North Carolina State,” George recalls. “Then we would get married when she get a transfer to Raleigh. That came through when I had one year at NC State and we got married for the second time in 1955.”

Helen traded airline reservations for homemaking when daughter, Pam, was born in 1959, followed two years later by Matt. As much as they loved their children, Buck says they never let the kids take priority over their relationship—something he calls a “real danger” for couples.

As a family, they especially enjoyed going to the beach. That led to them building a cottage on nearby Oak Island in 1965. They spent many vacations and weekends there and after retiring decided to move to the island. Since the cottage wasn’t big enough for year-round living, they sold it and built a home on a canal where they could launch their boat.

Buck confesses to falling short in the romance department, saying he didn’t do too many special things on Valentine’s Day, aside from getting a card and candy. He and Helen always went out for dinner on their anniversary and often bought some kind of home furnishing as a gift to each other.

Buck struggles now as he watches Helen deal with memory loss and particularly worried about last Christmas, their first in their new home. However, their children and Helen’s niece and husband came to Carillon for a special dinner, making the holiday better than Buck he had even hoped.

The memories of their 62 years together and family—which includes two grandchildren and five great-grandchildren—are especially important to Buck as he faces an uncertain future. His faith also helps.

“That has a lot to do with our marriage enduring,” he says. “One reason it has lasted is because we still love each other. You need a sense of humor, too. That’s important. Of course, like an older fella told me when I got married, you only need two words to make a happy marriage: ‘Yes, dear.’ It worked.”

Posted in Sage Stories on February 2, 2018

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