The Kirkleys: 72 years and counting

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Jefferson couple shares secret to a long, happy marriage

By Laura Caskey

With the not-so-happy outcomes of many modern marriages, it’s welcoming news to hear of a marriage that has stood the tests of time.

George and Lola Kirkley met each other in 1937 in Jefferson when she was 16 and he was 17.

Lola, who lived in the Angelus community, was greeted by George in front of Long Branch Baptist Church in Jefferson before revival services.

“He came up to me and asked, ‘Can I sit with you?’ and I said I guessed he could,” Lola Kirkley said. “He came back the next night and asked the same thing, and then he asked if I’d like to go out with him Saturday night.”

The couple dated for two years, despite maintaining a “long-distance” relationship.

“I would walk seven miles from my house to see her,” said George, who didn’t live far from the Kirkleys’ current home on Kirkley Road in Jefferson.

One Saturday night in 1939, George asked Lola to marry him.

“I told him I would give him an answer later,” Lola said. “I prayed for us to be separated if this wasn’t the man I was supposed to marry. When nothing happened, I came back and gave him my answer.”

“That was it. I was happy after that,” George said.

Lola, the youngest of eight children, was worried her mother would be too upset to see her youngest daughter marry, so the couple decided to have a small ceremony.

“I didn’t want to see my mama cry, so on a Saturday – his 20th birthday – we decided to go off and get married,” Lola Kirkley said.

The couple was married on Oct. 12, 1940 at the Chesterfield County Courthouse by Robert D.A. Brown.

“It proves you don’t need to have a big, expensive wedding. All the money we had to go on was $2,” George said.

The couple lived with George’s parents for three months, before George’s father offered them a small starter home, where they lived until George was sent to Austria during World War II in 1944.

“While he was gone, I got some money to build a house. His father told me to make my plans, and me and my brothers started to build this house. My daughters Anne and Faye and I lived in it for 3 weeks before George came back and had everything finished,” Lola said.

The couple has five children – Anne, Faye, Everett, Tommy and Kenny – nine grandchildren, 18 great-grandchildren and three great-great-grandchildren.

The couple celebrated their 50th anniversary in 1990 with a big event with friends and family, and were given a similar event at their church, White Plains Baptist, in October 2010 for their 70th anniversary.

“After that, I said, ‘No more celebrations,’” Lola Kirkley said.

With a marriage so strong, what is it the Kirkleys believe has torn apart many modern marriages?

“A lot of it boils down to money, I think, and that a lot of people don’t attend church and have gone away from the churches,” Lola said.

“In a marriage you don’t always have to fight all the time,” George added.

Long, fruitful relationships must run in the family, because the Kirkley’s daughter Faye celebrated her 50th wedding anniversary this past summer.

“Love and keeping Jesus in the relationship are the main things that keep a marriage strong, and we taught that to our children. Relationships are give and take. It’s not all honeymoon,” Lola said.

Contact reporter Laura Caskey at (803) 283-1158