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Valentines forever: Two senior couples share relationship lessons

Amanda Marsh • Feb 13, 2012 at 6:47 AM

Cupid’s arrow can bring two hearts together at any stage of life. Caroline Miller discovered true love on a blind date at the age of 17 and Lester W. Hughes fell head-over-heels for a second time just before turning 80.

How Cupid cast a love spell on each of these couples is something they enjoy talking about, along with the relationship lessons they’ve learned from decades of experience.

When Kenneth Miller and his buddy Ralph pulled up in a ‘55 Chevy, Caroline was beside herself as she first laid eyes on the man her twin sister had set her up with.

“I was kind of surprised,” Caroline said with a laugh. “I said ‘Gee, what a handsome fella.’ They told me he had just gotten out of the Air Force and I said, ‘OK. I could go out with an Air Force guy.’ ”

Kenneth, who was 20 then, had a similar reaction when seeing his future wife for the first time.

“I can remember my first vision of Caroline and her sister,” he said. “They were standing in the doorway of their house and they were looking out that door and they both had these beautiful brown eyes. And I said ‘Maybe this won’t be such a tough evening after all.’ ”

Less than a year later, the young couple tied the knot, about a week after Caroline graduated from Boones Creek High School. They’ll celebrate their 47th anniversary in May.

“We kind of knew that we were made for each other, just because we like to dance, if nothing else,” Caroline said.

Back then, having a date for dancing at the Frontier Club each weekend was a top priority for Kenneth and Caroline. Now, they admit that they may not have considered how their relationship would work as a married couple.

“When you’re 17 years old and 20, you’re kind of dumb,” Kenneth said. “You marry for all the wrong reasons, probably.”

Unlike the young couple who let love guide their decisions more than 40 years ago, Lester, 86, and his wife Jo Ruth, 80, actually listened to their heads as well as their hearts when they began dating in 2004. Both had lost their longtime spouses several years earlier and were ready to date and possibly marry, again.

“The first thing Lester asked me is if I was honest,” Jo Ruth said.

Then they addressed the issue of money. Lester said he wasn’t shy about telling Jo Ruth that she’d have to support herself financially.

“The two of us together, we do all right,” Lester said with a laugh. “We share everything. She don’t lie to me and I don’t lie to her and I think we get along great.”

The couple wed at the Johnson City Seniors’ Center in April 2005, less than a year after they met at a dance in Elizabethton. Jo Ruth happily recounted every detail of the event, from her beautiful white gown to the archway covered in roses that they said their vows under.

“I knew he was the one God wanted me to have,” she said.

Almost seven years into their marriage, Lester and Jo Ruth are still learning about each other and their interests. Lester says his wife still doesn’t know how much he loves to fish and he plans on taking her soon.

Over time, both couples have picked up valuable lessons on the keys to a successful and lasting romance, at any age. Kenneth and Caroline have learned by way of 47 years of marital experience.

“There’s nobody going to be happy about everything,” Kenneth said. “You can love somebody and still every now and then they do things that just wear you out and you do things that wear them out, but we’ve been able to overcome all that and stick together and that’s what it takes. It’s not easy.”

The couple also offered one last bit of advice before they talked about upcoming trips to state capitals and dancing at the seniors’ center each week. “And life, if you can see your way through all the hardships, at the end of the line, it’s a beautiful trip and it’s one we’re still on,” Kenneth said.

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