Dianne Tubbs knew a milestone was coming up for her friends James and Joyce Patton, and wanted to make sure it didn’t go unnoticed.

“I call to check on them from time to time, and this summer she mentioned if they lived until October, they would have been married 75 years,” Tubbs recalled. “I’ve been mentally making plans since then.”

Tubbs reached out to the Hendersonville couple’s son, David for the exact anniversary date and notified their church and neighborhood friends. 

The celebration would be different though thanks to the coronavirus pandemic.

“Since COVID-19 they have not been able to go out except for an occasional doctor’s visit, but they do like to sit on their front porch to greet neighbors as they walk through the neighborhood,” Tubbs said.

On Monday, David and his wife Heather coaxed the couple onto their porch in the Winston Hills subdivision just before 1 p.m.

Tubbs stood in the front yard collecting cards and balloons as more than two dozen well-wishers drove by – waving and gently tapping their horns at the couple who first exchanged their wedding vows on Oct. 26, 1945.

The two had met a few years earlier, having grown up within a block of each other in East Nashville.

Mrs. Patton loves to tell the story of how they met as teenagers while both attending East High School.

“He was working at the drug store delivering packages for Smotherman’s Drug Store,” she said. “This other boy was sending me a box of heart-shaped candy for Valentine’s Day and he asked him if he would deliver it to me,” she said. “That’s kind of when we made contact. He lived in the neighborhood and I knew him and he knew who I was.”

Her husband smiles.

“I didn’t spend no money on candy,” he laughs. Yet, he got the girl.

Mr. Patton enlisted in the U.S. Navy rather than graduate from high school while Joyce Patton finished school and went to work. While in the Navy, the U.S. entered World War II in which James served his country.

The war officially ended in September of 1945.

A month later the two tied the knot, but not in Nashville as they had originally planned.

“The war was just over and we knew his ship was coming in,” Joyce recalled. “I had a friend I worked with and her husband was coming in at the same time, so we both rode a Greyhound bus all the way to Norfolk, Va., and met them.”

A close friend whose husband was stationed in Norfolk offered the two women a place to stay.

A week later James and Joyce were married and heading off with their friends to honeymoon in Washington, D.C.

The two lived in East Nashville for several years before moving to Hendersonville in 1995.

If you ask what their secret to a long, successful marriage is, be prepared to get two entirely different answers.

James Patton, who turned 97 last week, chuckles a little and doesn’t hesitate with his response.

“You know what the secret is? he asks. “Let them handle all the money and make all the decisions – and blame everything on me,” he laughs. “You’ve got a good marriage.”

His wife emits a high, soft laugh.

“I don’t have much of a rebuttal for that,” she says.

A little later, Joyce, who is 95, gives her own answer.

“It takes a combination of things – love to begin with, and then joy, and hope and faith and prayer. A combination of things. Put all that together and you have 75 years.”

David Patton, 68, says his parents’ love has endured several hardships – including the loss of two children.

“They love each other and they’re committed to one another,” he said. “There’s not much more to say than that.”

James gets serious for a minute as the celebration begins to wind down.

“It’s been a good life,” he says. “The Lord has been good to us.”

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