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VALENTINE'S DAY: Oxford couple describes how they keep marriage vibrant after 54 years
Gary Truitt
Gary and Becky Truitt say their faith and a good support system are among the things that helped them stay together for 54 years. - photo by Tom Spigolon

OXFORD, Ga. — Gary and Becky Truitt’s recipe for cooking up a long marriage has a few simple ingredients.

Mix in enough love to last more than half a century — and add some faith and humor.

But how did they manage to remain together so long when it has become almost routine for married couples to split?

“We just loved each other,” Mrs. Truitt said. 

She said continuing to look after each other’s needs, as well as being faithful Christians, contributed to their staying power.

“He’s very loving,” she said. “He’s a jokester (and) he does love the Lord.”

Between Gary’s time in the Air Force and his subsequent career with Norfolk Southern Railroad, the Truitts lived in six states and on two continents. The couple has lived at Merryvale Assisted Living in Oxford since about Christmas.

The Truitts met after their families lived near each other. They attended the same schools growing up in Salisbury, Maryland — the “Capital of the Eastern Shore” — near the Atlantic Ocean. 

Though specific dates have faded in their memories over the decades, Mrs. Truitt recalled they met in the sixth grade and one incident put their relationship on hold for a few years.

“He gave me a friendship ring,” she said. “One day I found out he had smoked a cigarette. I gave my girlfriend the friendship ring and said, ‘You take it and put it in his mailbox.’ I said, ‘I don’t want anything to do with him.’”

Truitt later enlisted and began a 12-year stint in the Air Force. They ended up meeting again and Mrs. Truitt recalled Gary had become “a hunk.”

“He was outside a lot with the Air Force, and tanned,” she said, smiling.

And they started dating.

“He stole my heart,” she said.

“She paid me,” Truitt added, to laughter.

After marrying in 1968, Truitt was assigned to an Air Force base in England and they lived there for about three years.

Their time in England was “quite an experience,” Mrs. Truitt said. 

“The men would get sent off somewhere and we didn’t know when they’d be back,” she said.

She said she and all the Air Force wives who lived in their apartment building became pregnant at about the same time. One of their two children was born in England, Mrs. Truitt said.

When they returned to the U.S., Truitt worked for a time with the Campbell Soup Co. before beginning a long career in administration with Norfolk Southern.

They ended up living in Maryland, Delaware, Virginia, Florida and Texas before moving back to Salisbury and, eventually, Georgia near their daughter.

“We’ve lived a lot of places,” Mrs. Truitt said. 

Both agreed a good support system helped them continue in their 54 years together.

In addition to having “good friends,” they joined churches wherever they moved.

Truitt said their parents’ support also was a major factor in keeping their marriage together.

“Oh my, yes,” he said. “Parents are everything to you when you’re young and coming up. They give you direction.”

Mrs. Truitt said their parents were “good examples.”

“They were loving parents,” she said.

Mrs. Truitt recalled that she and Truitt renewed their vows along the way.

“I said I wanted to wear my wedding dress one more time, so we did,” she said. “We were faithful in the Lord and we were faithful in going to church, so we had a big second wedding.”

Mrs. Truitt also said she thought she almost lost him recently when an old heart condition flared up.

She said she found her husband on the floor one day and called an ambulance. But the physicians at the hospital treated him and sent him home, she said.

After 54 years together, Truitt joked that the marriage lasted for one reason.

“She had money,” he said to laughter. 

But he said both of them know their distinct roles in their relationship.

“She’s the boss,” Truitt said. “There’s no doubt.”

And if someone did ask for his advice on how to remain married for more than half a century, he said he would have a quick answer.

“Pick someone like this one,” he said, motioning toward Mrs. Truitt.