Wyoming couple celebrates 81 years of marriage
A couple in Wyoming is celebrating 81 years of marriage, joining the record books as one of the longest married couples in the US.
Carla Wensky/Powell Tribune/AP
BYRON, Wyo. - On an autumn day in 1933, Ed and Jeri NeVille promised to love and cherish one another as husband and wife.
They have kept that promise for more than 81 years.
"It's been a long time," Jeri said.
One afternoon at their Byron home, the couple shared stories of their marriage and life together.
They were married on Nov. 25, 1933. At the time, Franklin D. Roosevelt was in his first year as president and America was in the middle of the Great Depression.
"Think of all of the things that have changed in the world since that time - it's just mind- boggling," said Denney NeVille, the couple's oldest son.
Though the world has changed significantly over the past eight decades, much is the same in the NeVilles' lives.
They still have their house in Byron, the same home they first shared as newlyweds. They remain dedicated to their children, Denney, Wally and Cody, who now are grandparents. And they continue to be happily married.
"They're devoted to all of the things they hold dear, especially their children," said their daughter Cody, adding that her parents greatly value family, heritage and church.
When asked whether he ever thought his marriage would last for 81 years, Ed smiled.
"I had a lovely lady to believe in that, and I had to just say ... 'I'll stay with you,'" he said.
Ed and Jeri never imagined they would have one of the longest-lasting marriages in the United States.
"We didn't think about how long we would be married, let alone how long we would live," Jeri said.
Both of them have stayed active and healthy. Jeri, 97, lives at the couple's original home in Byron. Ed is 99 years old and now lives at the New Horizons Care Center in Lovell because he is wheelchair-bound.
When it's not too cold and snowy, Jeri attends weekly Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints services at the center with Ed. They see each other as often as they're able to during the week, too.
Ed was born in Byron in 1915, and Jeri was born in Elk Basin in 1917 - "probably one of the few living people who were born at Elk Basin," Denney said.
Ed and Jeri grew up near one another in Byron, and first met at the schoolhouse.
"She was a cute girl, and she was dedicated to me," Ed said.
Following their wedding in 1933, the couple took a late honeymoon to Yellowstone National Park.
"We stayed until our money was half-spent, and then we turned around and came back," she said. "We couldn't go any farther. We had 10 cents in our pockets - that's all we had when we came back home."
When their kids were growing up, they often took them to the mountains and on other family trips. Later on, the couple enjoyed traveling to wherever their children were living as they moved out of state.
Over the years, the couple has enjoyed spending time together.
"We never had strong, harsh arguments with each other," Jeri said. "We've had a few arguments, but they were very mild."
"They always got along so well," said their son Wally.
When asked which of Ed's qualities she appreciates, Jeri replied, "All of them. He has a lot of good qualities. He's honest; he's very considerate of me - he always has been. He's a very good father."
Growing up, the couple's children saw evidence of their parents' strong and happy marriage.
"I remember them dancing in the kitchen," Cody said, adding that as a child, it brought a nice comfort to see her parents' love for one another.
As parents, Ed and Jeri shared common goals and put their children first. Jeri said she's most proud of the fact that all three of her children graduated from college.
Both parents were invested in their children and supported their endeavors, Wally said.
"Family is more important to them than anything else, and they just stuck with it," he said, adding, "That was the thing they focused their lives on - their family."
For decades, Ed worked in the oil field and though he had career opportunities beyond Wyoming, the couple chose to raise their family here. That meant Ed often traveled for work.
"It took him away from home a lot," said Wally. "But he was never gone for too great a time or length, and he always seemed to be around when we needed him."
Jeri ensured things were taken care of at home, making good meals and doing the housework.
The couple made a home that their children fondly remember, and Cody said they also welcomed the kids' friends, making it a place where people wanted to be.
Ed remodeled the original house multiple times, adding on to it over the years.
"Dad was a handyman, always building and fixing things," Wally said, adding he remembers their home as being "always nice and cozy."
Ed still wants to make sure the home stays that way for his wife. He will often ask Denney, "Is Mom comfortable in that beautiful house I built? Is the heater working?"
Denney lives in the area and helps his parents. Wally and Cody live out of state, but they love returning to visit their family and childhood home in Byron as often as they can.
Wally, who is in his 70s, said at that age, it's a unique experience to still have both your parents alive and be able to visit the home where you grew up.
"It gives you an interesting outlook on life - nothing has changed," Wally said. "When I go back, I see the tree in the front yard that my dad got in the mountains."
Ed planted the tree decades ago, "and now, it's huge," Wally said. "It has been there as long as I can remember."
Several years ago, the NeVilles hosted a family reunion at the Byron home, and their yard was filled with their grandchildren, who happily played together. The couple has 18 grandchildren and 47 great-grandchildren.
Their family values have been passed on through the generations, Cody said.
When asked what advice she would give to couples for a long-lasting marriage, Jeri said to "be gentle and kind to each other - don't have arguments."
The couple also has maintained a sense of humor over the years.
"Somebody asked her (Jeri) one time, 'How did you make a marriage last 81 years?' And, classic answer: 'Neither one of us died,'" Denney said with a laugh. "I'm sure it takes a lot more than that, though."