February 14, 2007

Ringgold Couple’s Love Lasts 70 Years

By Chloe Morrison, Chattanooga Times/Free Press, Tenn.

Feb. 14--EDITOR'S NOTE: To see a video about Claude and Cleatie Roden, of Ringgold, Ga., go to www.timesfreepress.com.

In 1936, a loaf of bread cost 10 cents, Franklin D. Roosevelt was president, Model A Fords were driven on dirt roads and Claude and Cleatie Roden vowed to love each other until death parted them.

"I never thought one time in my life about divorcing this guy, and I don't believe he has either," Mrs. Roden said. "I always thought we'd live together as long as we lived."

The couple from Jackson County, Ala., will celebrate Valentine's Day today after 70 years of marriage.

They began dating in 1934, when Mrs. Roden was 14 and Mr. Roden was 21. Mr. Roden used the excuse that he was thirsty to stop at Mrs. Roden's house, both said, finishing each other's sentences.

"He just wanted to meet me, and he stayed awhile," Mrs. Roden said. "We started dating then. He kept asking me if he could come back."

The couple wrote love letters during the two years they dated that they have saved for 70 years. They married on Dec. 24, 1936, and moved to Mr. Roden's 80-acre farm on Sand Mountain, Ala., where they would spend the majority of their years together before moving in 2000 to Ringgold, Ga.

They said their life has been simple and centered around farming, family and faith. In the early years of the Rodens' marriage, the country still was gripped by the Great Depression, but the couple raised thousands of hogs and also had cattle, cotton, corn and hay.

Mrs. Roden made butter, and the couple swapped that and eggs for other groceries. Even though Mrs. Roden said the couple lived in "kind of a time of panic," they were some of the lucky ones.

Mrs. Roden gave birth to the couple's first of four children as the country was moving out of the Depression. They had two boys, and 17 years later had a girl and a boy within 15 months of each other.

When the couple's first son, Jimmy, was born, doctors made house calls. The doctor stayed all day, and Jimmy was born in a log cabin on a cold, wintry night in 1938, the couple said.

"He had never been around a baby, but he was so proud of his baby," Mrs. Roden said of her husband. "I was afraid he was going to hurt it (by) lovin' on it. I said, 'You'd better be careful, his head might fall off.'"

Since then, the couple has watched technology evolve over seven decades. Mr. Roden used a mule when he first farmed. Later, he got a riding cultivator and then a tractor. The first radio the couple had worked only when the wind blew a charger on the roof.

With electricity came another, newer radio. The couple liked to listen to quartets, such as the Alabama Boys, Mrs. Roden said. A stove and refrigerator eventually provided convenience.

Mr. Roden said it would be hard for people today to understand how different things were when he was young.

"Y'all don't understand what a T Model (Ford) would look like," he said.

The couple celebrated 70 years together in December, and they said they are as happy as ever.

According to the National Center for Health Statistics, in 2005 for every two marriages there was one divorce.

Julie Baumgardner, executive director of First Things First, said couples who stay together have a perspective on marriage similar to the Rodens' .

"Research shows that when you enter into marriage with that perspective of 'till death do us part,' (it lasts longer)," she said.

Mrs. Roden said trying to please each other and having strong faith are the most important things for a marriage.

"(You have to) love each other and please each other," she said. "I've always tried to cook the things he wanted. They say I've spoiled him, but I always wanted to please him."

E-mail Chloe Morrison at [email protected] LOVE VERSES The Rodens wrote love letters while they dated. At the bottom they wrote love verses such as "The road is wide and I can't step it. I love you and you can't help it."


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