A celebration is exactly what has been in the works for several months to mark the anniversary of a very special couple, Raymond and Jeannie Hunter of Auburn, GA. “To our knowledge, they are the second longest-married couple in the State of Georgia,” says their daughter, Lisa Phillips.
“My mom and dad are really special people.” Lisa explains that they were married in Indianapolis, Indiana at ages 15 and 17. “After they were married, my dad joined the Marines.” Even though he was underage for the Corps, Raymond managed to work his way in and fight for his country. Many years later, still serving the community, Raymond spent time as the Mayor of Auburn, GA. Life with the Hunters has always been lived with a positive message and those who surrounded them at their anniversary party were all very quick to tell a story of how Raymond and Jeannie Hunter have influenced their lives by providing a good example of what marriage and family are all about.
With nine grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren, family time and gatherings are certainly busy. One of the ideas for coordinating the party centered on a challenge to each person in attendance. “We asked everyone to recall one thing, a single sentence, about my mom and dad,” explained Lisa. “They wrote such wonderful things that had more to do with the moments in time they remember than any gifts.” When asked about their great-grandparents, several of the “greats” lined up to be interviewed. Among the statements were words like: “Awesome, fun, they like all the kids, they love us so much, happy.”
Many of the memories described what an amazing example that the couple has set over the years for a variety of friends and family. Overwhelmingly, the comments from the family expressed how lucky and blessed they felt to have been influenced by the married couple. Setting a good example was the prevalent theme that threaded through most conversations. Grandson, Tommy Hunter summed up the theme by saying, “My grandfather was a prime example of ‘get up when life knocks you down’.” He went on to say that the lessons he learned from his grandfather that were carried on through his father helped him work his way to the Major Leagues. Now a pitcher for the Baltimore Orioles, Hunter credits his family support for helping him achieve his dreams. His next major life event is planned for January. “When I told my grandparents that I was engaged to be married, my grandmother told me, ‘Love that girl to death and don’t ever let her leave your arms’.” All that good advice and living life as a good example seem to be the recipe for a successful marriage and Tommy says he thinks it is wise to follow in their footsteps.
Realizing dreams takes many forms in the Hunter Family. Grandson, Austin Phillips chose a different path to honor his grandparents. Stationed at Okinawa, Japan, Marine Corps Lance Corporal Austin Phillips took his grandfather’s lessons to heart. “He emphasized responsibility day in and day out,” says Phillips. “He also had so many great people in his life over the years who were from the Corps. I wanted that same kind of camaraderie in my life.” Austin is proud to have been assigned to Okinawa since his grandfather spent his time during WWII in the Pacific Theater. It was there that the underage soldier, Raymond, learned many of the lessons on how to embrace life that he has passed on to those around him.
Camaraderie and family ties are important to the Hunter Family. Tommy’s dad, Ray Jr. and Austin’s mom, Lisa find that the influences of their mom and dad have a far reaching effect. With many nieces, nephews, cousins, grandchildren and great-grandchildren in attendance, it appears that they are right about the impact a 70 year marriage can have on a family and a community. “When I married and had a family, I tried to do what they did,” says Ray. “They included the kids in everything they did and that is what my wife, Pam, and I did.” The example seemed to work since their own kids have grown up and still remain close to the family, talking frequently and gathering as much as possible.
While celebrating and gathering are high on the list for the Hunter Family, some of the moments are bittersweet. Missing from the gathering are Ray and Lisa’s sisters, Linda Fuller and Lynne Owen, who have both passed on before them. “It was harder to plan this party without them,” says Lisa. “We miss them, but it has been amazing to have so much help from the rest of the family.”
The summertime Saturday night was a perfect setting for a picnic and party. Ray Jr. and his family arrived safely from Indiana and many people gathered from all over to celebrate the milestone anniversary. In the background, family friends Chris and Tyler Smith played songs from the 30’s and 40’s that included As Time Goes By. Time went by on the tv screen as years of memories flashed up in a video montage that spanned the 70 years of married life.
The honored couple was center stage for just a little while and had some very endearing things to say about one another. “He is the love of my life,” says Jeannie. “I seriously mean that.” She describes a man who brings her coffee in the morning and has taken over the shopping and cooking. “There is no one else like him and I have always loved him so much.” And Raymond seems to be just as smitten with his bride as he might have ever been. “When I got home from WWII, I had a bride, a car and an apartment,” says Raymond. “We built everything up from there.” They shared the secret to remaining married for so long. “Meet halfway-if you don’t agree, compromise,” says Raymond. “I love her just as much as she loves me.” Jeannie adds, “There isn’t a woman living who doesn’t want to be told she is loved and he tells me every day.” They agree that keeping your children close and setting a good example are indeed among the most important things they have done. The gathering was a true representation of those whose lives have been touched by this loving couple.