LANSING, Mich. — The Embrys, who have lived in their Lansing home since 1978, have been married for 70 years.
Bernice Embry still remembers what she was wearing the day she met her husband, Ulysses, 72 years ago in the summer of 1949. She remembers what he was wearing, too.
“My mom had bought me a navy-blue dress with a green lining, and it was lace, it had a peplum, and it was lace around the peplum. And you could see the green beneath the blue. I won’t forget that…he was wearing a light peach shirt and it had a zipper that went this way, cross-wise,” Bernice explained as she drew a line diagonally down her chest with her finger.
Bernice’s sister and Ulysses’ cousin lived in a duplex. Bernice was babysitting for her sister, and Ulysses came to visit his cousin.
“When I saw him, I was attracted to him, but I didn’t say anything, and he didn’t say anything to me,” Bernice continued. “But he gave my sister a note, and he said on the note, ‘If you are interested, answer, and if you are not interested, don’t bother.’”
“Several times I would say, ’Oh I don’t want a relationship.’ One time, he left and went to Florida to work. He didn’t say, ‘I’m going.’ He didn’t write me a note, or anything. He just packed up and went and stayed in Florida for a while,” Bernice laughed. “And then when he came back was I ever upset, did I ever tell him off. And that’s when I found out that I really loved him.”
On March 17, 1951, at the ages of 15 and 20 respectively, Bernice and Ulysses got married in Talladega, Alabama.
“He just said one day, he said, ‘I decided that you are the person that I would like to spend the rest of my life with,’” Bernice recalled.
“I was looking for her,” Ulysses said. “Tried to make sure we did it right as much as possible, and we were hoping we had it right.” He laughed.
Because of her age, Bernice’s mother had to sign off on the nuptial. At first, she said she wasn’t going to.
“I thought well, we’ll just leave we’ll get married anyway,” Bernice laughed. “So, she finally decided, ‘Oh I might as well.’ So she did.”
Susan Brown, co-director of the National Center for Family and Marriage Research, has studied relationships and marriage for roughly 25 years, “looking at trends in marriage and divorce, co-habitation.”
Brown said that just under 8 percent of married adults in the U.S. are in a marriage of 50 years or more. As for marriages of 70 or more years, that is only .001 percent of married adults in the U.S. Additionally, only 7.5 percent of those married adults age 85 or older are in a marriage that’s at least 70 years duration.
“Making it to your 70th anniversary is a tremendously unusual milestone, and I would say it’s unusual for a couple of reasons. One, we would point to of course is that many people these days call it quits long before they make it to 25, 50 let alone 70 years. But also, you have to have gotten married at a young enough age to survive for 70 years with your spouse, right? And as today’s young people marry at later ages, even if they have stable marriages, they’re not going to make it probably to 70 years.”
So, what is their secret?
“Well, you know, two people – it’s impossible to agree on everything, but you have to consider one another. Good communication is good, and commitment is good. We have to learn to stop talking, you know? If you see that you are upsetting the other one, then just be quiet…respect one another. That’s what I think. And of course with us, I always say this, everybody might not understand it but in marriage they mention two, but with us I often think of three because I think that Jesus is first, and then the two of us. Because you definitely got to have some help to get through marriage,” Bernice said.
“I think that one of the features that many long-term, successful couples have in common is that they view their marriage as a shared project. It’s something to actively work on and engage with,” Brown said.
Bernice loves how hardworking and kind Ulysses was and is. The Embrys also said that traveling and growing together has kept their bond strong.
“In fact, we grew up together. Because, you know, at that age I was a child,” Bernice laughed. “But fortunately, I kind of had responsibilities growing up so I was kind of mature in some ways when we married.”
Today the Embrys have 10 children, 14 grandchildren, 27 great-grandchildren and 7 great-great-grandchildren. They spent their 70th anniversary at Bethlehem Temple Church.
Want to see more local news? Visit the FOX47News Website.
Stay in touch with us anytime, anywhere.
Sign up for newsletters emailed to your inbox.
Select from these options: Breaking News, Severe Weather, School Closings, Daily Headlines, and Daily Forecasts.