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95-year-old & his wife of 76 years ‘put God at the head of the table’

MUSKOGEE, Okla. (BP)–God, love, commitment. Those are the things that make for a long and happy marriage, say Luther and Grace Martin. And the Martins should know. On July 19, Luther, 95, and Grace, 91, celebrated their 76th wedding anniversary.

Neither of the Martins will admit to ever dating anyone else, and they each say they have never had any thoughts of ending their marriage for any reason.

As Luther puts it: “What would I have done if I hadn’t stayed married to her?”

The Martins both give God credit for keeping their marriage together.

“The best advice when you marry is to put God at the head of your table,” Luther said.

Grace added that she loved going to church, saying, “We couldn’t have made it without God.”

Luther, who noted the key to a long life is clean living, said he and Grace “just loved one another.”

“Young folks don’t take marriage vows to heart these days,” he said. “They don’t think about what they committed to 30 minutes after the ceremony.”

Grace said the couple never did much fussing. “We both kept our mouths shut,” she said.

“I know the Lord led me to her,” Luther said. “We both knew we had met the right one. We never dated anyone else.”

And yes, say the Martins, they would do it all over again.

Luther was born in Muldrow, Okla., and went to school in Arkansas and Texas before moving to Grace’s hometown of Webbers Falls, Okla., when he was 14.

The two went to the same school and lived two blocks from each other but really were not acquainted, perhaps because Grace was four years younger than Luther.

Then, when in high school, Luther started going to Grace’s house to study with her older sister, Ethel.

Grace said she noticed the dapper young man working with her sister, but Luther didn’t seem to know Grace was around. That is, until one Sunday afternoon when Luther stopped by the house to visit with the family, all of whom were sitting on the L-shaped front porch.

And that is when he began talking with Grace. He asked her for a date the next Saturday night. Grace said they went to a picture show, and every Saturday night from then on, they walked one and a half miles from Webbers Falls to Gore to the silent movie theater, sometimes with Grace’s sister and her boyfriend.

Luther and Grace were married at the Webbers Falls train depot, where the Baptist preacher worked during the week. Grace was a member of First Baptist Church, Webbers Falls, but Luther was a Methodist.

“He became a Baptist after we moved to Texas,” Grace said. “He was baptized in a tank of water.”

Luther farmed most of his life, but he did go to barber school in Oklahoma City, and operated a barber shop in Webbers Falls for about three years.

It was while living in Texas for 10 years that the Martins became active in church. Luther led singing and taught young adults in Sunday school. Grace was a Sunday school teacher of 8-12-year olds, and still, 65 years later, gets Christmas cards from some of those students.

While living north of Oktaha, Okla., Luther helped build the Baptist church there, putting in the baptistry, nailing up siding and laying a sidewalk.

After moving to Muskogee in 1963, where they still make their home, Luther worked for the state highway department as an inspector. He helped build the road from Webbers Falls to Warner and worked on a stretch of Interstate 40. He retired in 1970.

They were members of Muskogee’s Meadowbrook Baptist Church, but about a year ago, moved their membership to Boston Avenue Baptist Church. Although pretty much confined to their home now, they are visited frequently by members of Boston Avenue, and the Martins always send in their tithe check, said pastor Tim Perkins.

The Martins had four children, two boys and two girls. One of their sons, James, who fought in the Korean War, died in 1987 of cancer.

Morris, 75, their oldest son, lives in the Owasso, Okla., area, and has been married 54 years. Oldest daughter Ruby, 71, who has been married 52 years, lives in Richardson, Texas, and Dorothy, 61, lives in Muskogee. The couple has 11 grandchildren, 30 great-grandchildren and eight great-great-grandchildren.

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  • Dana Williamson