July 13, 2011

USA: Close friends with 123 years of combined marriage still celebrating special times

ANDERSON, South Carolina / IndependentMail / Lifestyles / July 13, 2011

From left are Homer Thornton, Billie Thornton, Martha Bowers and Connie Mack Bowers.

Bobby socks, football games, a 1940 Mercury convertible, fountain drinks at Hailey’s and 5-cent ice cream cones were the weekend highlights back in the 1940s for four native Hart County senior citizens. A June 28 dinner in a quiet restaurant was the celebration of choice for these four longtime friends. The two couples celebrated 123 years of marriage. Homer and Billie Thornton were married in 1947 in the home of Billie’s cousin, Sue (and Tully) Ankerich, and this is their 64th year together. Connie Mack and Martha were married in 1952 in the Cross Roads Baptist Church, Hartwell, and this is their 59th year together.

Their friendships trace back even farther. Billie and Martha became friends when they were 4 years old. Billie’s family moved across the street from Martha, and they played dolls and had tea parties as children. They began singing in a trio at 10 years old.. Bonnie Bailey was the other member of the trio. They shared their musical talents in revivals, funerals and many services. As they grew into different stages of life, they attended school together, dated, married, had children and even lived on separate continents for awhile, but their friendship remained close. Now, they are back in their same hometown and are celebrating special times together.

Before their marriage, Homer was in the army during World War II and served with combat engineers for three years in the South Pacific. He returned to Hart County and worked 42 years for the Hartwell Coca-Cola Bottling Company. He retired as their service manager. Billie is retired from the Hart County Health Department. They are the parents of three children, Lanny of Bowersville, Barry of Lavonia and Wanda Davis of Carnesville. They have five grandchildren and one great-grandson.

Connie Mack and Martha moved to Louisville, Ky., after their marriage, where Connie studied at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Martha was a teacher. Over the years, Connie Mack pastored churches in Kentucky, Tennessee and Georgia. At one time their family of six moved to Nigeria, West Africa, where they served for 18 years as missionaries with the Foreign Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. They have four children, Richard, Holly Welborn, and Julie Lassiter of Anderson, S.C., and Mack of Lilburn. They have 10 grandchildren.

“We are thankful to God for His grace in giving us family, friends, and health so that we can celebrate the golden years together,” Martha said. Both couples recognize that many others who are equally committed to their marriage vows are never able to experience the opportunities they are enjoying. However, even in retirement, they stay too busy to visit as much as they would like.

“We are reserving rocking chairs side by side in heaven,” Martha laughs, “so we can visit and celebrate as much as we want in eternity.”

@ 2011 Anderson Independent Mail.
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