Ce­cil and Nell Drue Jor­dan to cel­e­brate 50th an­niver­sary

Westside Eagle-Observer - - NEWS - By Cassi Lapp

It’s been more than 50 years since Ce­cil Jor­dan wan­dered over to Nell Drue Ed­mon­son’s house on J Street in Ben­tonville to say wel­come to the neigh­bor­hood.

“I asked her if I could store a re­frig­er­a­tor in her chicken house,” he said. He knew he wanted to be back to see more of her.

Nell Drue, born in Gen­try in Oc­to­ber of 1931, had just moved to Ben­tonville from the then-Bright­wa­ter area to take a job work­ing as a le­gal sec­re­tary for at­tor­ney Clay­ton Lit­tle. Ce­cil, born in Hogscald in De­cem­ber of 1934, spent his days work­ing for Kraft Foods.

About a year and a half af­ter their meet­ing that day and a courtship that in­cluded a car wreck on their first date which put Nell Drue on dis­abil­ity to this day, the two mar­ried in a small cer­e­mony at the Ben­tonville First Bap­tist Church in 1967.

They hon­ey­mooned at Howard John­son Ho­tel in Jo­plin, Mo., and then at an­other in Spring­field, Mo.

“We or­dered cof­fee and sweet rolls to the room,” Ce­cil said.

This wasn’t the typ­i­cal young-love-to-last-theages type of story, how­ever. This was a do-over — each in their sec­ond mar­riage. Ce­cil was 32 and Nell Drue was 35, and they now had seven chil­dren be­tween them.

The fam­ily lived in Ben­tonville un­til 1971 when they bought the home they still live in to­day — nearly 80 acres in Gen­try that abuts the Wilder­ness An­i­mal Sa­fari.

The house was about 1,100 square feet, Ce­cil said. In 1975, they added on to ex­pand the home. They worked on projects at their home while Ce­cil tried to make ends meet with his job at Kraft and a sec­ond job at an ice stor­age ware­house.

Af­ter tak­ing out a loan on the home, there came a time when in­ter­est rates sky­rock­eted to nearly 16 per­cent, he said. He worked 16 hours a day, five days a week, and 8 hours a day the other two.

Ce­cil went to the High­way De­part­ment to see about ac­quir­ing a piece for a drainage project he was work­ing on at home. They handed him an ap­pli­ca­tion and of­fered him a job. He said he put the ap­pli­ca­tion in a drawer, be­cause he couldn’t af­ford the $1 an hour pay cut.

He men­tioned the ap­pli­ca­tion to Nell Drue a while later, and she asked why he hadn’t filled it out. With her bless­ing, he got it out and turned it in, and af­ter 27 and a half years with Kraft Foods, he be­gan work­ing for the state in 1979.

He worked as the sta­tion at­ten­dant and took care of the shop, did the pay­roll and kept the in­ven­tory up to date. She stayed home and took care of the home.

Ce­cil and Nell Drue spent their time tak­ing short trips to Bran­son, walk­ing their land or fish­ing in the lake on their prop­erty. They would take a small wooden raft to the mid­dle of the lake and spend the day swim­ming off of it.

Though they al­ways seemed to have some­one liv­ing with them, on and off, at their home, their chil­dren were grown. Nell Drue’s son Ricky had re­cently grad­u­ated and got mar­ried. Her daugh­ter Kathy had fin­ished high school and trav­eled to Cen­tral Arkansas for col­lege. Ce­cil’s four chil­dren lived in Malvern, near their mother.

“We had just be­gun to slow down and kick back a lit­tle bit,” Ce­cil said.

Ce­cil’s son Don­nie, in his early 20s then, called to ask if Ce­cil and Nell Drue would take in his three­year-old son, John David (JD). Don­nie and his young wife had re­cently di­vorced, Don­nie suf­fered from epilepsy and things were not go­ing well.

The young par­ents weren’t pre­pared to care for a child and, when JD would cry, his mother would leave him in the room on the bed, Ce­cil said, re­mem­ber­ing a time when Don­nie’s fam­ily lived with them for about 6 months.

When they were asked to care for the child, there wasn’t a mo­ment of hes­i­ta­tion.

All of a sud­den, the cou­ple, now in their 50s and who had never raised small chil­dren to­gether, had a three-year-old at home.

“Our life be­came about him,” Ce­cil said of JD.

Lit­tle League games filled their time. When JD started school at De­catur Ele­men­tary, they had no play­ground equip­ment. Nell Drue ral­lied some friends to col­lect recipes and pub­lish a cook­book to raise money for the equip­ment. They held a com­mu­nity work day and in­stalled the slide they were able to buy with the prof­its, fixed the swings and built mon­key bars.

Since 1955, Ce­cil had also served with the 142nd field ar­tillery di­vi­sion with the Arkansas Na­tional Guard, a po­si­tion he cred­its for keep­ing him afloat dur­ing hard fi­nan­cial times. He barely missed mak­ing his­tory when his unit was not sent to Lit­tle Rock’s Cen­tral High School when the Lit­tle Rock Nine were de­nied en­trance into the school.

“We were on the next ro­ta­tion to go to Lit­tle Rock. I didn’t re­al­ize it would be such a big part of his­tory,” Ce­cil said. “I just won­dered why ev­ery­one couldn’t get along.”

“We were at Fort Chaf­fee (in Fort Smith) when the Cubans came over,” he added.

In 1990, as a Com­mand Sgt. Ma­jor, Ce­cil was de­ployed to Saudi Ara­bia dur­ing Oper­a­tion Desert Storm. Nell Drue stayed home with 11-year-old JD and waited for his re­turn. To­day, she says she didn’t know if he would come back.

He did. When he re­turned and JD was 12 years old, the cou­ple adopted JD as their le­gal son.

The lit­tle fam­ily at­tended pa­rades in which Ce­cil marched in Washington, D.C., and New York City. Ce­cil re­called a time when Nell Drue, a lady short in stature, couldn’t see over the crowd in New York. Be­cause of his rank, they had an es­cort to these events.

“Don’t you know who this is?” he said the es­cort was ask­ing peo­ple as she moved Nell Drue and JD through the crowd. “This is Nor­man Sch­warzkopf’s aunt!”

She wasn’t, of course, but Nell Drue laughed in her chair as Ce­cil told the story.

In 1996, Ce­cil re­tired from the High­way De­part­ment, two years af­ter re­tir­ing from the mil­i­tary on Dec. 29, 1994, just shy of 40 years of ser­vice. That was Ce­cil’s 60th birth­day, and 60 was the age cut­off for the Na­tional Guard.

JD left the home in 1998 for col­lege and later joined the U.S. Army, as well, fol­low­ing in his grand­fa­ther’s — now fa­ther’s — foot­steps.

The cou­ple who had a ten­dency to do things a bit non-tra­di­tion­ally had fi­nally reached the emp­tynest phase … in their 70s.

“She didn’t have a good first mar­riage, and mine was worse,” Ce­cil said.

“But she still tells me she loves me at least 50 times a day.”

“They’ve been the best years of my life,” Nell Drue said. “Ev­ery day’s been good.”

Age is get­ting the bet­ter of them these days, but they spend each day to­gether in their home.

“Take it one day at a time,” Nell Drue said as of­fered ad­vice for young mar­ried cou­ples.

“Hang in there,” Ce­cil said. “Re­spect each other, sup­port each other.” “Ce­cil?” Nell Drue asked. “Yes, Nell?” he said. “I love you,” she said. “We’ve been blessed,” Ce­cil said, of his life with this woman.

The 50-year an­niver­sary cel­e­bra­tion for Ce­cil and Nell Drue is from 2 to 4 p.m. on Saturday, July 29, at First Bap­tist Church in Gen­try.

Ce­cil and Nell Drue Jor­dan

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