Ben­ton cou­ple cel­e­brate 73 years of mar­riage

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - TRI-LAKES EDITION - BY SAM PIERCE Staff Writer

BEN­TON — For Jean and Frank Cor­ley, it was not love at first sight.

“I ac­tu­ally met his par­ents be­fore I met him, and his mother wanted me to meet her son,” Jean said. “I thought she wanted to pan off some­body, so I wasn’t im­pressed.”

Jean and Frank dated for about three months af­ter meet­ing at the ten­nis courts at the Univer­sity of Arkansas at Fayet­teville. They got en­gaged be­fore Frank left for the Navy.

“His mother did most of the court­ing for him,” Jean said. “She stayed af­ter me. I had to look at all the baby pic­tures, and she said till the day she died that she had picked me out for him.”

Frank was a pi­lot dur­ing World War II, learn­ing to fly off air­craft car­ri­ers in the Pa­cific, but he said the war ended be­fore he had to see any ac­tion.

The two mar­ried af­ter Frank re­turned from the ser­vice, and they lived in Vet­er­ans Vil­lage at the U of A for two years while he earned his de­gree in en­gi­neer­ing. The cou­ple, who live in Ben­ton, have been mar­ried for 73 years.

“He is very easy to get along with, and he de­fers to me for ev­ery­thing,” Jean said. “When we got mar­ried, he said he would do his best to make a liv­ing, if I could make it stretch.

“He has never been out of work in our mar­ried life.”

Frank, 94, worked for Reynolds Metal Co. in Baux­ite for 31 years, de­sign­ing and build­ing the ad­di­tions to the plant that has now been torn down. He said it didn’t bother him be­cause he had a good time putting them up and got paid for do­ing what he loved. Jean, 93, was a stay-at-home mom and house­wife for their en­tire mar­riage.

The Cor­leys joined First Bap­tist Church in down­town Ben­ton af­ter mov­ing to town and have been ac­tive mem­bers since then. Jean at­trib­uted the suc­cess of their mar­riage to their faith and their ac­tive role in the church.

“I think that has been a big part of it,” she said. “We were both raised in the Bap­tist church and have al­ways been in agree­ment about re­li­gion, con­tri­bu­tion and tak­ing an ac­tive role in our church.

“We have lots of sweet Chris­tian friends to as­so­ciate with, and we didn’t re­ally have to change our views. We just kept right on with what we were raised on.”

Rick Grant, the pas­tor at First Bap­tist Church, said the Cor­leys are a great ex­am­ple of com­mit­ment for what love looks like long-term.

“I am al­ways pleased when young cou­ples visit with them be­cause I know they are go­ing to get some­thing pos­i­tive from it,”

Grant said. “It is a good ex­am­ple of good peo­ple who love each other and have for a long time.”

Grant said that when he is coun­sel­ing younger cou­ples, he wishes he could have them spend more time with the Cor­leys to “see what you’ve got to do to stay mar­ried.”

“I know Frank, in the past, has said how for­tu­nate he was to marry Jean, and she is very proud to be his wife, in a very God-hon­or­ing way,” Grant said. “I think he and Jean are gen­uine peo­ple.”

Frank and Jean were mar­ried at Im­manuel Bap­tist Church in Lit­tle Rock, and they have three daugh­ters: Ellen, 63; Carol, 60; and Gayle 58. Frank and Jean also have two grand­sons, who live in Kan­sas City, and a 2-year-old great-grand­daugh­ter. Carol still sings in the choir at Im­manuel, and Frank and Jean’s par­ents were mem­bers of the church un­til they died.

Jean at­trib­uted their long mar­riage to the ex­am­ple that both their par­ents set.

“We had good le­gends to fol­low,” she said. “His mother and dad were mar­ried for 53 years, and mother died early — she had can­cer — but [my par­ents] were mar­ried for 43 years.”

Jean said she and her hus­band are very blessed health­wise.

“I don’t smoke, and I didn’t drink, and we have had a fairly even life with a good diet,” she

said. “I don’t ex­er­cise much, but I do walk the length of this house about 20 times a day.

“We have both en­joyed good health un­til these past two years. Frank walked up and down the stairs, mowed the yard and was real ac­tive.

“I just feel like we have been blessed to have a long happy life.”

Frank has arthri­tis in his back, which has caused him to stoop and be off bal­ance. He moves with a walker now, and Jean does all the driv­ing.

“We have been for­tu­nate to do a lot of trav­el­ing and have seen a lot of our coun­try,” Jean said. “We have been over­seas a few times.”

He­len Hughes, who has known the cou­ple for about 70 years, said the Cor­leys have trav­eled with her and her hus­band to see all but four of the pres­i­den­tial li­braries.

“We have been to Cal­i­for­nia; New York, sev­eral times; Wash­ing­ton, D.C.; Texas; Penn­syl­va­nia; and Philadel­phia,” Hughes said. “They are just game for any­thing. … They were just won­der­ful trav­el­ing part­ners.”

Hughes said the cou­ple were friends with her par­ents be­fore they were friends of hers.

“I think [Frank and Jean] are def­i­nitely best friends,” Hughes said. “I think they are sup­port­ive in what the other one is do­ing, and I think they are very con­sid­er­ate of each other.”

Hughes said Frank is the epit­ome of a gen­tle­man and can “talk to you about any­thing.”

“I think he is a bril­liant man, prob­a­bly one of the smartest peo­ple I know,” Hughes said. “He was on the school board for a num­ber of years, and they are both in­ter­ested in cur­rent events and read­ing.

“She is the most amaz­ing per­son I know.”

Gwen Rogers, whom Jean re­ferred to as her “adop­tive daugh­ter,” said she got to know the Cor­leys through the quilt guild.

“Jean never meets a stranger,” Rogers said. “She is so en­gag­ing and kind and sup­port­ive.

“She can know more about you than you know about your­self.”

Rogers said she met Jean more than 10 years ago, and im­me­di­ately, she drew Rogers in and be­gan talk­ing to her and made her feel very wel­come.

“They are just very un­usual peo­ple and very nice and just won­der­ful,” Rogers said. “When I grow up, I want to be like Mrs. Jean.”

Af­ter Frank re­tired, he be­came a wood­worker and built fur­ni­ture. Jean said he built the deck on their house and a deck on one of their daugh­ters’ houses.

“And I am a quil­ter,” Jean said. “We each have a hobby that we were happy with. He stayed down­stairs in his wood­work­ing shop, and I stayed up­stairs in my quilt­ing room, and we just got along great.”


Frank, 94, and Jean Cor­ley, 93, have been mar­ried for 73 years. The cou­ple have lived in Ben­ton for al­most 60 years and have three daugh­ters: Ellen, 63; Carol, 60; and Gayle, 58. The cou­ple also have two grand­sons and a 2-year-old great-grand­daugh­ter.

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