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Memos From Mom

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(KCEN) --  Mother's day is right around the corner, and central Texas moms married 50, 60, and even 70 years share their wisdom and advice for a long, happy life and marriage.

"Everything He created had a mate, except for Adam," says Travis Williams, as he reads the Bible to his wife Ilse around the kitchen table.

At one point, he pauses and looks up at her lovingly to say, "I really believe that when a couple marry, they are one."

The two met in Germany in 1959, when Travis was in the Army.

They were at a mutual friend's birthday party, and Ilse wondered why Travis stared so much.

Now she knows it was because he thinks she has beautiful eyes.

"I realized then that I couldn't do without her," says Travis.

Now they've been married for 53 years, but as an interracial couple, it wasn't always easy, especially in the 1950's.

Travis is African American, and Ilse is German.

So back then, before they could wed, they had to be counseled by several different people.

"Really, what it was, was to deter us," says Travis.

Meanwhile, some were supportive.

His comrades put $500 in his bank account, meeting another requirement for the couple to tie the knot.

Travis says, "I stood by my opinions and God Almighty. I said if I love somebody, I shouldn't be penalized."

Ilse says that deep affection is the first ingredient for a happy union.

"You have to love a person before you say yes and get married," she says.

Travis says really knowing your future spouse is also near the top of the list.

"You've got to know what roles you're going to play. A lot of couples get married, and they have no idea," he says.

"You can't expect too much, you've got to give," says Ilse, pointing out that things are much different for young couples today.

"I was born in WWII, so it was really rough and hard," she says.

Growing up in that era meant money was tight, so managing it well came naturally to her, and the Williams never once argued over finances.

It's the number one reason half of marriages end in divorce.

Ilse says, "The young people today fight most of the times about money, because they can't get everything they see and everything they want."

KCEN HD News Reporter Sophia Stamas' grandparents have been married for 70 years.

Her grandmother wrote a poem Sophia keeps on her fridge, called "Marriage Advice."

Her favorite part says, "Keep bright happy attitude; laugh at yourself. Some matters are not worth a fuss."

It's the same principle that kept the Williams' home so peaceful.My grandd kkidssay, 'Grandpa, you and Grandma never argue.' I say you can never win, you'll lose," says Travis, smiling and glancing over to see Ilse reflecting his grin.

That's the example they say they want their three daughters and ffour grandkidkids see.

"I always tell the kids that you've got the world's greatest mom," Travis says.

Then he ponders his own mother's words.

He says, "My mother always said God will make a way. If you really love him and praise and worship him, then he'll provide for you."

So far, that saying has served him well.

"Once we got married, we never had a sad day since," says Travis.

It's been a marriage worth fighting for, with no fighting at all.

George and Betty Kelly share their tips for living a long, full life.

"The first time I saw her, I said that's the girl I'm going to marry," says George.

But even though Betty had her doubts about the young,ppersistentsailor, something kept bringing them together.

She giggles a little and says, "Everywhere I went, there was George."

That's how they began their now 60-year marriage.

"Funny thing about it," says George, "when we got married, she couldn't cook."

The pair shares a laugh, and then Betty replies, "Well, I learned real quick."

For her family, which eventually grew to six, she maintained a peaceful house.

"I learned a lot from my mom, especially when my dad got sick."

She says she started with a solid foundation of faith, not sinking sand.

"In life, one person won't make you happy, things won't make you happy, only God can make you happy," Betty says.

Her daughter Cheryl Vanderlee says they always had a happy home.

Tears fill her eyes as chokes out, "I think one of the reasons it was is that Mama was always so gentle."

On his wedding day, George gave Betty a string of pearls and cologne, and every anniversary and birthday, she gets another bottle.

Betty says, "I always thought that was so special that he did that for me."

So, what's their secret for living such long lives together?

Betty says, "Staying busy, try to eat healthy, " and George, whom she refers to as an happy-go-lucky storyteller, says, "Stay active. If you can't do anything else, go out and walk."

He goes for a stroll twice a day, but each time before he leaves the house, he writes a note to Betty.

She says, "One thing he always says is, 'I'll be back.'"

He also faithfully includes, "I love you."

"I don't know what I would do if the Lord took him first, I really don't," says Betty.

For the Kelly's, the ticket to staying motivated is doing everything together, especially prayer.

George looks at her tenderly and says, "Come grow old with me. The best of life is yet to be."

Reporter: Sophia Stamas sstamas@kcentv.com
Photographer: Cameron Duckworth cduckworth@kcentv.com
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