These neighborhood couples have made their marriages last
This is not a good time for marriage in America. Fewer people make the commitment to marry than ever before. Where 72 percent of Americans older than 18 were married in 1960, only about 51 percent were married in 2011, according to a study from the Pew Research Center. And it is estimated that as many as half of all marriages will end in divorce. For some of us, lasting marriages are a mystery. But these two neighborhood couples, generations apart, found love and never let go.
Joel and Laura Pulis
Married: June 21, 1997
Offspring: A daughter, 10-year-old Grace
Joel and Laura Pulis have known each other since they were toddlers.
In a snapshot from the ’70s, they are side-by-side, wearing plastic store-bought Halloween costumes and looking off in different directions, both happy.
Joel grew up in Oak Cliff, and Laura in DeSoto, but they attended Cliff Temple Baptist Church, and their parents were friends.
Tension between them first bubbled up in the summer of 1988, on a mission trip to California, when they were in seventh and eighth grades. He liked her, but she liked another boy. The following summer, “Laura and another girl were supposedly interested in me, but I played the coy one,” Joel says.
Then, the weekend before he turned 16, friends of Laura’s called up Joel and told him he should ask her out.
“He got his license, and he wrote me a really sweet letter to ask me out on a date,” Laura says.
She was 14, and she wasn’t sure her parents would let her go.
“I’m not sure I would let my 14-year-old daughter go on a date,” Laura says.
But in January 1990, he picked her up in his dad’s SAAB convertible and took her to the old Hard Rock Café on McKinney Avenue.
They dated that semester and all through the summer. But when Laura returned to DeSoto High School in the fall, she decided she wanted to date other boys.
“I broke his heart,” she says, patting his arm.
After going out with another boy one time, Laura says, she realized it was a mistake. They promptly reunited and dated all through high school. When Joel graduated, he chose Baylor University because Laura’s mom had gone there, and that’s where he knew Laura wanted to go.
“I sort of followed her and preceded her to Baylor,” he says.
They stayed together all through college, and they wed at Cliff Temple Baptist Church in June 1997.
It was a huge wedding. The bride and groom each had nine attendants.
“Our parents were friends, and they knew everybody in the church, so we had about 700 people at our wedding,” Laura says. “It was just cake and punch, but it was fun.”
The couple returned to Waco so that Joel could finish a divinity degree, and they settled in Kings Highway in 1999. Laura, 37, is an interior designer, and Joel, 39, works for Cliff Temple.
The Pulises say their marriage is strong because they were friends for six years before they started dating, and when they did get together, they took things slow. They trust each other. They’re willing to sacrifice for one another. And they admit when they’re wrong.
“We don’t fight a lot, and neither of us is hot headed,” Joel says. “But when we do get into disagreements, both of us are quick to own up to their side.”
They’ve noticed friends who joke about breaking up, as in, “If you ever grow a mustache like that, I’ll divorce you.”
Joel and Laura say they would never even joke about divorce.
“We made a commitment to be together, and that’s it,” Joel says.
Jacob and Joyce Locke
Married: June 29, 1950
Offspring: Four children, eight grandchildren, three great-grandchildren
The first time Jacob saw Joyce, it was a warm summer day in Paris, Texas, in 1949.
“I was walking to the corner drugstore,” he says. “She and two of her girlfriends were sitting in a booth by the window.”
It may sound corny, Jacob says, but he was “smitten from the start, really and truly.”
Jacob and Joyce Locke were married in Paris, Texas, in 1950.
He was tall and handsome, the son of a sharecropper and one of five siblings. She was an only child, petite and pretty.
For Joyce, it was not love at first sight, but she was interested.
“I had a girlfriend who was wanting to be introduced to Jacob,” she recalls. “So because that girlfriend was so interested in him, I was, too. She never did like me after that.”
They attended a volleyball game together at Lake Crook that night. Courtship was difficult because they lived at opposite ends of town, and they often tied up the town’s party line talking on the phone. Joyce worked as an office manager in Paris, earning $18.50 a week. But Jacob had only ever worked on the farm. He had no car, no job, no money.
It is a testament to his charm that Joyce agreed to marry him anyway. They wed at the West Paris Church of Christ, and a few of their friends were there, but no family. In fact, Joyce’s mother was against the union.
“She always said they would never make it,” says Joyce and Jacob’s daughter, Jerri Locke. “If she was alive today, she would still be saying that.”
The couple took an apartment a block from the Paris town square. And they bought a 1934 Chevrolet for $65, on payments. Joyce brought home the bacon, but neither of them knew how to cook. Every night, they ate pork and beans, fried potatoes and Spam, they recall.
Joyce was paid every Saturday.
“Each of us would get a comic book, an RC cola and a peanut patty,” Jacob says. “That was our big Saturday night.”
The Lockes moved to Dallas in August 1951, where they both found work. They bought their house on Windomere, where they still live, about 55 years ago. Jacob eventually went to work for Wyeth Laboratories, where he stayed 35 years before retiring in 1986.
Joyce served as a church secretary. Eventually, she became a good cook.
“We always had dinner at home around the table,” daughter Jerri says.
Every night, when Jacob came home from work, Joyce would hand him a glass of iced tea. He didn’t even know how to get ice before he retired, Jerri teases, and Joyce chimes in: “He didn’t even know where the refrigerator was.”
Joyce and Jacob have been married for more than 62 years, and two of their children have marriages that have lasted more than 32 years.
“I think you have to have compatible interests,” says daughter Lisa Locke Pittman.
Pittman’s daughter, Katie McNiff, is a newlywed with a 6-month-old son, and she agrees.
“Even when we hate each other, we can still play video games together,” McNiff says of her relationship with her husband.
For Jacob and Joyce, who still hold hands and call each other “baby,” faith in God has been a sustaining factor in their marriage. They pray together, hand in hand, “morning noon and night,” Joyce says.
“We’ve always loved the same things,” she says. “We loved the Lord and we loved our family, and we loved our children.”
On Christmas day, as the snow came down, Jacob and Joyce cooked a meal together for their family. They savored every moment of it, they say.
“We’re still making good memories,” Joyce says.