A Marriage

Unknown I called my parents this morning to wish them congratulations on their anniversary. “Do you think the marriage will last?” my dad said. Mom just laughed. Apparently, having a sense of humor is one of the reasons it has lasted, SIXTY-THREE  years, to be exact.

Needless to say, a lot has happened since their 1951 wedding at St. Charles Avenue Presbyterian Church in New Orleans–and it’s nothing less than remarkable that these two people have seen it all together. Their lives intersected in New Orleans after WWII when Jeanne was sixteen years old and Bob was an undergraduate at Tulane. Her family moved there in 1943 from Dyersburg, Tennessee, where she’d grown up. Dad had left his life-long home in Dunedin, Florida to attend college and later, medical school. So they’d known each other a while when they finally tied the knot. Their life together began in San Diego, where Bob was a Lieutenant in the Navy during the Korean War, followed by a three-year internship back in New Orleans.

When Dad was offered an opportunity as an internist in a small town nestled amidst the mountains of east Tennessee, Mom’s family was convinced he was taking her into some remote outback beyond the boundaries of civilization. Kingsport was actually a growing community that had a lot to offer a young family. In the early days of his practice, however, Dad did play the role of a country doctor, paying house calls all hours of the night  to patients throughout a wide region in Southern Appalachia. He’d often return with a story– like being held at gunpoint, fetching an elderly woman out of a tree, and narrowly escaping a snake bite–to name a few. The three offspring arrived in due course, yours truly being the middle one and the only girl. My mother was the quintessential stay-at-home mom. She held hearth and home together, feeding, clothing and corralling us while at the same time allowing us the freedom to experience the most wonderful of childhoods. We never felt neglected or lacked for anything, but there was never any hovering. The world was ours to explore, even if it sometimes got rough, and homework supervision wasn’t even a concept. We grew up in the sixties, came of age during the seventies, and everybody turned out a-okay!

As if being great parents wasn’t enough, these two really brought the house down with Act II, in which they truly embraced and excelled in the role of grandparents. Eight grandchildren will keep you hopping– between baptisms, babysitting, feeding, entertaining, putting on “Camp Kingsport” year after year, helping with school projects, coming to recitals, plays, concerts, sporting events, then graduations and weddings. And now there are even two great-grandchildren! All of this has transpired as the world galloped through the end of one century headlong into another, with wars, elections, assassinations, recessions, shortages, trends, and crisies on every front, be it international, national or domestic. A person born in the year of their marriage could now be receiving Social Security. They’ve seen it all–and the technology! When they were married, television was just barely catching on. Now they both have iPhones. We text each other, we have FaceTime conversations, they shop the internet and read this blog. My parents are- in a word- awesome. They were always there, always have been there, and still ARE there! God Bless Jeanne and Bob Jernigan, a life well lived– and still at it. Sixty-three years and counting!




  1. Bill Jones says

    Now I know why I have been thinking about them all day. What a great tribute to two of our favorite people. The only thing I would change about the article is that their offspring turned out much much more than a-okay. Jeanne and Bob were wonderful role models to Bill & me as we started our family many years ago in Kingsport, Tennessee. O
    ur lives have been blessed by two very special people who we love very much. Happy Anniversary, Jeanne and Bob. Hugs. Lida & Bill

  2. Gloria Orme says

    Happy anniversary aunt Jeanne and uncle Bob. We send our love to you, Gloria and Robin.
    Nicely written piece on your parents Mary. We enjoyed reading it!

  3. Marjorie Holler says

    Now I want to hear the top hits of the doctor stories. How blessed you all are to have such long lives together. Congratulations and continued blessings.

  4. Kenny Holley says

    Dear Jeanne and Bob,

    You have always been two of my very favorite people in the world and a role model to so many, including Polly and me,in terms of what makes for a successful marriage.

    If i could have chosen parents other than my own (God chose them for me) it would have been you.

    Congraturlations on your 63rd anniversary. With much love and admiration,

    Kenny Holley

  5. Scot Spaar Jonte says

    The magic… I always feel “safe” knowing they are in the world! And, I was born in 1951… must have known it was a good time to come into the world and into this family! Thanks for honoring Aunt Jeanne and Uncle Bob this way, Mary. I love them so much!


  6. Robyn says

    Happy Anniversary to Jeanne and Bob!!!!!!!! WHat a gift this piece is for your parents! I’m grateful to know them!

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