A double blind date to the football game at the old Istrouma High in 1946 is the origin of a love story that spans nearly eight decades, but the details of the blind date are not how you expect a successful love story to begin.
June 7, 2022, marks the 75th wedding anniversary for 92-year-olds Harry and Mary Ann Stafford. The couple initially met on the double date, but they were set up to date other people.
They both recall having a good time with their original dates, but having more interest in each other.
“I was in the band at Istrouma and Harry went to Baton Rouge High and the two schools were rivals,” Mary Ann recalled. “We rode in a small car going to the football game. It was a 1934 Ford. We had to sit on their laps to go to the game. The next day, he (Harry) called me. He asked his friend Jean if he liked the girl he went on a date with and Jean said she was Ok but Harry said he liked me and wanted to call me. He called me the next day and asked to go to a show and the rest was history. I just knew he was the one.”
Mary Ann said her mom asked her about the date and her response was that it was OK but she liked Jean’s friend more.
Less than a year after that first date, the couple married in Alabama in 1947, both at 17 years old.
Harry joined the navy just before his 18th birthday. The couple lived in California for about four years, just as Mr. Stafford ended his naval career before he turned 21.
The couple recalled a story of the journey to California that involved their 1937 Ford navigating the winding roads through the Black Mountains in Oatman, Arizona at night without any headlights.
“We bought a 1937 Ford in 1947,” Mary Ann recalled with a chuckle. “Manufacturers were not making cars during war time. We paid $750 for that car and Harry made $95 a month in the Navy. We kept going through switchback after switchback on the road and nobody told us in the mountains that when it gets dark, it looks like somebody just turned off the switch. “We didn’t have any lights moving through the mountains.”
Following Harry Stafford’s career at the Navy, the couple came back to the Baton Rouge area and started to build a life that resulted in eight children, 19 grandkids and 37 great-grandchildren with the 38th set to make an appearance in January.
After 75 years of marriage and a boatload of shared experiences both good and bad, what are the keys to their happiness?
The answers were simple to them.
“Don’t ever go to bed mad,” Harry Stafford said.
“Have a lot of love and a lot of patience,” Mary Ann chimed in. “I think a lot of young people are selfish and I don’t think that works in a marriage.”
In addition, Mary Ann raved about the poems her husband still writes to her three times a year for her birthday, Christmas and their anniversary.
“His poems have gotten better through the years,” Mrs. Stafford said. “Most of them make me cry.”
The couple lives alone in the home they’ve had since 1961. They have property where three of their sons and their families live near them. Harry still has the energy to cut the grass when the yard needs to be maintained.
“God’s been good to us,” Mary Ann said. “We’ve always had food to eat. It has been a blessing.”
The Staffords will celebrate their anniversary with around 50 of their closest friends and family Saturday, June 11, 2022.