On Saturday, June 6, 2009, family and friends of Merle and Betty Secrest celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary with a surprise party for them. The party was held at the old Celina Park Pavilion in Celina. It was combined with the semi-annual Secrest Family Reunion. There were 85 people who joined in the fun and fellowship together.
After the potluck meal, Merle and Betty cut their anniversary cake made by Kitty Storm of Celina. The cake was decorated with an image of a Model-T car with “Just Married” on the back and a poster picture of Gary Cooper as “Sergeant York.”
The following was written by Fredda Tatum of Gainesville and published in the Southside Baptist Newsletter 3 years ago. It summarizes their courtship and marriage.
“A Marriage Made in Heaven...a True Story”
“They sat next to each other holding hands in the dark auditorium of the movie theater. This was their time to be together. It is 1949 and the girl is a senior in high school. They had never actually had a date. She had a very strict Daddy who insisted she be 18 years old before she dated but she had her eye on a very handsome, polite young man in town. Their sisters were best friends and when they found out she liked him, they told him so. He knew she couldn’t date, but he would come into the movie theater and find her and sit by her so they could hold hands. She would leave alone and go home and then he would leave a short time later. There would be times, he would pass her house going to town, and she would wave in secret.
He was drafted into the Army so they corresponded through a friend who picked up her mail so her Daddy wouldn’t know. One weekend, he came home on furlough in May and picked her up as she was walking back to school at lunch time. He proposed to her before she got out of the car but she was so dumbfounded, she couldn’t answer right away. A few weeks later, she wrote him a letter while on her Senior trip (which her Mother had to go along, too) and she said she would marry him. A week later they met at the movies again. They went to the preacher’s house, got married and went back to the movies to finish watching in (Sergeant York). This time they both went home to tell her Daddy that they had gotten married. Of course he was upset but he “got over it” and in time, he realized he had gained a fine son-in-law. That was 57 years ago on June 7, 1949. As we were eating cake and homemade ice cream one evening to celebrate their special day, I told her that their marriage must have been made in Heaven and she replied, “God has been with us every step of the way!” “I still see them holding hands; only not in a dark movie theater, but in God’s house every Sunday.”
— By Fredda Tatum
Betty Louise Mangum married Merle Laverne Secrest on June 7, 1949, in Tioga. Their parents were Willie and Pearl Mangum and Opal and Earl Secrest of Tioga.
Their children and their spouses are Verna and Junior Worthey of Celina, Doug and Judy Secrest of Lindsay, Penny Secrest and Lanny Secrest of Gainesville, the late Buck Secrest and Lynette and Don Pettigrew of Gainesville. They also have 8 grandchildren (and spouses) and 7 great-grandchildren.
Merle retired from Southwestern Bell Telephone Co. and Betty retired from Weber Aircraft. They are faithful members of Southside Baptist Church in Gainesville, where Merle is a deacon.
It’s not everyday you can celebrate 60 years of a “Marriage made in Heaven.”
Congratulations Merle and Betty!