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Longview couple offers advice after 60 years of marriage

Story and photography by Chelsea White L

ove can be a tricky thing, but after 60 years of marriage, Cliff and JoAnn Payne from Longview, Texas have gleaned some tips along the way. The pair, who live at Buckner Westminster Place, continue to find ways to serve and appreciate each other. “It gives me joy to work on our marriage,” JoAnn said. “We can just laugh together over the silliest thing you could ever come across. We find a lot of things that make us laugh in our marriage.” Cliff and JoAnn talk about their courtship and marriage as if reading each other’s minds. They finish each other’s sentences and defer to one another when one is at a loss for words. They met as children at church in Houston. JoAnn’s father was the pastor and Cliff’s father was a deacon. They’ve been together for so long, they can hardly remember their first date. They married after their first year of college, on Dec. 20, 1954,

when JoAnn was 20 and Cliff was 21. The couple had humble begin- nings, living in small, cramped apartments and guest houses until they saved up enough money to buy their own house. Their first son was born during Cliff’s senior year of college. They laugh as they remember the roaches that ran throughout their apartment and how when a north wind blew, it lifted the rug off the floor in their living room. “We have had a lot of laughs, and all through the years, we have laughed together over many things. That has held us together. We can still laugh about a lot,” JoAnn said.

The Paynes were actively involved in their church and community. They learned early in marriage to rely on their faith in God to grow closer to each other. “The secret of being close and loving was being close to God,” JoAnn said. “We never strayed away from him. He never left us. Whenever we got in bad times, we knew where to go, and we did. And he got us out of it. Everything goes back to God. God was the source that held us. Whenever anything didn’t go right, we went to him.” Cliff and JoAnn also found joy in serving together. From

teaching English in China to helping with special education Sunday school classes, they discovered that serving together grew their love for God, people and each other. Even now,

at Westminster Place, they still find ways to serve each other and their neighbors.

“Both of us have a love for people,” JoAnn said. “Now I can see more and more why God was so determined to work with us because he wanted to use us for some things he had in mind. We’ve gotten a lot of joy out of it. Because both of us learned to love people in a way that’s warm and friendly, we wanted to be friends. And then he gave us an opportunity to do that.” Aside from learning to laugh together, the Paynes found the most

important thing in marriage is realizing each person has different strengths and weaknesses, and that each person is constantly changing. “Recognize up front that both of you are constantly changing and the person you fell in love with is not there anymore,” Cliff said. “You have to continually fall in love with each other. That’s been one of the big things, accepting the fact that we are changing, hopefully for the better, and trying to make those changes in the right direction. And just deciding we’re going to work at it. We’ve been together for a long time, and we’re not going to let anything take us apart.” n

50 Buckner Today • SUMMER 2015 ISSUE

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