Longtime Destin couple Jim and Valerie Beall celebrated their 75th anniversary this month and talked about how they’ve managed to stay happy - and in love - for three-quarters of a century. One hint: Have a sense of humor.
DESTIN – It’s not hard to find something to love about Jim and Valeria Beall.
Which is easy to understand when you learn how they’ve spent the last three-quarters of a century finding things to love about each other – the couple celebrated their 75th wedding anniversary on Nov. 4.
"What do I think about being married 75 years? Well I’m really happy about it, to begin with," Jim said, smiling. "It’s way better than being married 74 years, that’s for sure."
It doesn’t go without saying that having a sense of humor is probably one of the requisites for being married this long.
"Really simply, we have just always gotten along," Val said. "I think right away, we both realized that was a good thing."
Some people might argue it was a great thing. Val thinks their longevity has gotten a boost from living on the Emerald Coast.
"We came here as snowbirds and lived in Sandestin starting in 1989," Val said. "Then we moved to Destin in 2007. We think we’ve lived longer because we live in Florida … where we lived before was right on Lake Erie, looking over a 90-foot cliff and with a 500-foot driveway.
"In the winter, it wasn’t unusual to have to get the driveway plowed in order to get to work."
Jim and Val first met as students at Wittenberg University in Springfield, Ohio, after World War II, when Jim was part of the Air Service Command. They were both in the college choir and because the school didn’t have buses, they had to pile into cars for a trip to a performance.
"I was in one car and he was in another to start off with," Val said. "He was looking back at me from his car and I could see him looking at me, then when we stopped one time he came over and asked me to come ride in his car … then the first thing we did was go spend the day at Niagara Falls.
"Things worked out pretty well after that."
They eloped and got married in Gallipolis, Ohio, and Val worked at Wittenberg while Jim finished his degree and worked as a mailman in Springfield.
After graduation, the couple moved back to Val’s hometown of Erie, Pennsylvania, where she was a teacher and Jim worked for her father’s trucking company, which they eventually inherited.
Jim and Val had five children – Merrilea, Rogers, Patricia, Bradley and Candice – along with nine grandchildren, 13 great grandchildren … and now, three great, great grandchildren. And everyone is spread out – Maryland, Texas, Denver, Kentucky and even overseas, in England.
"I only had one grandfather, so I’m really interested in being part of this group of grandfathers now," Jim said. "We never expected that part."
Val and Jim stay active by being part of Destin Methodist Church and Destin Seniors.
"We’re independent ... we do all of our own cooking, all of our own work around the house," Val said. "We’ve had a lot of places we’ve had to go visit over the years to see our family, and they’ve come here quite a bit. Every year we try to have some sort of reunion where the whole family gets together."