By Sue Minton
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — They made vows of good times and bad, and they’ve kept them even when times were tough.
High school sweethearts Robert and Wilma Westerfield celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary Sunday, Feb. 16.
Robert met Wilma during study hall at Lily High School. She was a transfer student from Somerset High School.
“Bob, who was the basketball manager, liked to play pranks. And one of these pranks got him sent to study hall where I sat beside him,” Wilma said.
Wilma thought Bob was the nicest, politest, well behaved young man and he was tall.
“I liked tall men. I could wear my high heels,” she said. “And when we started dating, he always treated me nice.”
“And she was pretty sharp,” Bob added.
Wilma contributes that to her mother. “She had always told me to walk with your head held high. And I did.”
Neither recall where they went for their first date but it was a double date with her sister, Linda, and Bob’s best friend.
“Dad would not let me date unless it was a double date. And, we probably just drove around or we could have went to the roller rink. I loved to roller skate,” she said.
They dated for five years and on Feb. 16, 1964, at the age of 19 and 22, the couple were married at First Baptist Church in London.
Wilma recalls the event — “It was very cold that Sunday with about four-inches of snow. After the morning service, we were married in the chapel downstairs. At that time, First Baptist was located on Main Street. I made my wedding dress and Bob’s mom made our wedding cake. Afterwards, we went back to their (Bob’s parents) home for a good dinner, and because the weather was so bad, we spent the night in Corbin. Also, Monday morning Bob had an interview for a job.”
The newlyweds had a hard time when they first married. Bob was laid off from his job the week before the wedding.
“We moved in with Bob’s parents. They had a large house and plenty of room,” Wilma said. “They had two sons and, right away, accepted me as a daughter. But, I think I cried the whole first year we were married.”
The Westerfields remained with his parents for several months. While living there, Mrs. Mae Westerfield taught her daughter-in-law how to cook. “She was a member of a homemaker’s club and was a wonderful cook. She not only taught me how to cook, but how to garden, can and freeze. We eventually got on our feet, moved out and bought a house. The payment was $89 a month.”
Not only did the couple purchase a new home but welcomed a new addition to the family — daughter Cynthia. They were thrilled with their first child.
“We didn’t realize until she was almost a year old that something could be wrong,” Wilma said. “We took her to a clinic in Barbourville and, after some tests, they told us she was deaf.”
When Cynthia was three the family moved to Lexington.
“We enrolled her in a school for the deaf. She was so smart and learned easily. But, I knew it would take a lot of focus and work to get her ready to fit into a hearing world,” Wilma said. “She never considered herself handicapped.”
Today, Cynthia is married to a man who is also deaf and they have two sons. She walked a postal route in Corbin for some time and currently works in the mailroom for the U.S. Postal Service in Lexington.
“We devoted so much time to Cynthia, I think our other two children, Jason and Heather, feel like they were sometimes left out. But I was determined to see that she had a good life.”
When youngest daughter, Heather, started kindergarten, Wilma enrolled at the Lexington Beauty School and received her cosmetology license. She worked at several different salons and owned her own shop for more than 15 years.
Currently, she works at Beauty Works three days a week.
“We raised our family and worked hard. Bob worked a lot and there was little time for recreation. But, after the children were grown, off-and-on for three or four years, we were members of a dance club, ballroom dancing. I used to fancy myself as a good dancer,” Wilma said.
“But I never was too good at it. I was just a good old, country boy,” Bob said.
Today, the couple spends time with their four grandchildren and they have a booth at the Vendors Mall.
“We have been blessed with three children and they have blessed us with three grandsons and a granddaughter,” she said.
Wilma and Bob said they based their marriage on his parent’s marriage.
“They had a good, solid marriage,” Wilma said. “My advice to couples today would be — everyone has problems; just be strong enough to work it out.”
“It’s give and take,” Bob said. “It takes a lot of take. Young people give up too easy.”
“We get wrapped up in ourselves and forget about each other. You have to love, live, give and take a lot. And we didn’t want to give up; that is why we have been married 50 years. Sometimes it seems like a hundred years; other times it seems like just yesterday.”