I was 32 when I got married in 1998.
I met my future wife at a baseball game, proposed to her at halftime of a state championship football game I was covering for the Longview News-Journal, and we worked our wedding and honeymoon around the high school and junior college basketball playoffs.
So, following the sports theme that was obviously going to be part of our lives through the years, I thought it was appropriate to ask my new bride to sign a 68-year contract shortly after we were married. My thinking was if she would hang around with me until my 100th birthday (she would only be 93 then) she was free to go find a new guy.
Maybe someone with money and good looks this time, since she obviously didn’t put a priority on those things the first time around.
We’ve had a lot of fun with the 68-year contract idea over the years. I hope to honor every year of that deal, but to be honest, I know it’s a long shot. It happens, but I don’t personally know anyone who has lived to be 100, and I don’t know any couples who have been married for 68 years.
Mr. Forrest was 90, and Mrs. Forrest was 87. They were married for 70 years, and they both died July 10 in Pittsburg — Mrs. Forrest first, and Mr. Forrest less than 12 hours later.
After the initial sadness over the couple’s death, I tried to focus on their lives.
Mrs. Forrest was born in 1933 in Naples. According to the obituary, she dedicated much of her life to being a homemaker, but also worked throughout the years at a bank, as a bookkeeper and as a church secretary.
Mr. Forrest, who was born in 1930 in Daingerfield, was a Navy veteran and a retiree from Reilly Industries in Lone Star.
They both enjoyed traveling and playing dominoes. She loved working in her yard, and he loved working in his shop. Both were big fans of the Texas Rangers and Dallas Mavericks, and it sounds like Mrs. Forrest might have had a small crush on former Mavericks superstar Dirk Nowitzki.
Mr. and Mrs. Forrest had three sons, one daughter, six grandchildren, 16 great grandchildren and four great, great grandchildren (with another due in September).
I’m a reporter and writer at heart, but I also believe if you strive to accomplish something, it’s a good idea to seek advice from those who have already traveled that path.
I needed to learn more about this amazing couple.
Since Mr. and Mrs. Forrest are no longer with us, I reached out to family members, and several were kind enough to share stories — daughter Lorie Lee about the love and concern for each other shown right to the end and Mrs. Forrest’s sisters, Dottie Cheatham and Pam Spencer ,using words like “trust and respect” to describe the marriage.
Granddaughter Ashley Womack also pitched in, verifying what I expected about her grandparents.
Womack — make that Dr. Womack now — readily admits she was a troubled teen. She describes herself as “basically feral, disrespectful, sneaky, rude, rebellious and just plain hard.”
She was booted from school in Houston, and that’s when Mr. and Mrs. Forrest stepped up to the plate. He was 63 and she was 60 at the time.
The change was immediate.
“In the matter of a day, I went from living in complete chaos to living with two of the kindest and quietest souls I know,” she wrote.
Womack said that was the immediate change she needed. The rest, she came to realize later.
“These two healed my brain with the way they treated me and each other. They literally rewired my brain with their love.”
And, finally, Mr. and Mr. Forrest provided Womack — and anyone else who took the time to notice — a blueprint for a 70-year marriage.
“The thing that had the most impact on me was the way he treated my grandma. It was a beautiful thing to watch over the years, and it taught me what I wanted in a marriage. This led me to making one of the best decisions of my life — to marry my husband — a man very much like my papa and dad.”
I know what you mean, Ashley.
Learning about your grandparents made me realize I need to step up my game a little if I want to assure my lovely wife sticks around long enough to honor that 68-year contract.
In fact, I’m thinking about trying to renegotiate. Now that I have the perfect example to follow, I bet I can talk her into signing on for a few more years.