Making Marriage Last a Lifetime this Valentine’s Day
By Lindsay Peyton
As Valentine’s Day approaches, a love story that has endured for 57 years shines as an example from the pews of Chappell Hill UMC. Dave and Darlene Wyatt offer insight into making marriages last – and proof of the deep connection between faith and love.
Dave was working at the A&P grocery store with his father, unaware that Darlene was taking a sneak peek as he weighed vegetables. Her aunt had told her about the tall, nice-looking guy from Troy, Texas, who she should meet.
Darlene was spending the summer with her grandparents in nearby Temple – and told her aunt she would need to see Dave first before any “blind” dates were planned.
“God had a purpose to bring me to Temple,” she recalled with a laugh.
Dave, meanwhile, agreed to meet the niece from Houston, sight unseen. He drove his 1957 Chevrolet to pick her up.
“Those were the days of girls wearing about 1,400 petticoats,” he said. “When she got into the passenger seat, I had to do a bit of stuffing to close the door.”
Darlene still remembers the dress. Her mother, a tailor at Sakowitz, made it for her by hand.
The movie they headed to was “The Vikings,” playing at Arcadia Theater in Temple.
The date became the first of many. At the end of the summer, Darlene returned to high school in Houston for her sophomore year. Dave readied to enter college. They wrote letters back and forth – and still have them tucked away.
Darlene invited Dave to go with her to prom, and he agreed. Still, she was reluctant to completely commit to her suitor. He, on the other hand, would sleep in his car in Hermann Park, bringing a blanket and opening the door, just to visit her in Houston.
Darlene enrolled in Texas Woman’s University in Denton to pursue a degree in nursing. Dave asked her to marry him, but she wanted to cross the graduation stage with her maiden name.
Darlene graduated May 30, 1963, and the couple married June 15.
The Wyatts went on to move 18 times, following Dave’s career path in Lubbock, Oklahoma City, Chicago, Cincinnati, Baltimore -- and even Argentina. They had two children and now are the proud grandparents of five.
“Through all of the moves, we made it joyful,” Darlene said.
And that has become an important part of their marriage, holding onto happiness and looking towards hope. “Marriage is an institution, and it’s hard,” Darlene said. “We’d be at the valley of something, and God would come in and bring us up to the highest mountains.”
They always went to church together on Sundays, regardless of where they lived, and brought their children to Sunday school. Now, they are active members at Chappell Hill UMC, fifty-seven miles northwest of Houston.
Dave serves as chairman of the administration board. Darlene works on the card ministry, where volunteers gather old greeting cards, cut them up and make new ones. They sell the cards to benefit the church. She also creates gifts for visitors and makes Chrismons for them as well.
Together, they started a Bible and Breakfast Ministry at the church. Each week, the congregation provides canned goods and food for those in need. Volunteers load donations into cars that line up in the morning. Dave and Darlene serve breakfast and distribute Bibles to those who are waiting in their vehicles.
The couple also delivers meals to people who are ill, and they also visit nursing homes. Their pastor for the past six years, Danny Danheim, said the Wyatts are an inspiration.
“I’ve never heard them exchange an angry word,” he said. “I’ve never seen them when they were not supportive of each other. You can see the love on their faces when they look at each other. It’s a tremendous relationship.”
The love they have for each other is contagious – and they are role models for the congregation, he said. They show love to the church, its members and people in need.
“They always hold each other up,” Danheim added.
“Other than the Lord, Dave is my strength, my rock,” Darlene said. “It’s God’s gift for us to become older and more mature together. Sure, there are hard days, but the beautiful days outweigh them.”
David has advice for other couples who are seeking a lasting bond. “Never go to bed mad,” he said. “Before you go to sleep at night, settle your differences.”
Then, have a fresh start. “Let yesterday be yesterday,” he said. “The next morning, we move forward.”
Finally, he suggests maintaining a regular date night. “We still go on Friday night dates,” he said.