WHITMIRE — When they were dating, John Epps would walk seven miles once a week to see his future wife, Marie, and then seven miles home again.
“That wasn’t nothing,” said Epps, now 95. “We’d go hundreds of miles to see one another. I’d go 2,000. Love doesn’t get too far apart.”
Seventy years later, that love is still going strong. The couple marked this momentous wedding anniversary on Dec. 24. Their family held a celebration at Cedar Grove AME Zion Church.
Mrs. Epps, now 89, said she always told her children that marriage is a lifetime commitment.
“I just enjoyed it,” she said.
The Epps got to know one another at church, New Hope Baptist.
“I just fell in love right away,” Mrs. Epps said.
Epps said he remembers seeing his wife for the first time when she was a child around first grade age and thought then that she was pretty.
“I say I have just loved her from a baby,” he said.
They were married in 1938 at the Newberry County Courthouse after dating a couple of years. Neither can recall why they chose Christmas Eve as their wedding date. Their children are John Howard Epps Sr., Joseph Alonzo Epps, John Ballard Epps Jr., Yvonne Wright, Thomas Edward Epps, Jackie Robinson Epps, and Fannie Epps Hopkins. Another daughter, Gladys, was a teen-ager when she passed away. The Epps have 21 grandchildren, numerous great-grandchildren and three great-great-grandchildren.
Epps worked in a sawmill and then J.P. Stevens in Whitmire before he and his wife opened Epps Diner in 1969. Mrs. Epps also had worked as a nursing assistant before opening the restaurant. The diner was in business for 25 years. Fannie Epps Hopkins said people in Whitmire still mention how much they loved the home-cooked food served at the diner, including the fried chicken.
“My favorite was my mother’s collard greens and cornbread,” Mrs. Hopkins said.
Epps said he and his wife enjoyed the fellowship with customers at the diner.
“We loved it; meeting friendly people and we were friendly,” he said.
Fannie said her parents are the epitome of the American dream and she wrote a letter to President Barack Obama about their lives and marriage.
“I told him that my mother and daddy’s parents were sharecroppers,” she said. “When we were growing up they encouraged us to trust in God first, get an education and always pursue diligently your goals in life. They have lived that example and because they have they have been able to see themselves go beyond the sharecropper’s house they lived in to see grandbabies that have the hope of the White House.”