Couple enjoys simple life in China Grove

Published 11:02 pm Monday, October 7, 2013

Even though Kenneth Long has lived an eventful life of 81 years, spend a minute with him and it quickly becomes clear that the best moments of his life have been spent with his wife of 60 years, Sara.

“Sara and I met when her family moved to a farm across from my family. She was 17 when we married,” Kenneth said.

“I was 16 and a half,” Sara corrected him. “We started dating when we were still in school. We would blink our porch lights back and forth to say goodnight to one another.”

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“Back then, my family didn’t have electricity,” Kenneth said. “We were still using a gas lamp. It was a little harder for me to say goodnight.”

Kenneth and Sara married on July 7, 1953. They celebrated their diamond anniversary earlier this year.

“We married right after Ken got back from Korea,” Sara said. “I had gotten my engagement ring in the mail from California. That’s something you don’t hear every day.”

“I served for 12 months as a sergeant in Korea with the Marine Corps,” Ken said. “It was my job to identify bodies as they came back.”

“It was a sad time when Ken was in Korea,” Sara remembered. “It wasn’t like it is now. He might write a letter, and I might not get it for two weeks. Naturally, you worry. We didn’t have a television to watch news, so we didn’t really know what was happening out there.”

Despite the stress, Ken and Sara persevered and married once Ken returned to the United States. The couple settled in Morristown, Tenn. where Ken worked as a supervisor in the American Enka Corp. for 40 years. During their time in Tennessee, the couple raised two children, Janet Carol, who lives in Montgomery and is a special education teacher, and Judy Catherine, who works in Birmingham at the social security office.

Sara believes their relationship has been so successful because of their shared faith.

“We leave everything to God,” Sara shared. “Everything is in God’s hands.”

“When you love each other, you can get mad, but you don’t go to bed mad,” Sara added.

“If I ever get mad, Ken walks out and makes me madder, but, by the time he comes back, I’m not mad anymore.”

Sara even shared some advice for new couples.

“The first five years are the hardest,” Sara noted. “That’s when you’re learning to live with someone else and learning their faults. If you can overcome the first five years, you can overcome anything.”

The couple wound up in China Grove by way of Sara’s father Alvin Seaton. Alvin contacted the couple 18 years ago with a proposition to buy land from Mary Shirley.

Sara’s father asked me that if he were to buy the land in Alabama if Sara and I would buy part of it too and come to live on it,” Ken recalled. “I said, ‘As long as Sara likes it.’ The rest is history.”

“When we first bought the land, it was so grown up that you couldn’t see the pond from the road,” Ken said. “We built the houses and the barns and everything.”

Now Ken spends his days working on the property and mowing the three acres that the house sits on. Sara helps to balance the books for the Mount Pleasant Baptist Church in the Linwood community where Ken is a deacon and treasurer.

Though they aren’t originally from the China Grove area, Ken and Sara could not be happier with where they wound up.

”We love this place and love Alabama,” Sara said. “I couldn’t think of any other place to be.

“This is a peaceful place. We can go out, sit on the deck, and watch the deer and geese in the pond.”

“This is one of the best communities because it’s a family,” Sara said. “The people don’t care when you need them, they will be there.

Ken is a little more pragmatic about why he likes living in China Grove.

“I’m way out in the country,” Ken said. “I’m not bothering anyone, and nobody is bothering me.”

“Time flies,” Ken said. “I’m 81 years old now, and it doesn’t seem like I retired 18 years ago. I didn’t imagine I would live so long after retirement.”

With a little luck and good health, Sara and Ken hope to see anniversaries 65 and 70 in China Grove.