Larry and Betty Sue French’s love story started in the fall of 1952 at Western Kentucky University when the two met during registration.
A little more than a year later on Nov. 14, 1953, the two Hardin County natives went on their first date. It was to a football game. Betty Sue said it was a sunny day and she wore a two-piece knit short-sleeve dress, high heels and nylons with seams in them.
“Rumor was (Larry) did not care for females wearing seam stockings (if they are) all crooked. They had to be straight seams,” she said, laughing as she told how her suite mates gathered around her to make sure the seams were perfect before she left on the date. “It was too funny.”
Larry said the whole afternoon and evening cost him about $2. He bought a couple Cokes during halftime and treated Betty Sue to a chicken dinner after the game.
Betty Sue said it has become a tradition to have a chicken dinner on Nov. 14 every year in celebration of their first date.
Fast forward a few years later, the couple tied the knot on Valentine’s Day 1956. Betty Sue was 22 and Larry was 23. Today, the two are celebrating their 63rd wedding anniversary and they still are Valentines.
Asked what has made their marriage a success, Larry said, “Betty Sue is in charge, but she lets me think I am.”
“It’s a little humorous, but it works,” Betty Sue said, laughing.
Before their wedding day, several people told them the marriage wouldn’t last because Betty Sue was Baptist and Larry was Catholic.
“It was a rocky road before we got married,” Betty Sue said.
The two couldn’t get married at Betty Sue’s church, Vine Grove Baptist Church, and at Larry’s church, St. James Catholic, they would have to be married in the priest’s parlor because Betty Sue was not of the Catholic faith.
“I wanted a better wedding than that,” she said.
Betty Sue said somebody suggested talking to a Catholic chaplain at Fort Knox because Larry was in the military.
“That was a good tip,” Larry said.
The two were married by a Filipino Catholic chaplain at the Fort Knox St. Patrick’s Chapel.
“We had to go through so much to get that done,” Betty Sue said.
After the ceremony, the two left on a honeymoon for a couple days in Horse Cave before heading to Texas for Larry’s assignment. He had just completed six months of U.S. Air Force training.
Betty Sue said at the Horse Cave Motel, there were boxes of Valentine candy that had little dolls on them. Larry gave her one that had a bride doll, which she still has.
As advice to young couples, Betty Sue said a “marriage is two people coming together as one.”
“You have to almost try to think as one,” she said.
And try to agree rather than disagree, Larry added.
“You just have to work it out instead of one going one way and one going the other ... That’s not the way. We’re supposed to stay married,” Betty Sue said. “I think maybe because we had such a rough courtship ... and we had to go against so many people who gave us the advice that the marriage will never work that I personally was determined that it was going to work.”
Larry said another attitude they had was they didn’t want to divorce because they wouldn’t want their two daughters or grandchildren to have a divided mother and father.
Betty Sue, originally from Vine Grove, and Larry, of Elizabethtown, were away from Kentucky for a 30-year Air Force career, followed by seven years of family professional financial counseling. They returned to their roots in Hardin County in 1994 and settled in Elizabethtown.
They have two married daughters and three grandchildren.
“It was a wonderful life and we’re just fortunate and we’re thankful that we have reached this milestone,” Betty Sue said.