Photo by M.J. Subiria Arauz
Forrest Thornton, Sr., (left) kisses his wife, Ann. The couple live in Jonesboro and have been married for 70 years.
Sitting together inside their room at Elmcroft of Mt. Zion, in Jonesboro, Forrest Thornton, Sr., and his wife, Ann, gushed and giggled over their 70-year-long romance.
The 91-year-olds, who reside at the senior living facility, didn’t miss a beat sharing details of their remarkably long marriage. According to the couple, they recently celebrated their 70th anniversary.
“And we’re still in love, after all these years,” said Forrest, with a wide smile.
He said he remembers it like it was yesterday, driving down to Telfair County for the first time with his friend, John Parker Harrell, from the Savannah Air Base, where they were stationed. He and his friend were enlisted with the U.S. Air Force, he explained.
Forrest said his friend introduced him to Ann in 1941. She lived in the City of Jacksonville in Telfair County, Ga. Ann added that she lived with her mother and siblings in the quaint, small town.
“I fell for her, when I first met her,” said Forrest, with a twinkle in his eye. “So, I kept going to Telfair County.”
He said the commutes from the air base to Jacksonville were over two hours long, but they were well worth it. He said he thought Ann was beautiful the first time he saw her — he was “floored. And she still is,” he said, as he turned and gazed into her eyes.
Ann said the first time she met Forrest, he was overly friendly –– a very sociable person. “I thought he wasn’t bashful enough,” she said. “We made friends, and then ended up like this.”
She said she admired his social skills. “He couldn’t meet a stranger,” she added. She saw him “as a friend at first,” and knew Forrest had stronger feelings toward her. Her love for him, however, grew when she noticed how much he cared for her.
At one point while they out driving during their courtship, she said, Forrest put his arm around, tightly, as he drove with one hand. He wouldn’t let go of her. “From then, a deeper love started,” said Ann.
Some time later, they were at a dance, when Forrest asked for her hand in marriage, and she played hard to get. Her response to his question was, “What?” Forrest thought she wasn’t interested, and told her he would wait and see what the future holds. She then immediately said, “I’ll marry you!”
They were 21 years old when they married on Jan. 19, 1942, said Ann. The wedding was personal and quiet, conducted before a justice of the peace. She said Forrest wore his Air Force uniform, and she sported a navy-blue suit.
“We [wed] really quick,” added Forrest. Soon afterward, his job in the Air Force led them to live in Myrtle Beach, S.C. She said she really enjoyed her time there, although his career led her and the children to live in a variety of interesting places over the years, including Europe, during World War II, and Alaska.
Ann said she has three children with Forrest, including Forrest Thornton, Jr., born in 1943; Rodney Thornton, born in 1946, and Debra Barfield, born in 1954.
According to Sally Brady, a niece of the Thorntons, the couple has three grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. Brady said her uncle was a major when he retired from the Air Force in 1949.
She said Forrest landed a civilian job as a computer-systems analyst for the U. S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in Atlanta. The couple lived in Forest Park in 1956, but eventually moved to Morrow, where they lived for 35 years. “Morrow, at the time, was the place to live,” Ann said.
Forrest retired from the CDC about 25 years ago, Brady said.
The couple’s marriage has remained intact for decades, because they don’t believe in arguing, said Forrest. “You say what you gotta say, and then hush up,” he said sternly. He said he doesn’t recommend for couples to go to bed angry, or they’ll wake up the same way.
“Be true to one another, and well, love one another,” added Ann.