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January 17, 2011

Richmond couple celebrates 71 years of marriage

RICHMOND — Sadye and Jim Whitten of Richmond celebrated their 71st wedding anniversary on Jan. 11 with a Lady Baltimore cake and lots of good wishes from friends and family. The two were married in 1940 at their pastor’s home in Birmingham, Ala.

Sadye, who turned 94 on Dec. 30, teases that she married a younger man because Jim is still a youngster of 93. When asked the secret of their many years together Sadye said, “First, be in love, and next, live a long time.”

Jim’s advice was to work as a team and to stay out of arguments. He chuckled as he recalled, “When one of us started an argument, usually me, the other one shut up. Sadye was good at that.”

Jim is a native of Birmingham and Sadye hails from Guntersville, Ala., where her family lived on a farm now covered by the waters of the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Lake Guntersville. Jim, a graduate of Jones Valley High School, began his apprenticeship to become a machinist soon after graduation. Sadye is a graduate of Marshall County High School and earned an associate’s degree from Alverson Business College in Birmingham.

The long-married twosome met in 1938 on a blind date arranged by Sadye’s roommate at business college. After Sadye completed her associate’s degree, she moved back to Guntersville where she worked as secretary to the county agent. The two-year courtship required lots of travel between Birmingham and Guntersville.

After marriage, the couple made their home in Birmingham in the Central Park neighborhood. Their two children were born during that time, daughter Sandra in May of 1941, and son Jim III in December of 1943. Jim worked as a machinist for U.S. Steel.

The family took a big step in January of 1950 when they left family and friends behind for Jim to take a job as a machinist for Union Carbide Corporation in Oak Ridge, Tenn. Oak Ridge was a government town at the time, still shrouded in secrecy from the wartime industry that produced the fuel for the first atomic bomb. Jim worked for Union Carbide for 18 years, first as a machinist and later as a supervisor in the assembly division of the Y-12 weapons facility in Oak Ridge.

Living and working in Oak Ridge was an adventure that none regretted. The schools were excellent and Sandra and young Jim quickly got involved. The family attended First Baptist Church in Oak Ridge.

Sadye took a job as secretary with Maxon Construction Company during the building of the K-33 facility at Oak Ridge Gaseous Diffusion Plant. Later, she worked as secretary in the pupil personnel department of the Oak Ridge Schools, where she remained until her retirement more than 25 years later.

In 1968, they moved from Oak Ridge to the Karns Community in Knox County where they built two homes. There they were active in Grace Baptist Church and many community activities. Jim became reknown for his skill at growing a large garden and making furniture in a well-equipped shop. Sadye participated in a senior aerobics class at Grace Baptist for many years and even appeared on a Knoxville television program touting the benefits of exercise for seniors.

Both Sadye and Jim like to tell about the travel they undertook after Sadye retired. For their first trip, they flew to Hawaii with a group of friends. Sadye, who had never been in an airplane, got quite an introduction to air travel since her first trip was such a long one.

After Hawaii, they spent a winter in Brownsville, Texas, and two winters on the Algarve in Portugal. They made two trips to Mexico and then toured the British Isles with a group of fellow retirees. One Christmas, they made a journey up the Mississippi river on the Delta Queen.

While on a Caribbean cruise one winter, they got word via ship to shore telephone that a great-granddaughter had been born. They also enjoyed many vacations in Florida and wintered for several years in Leesburg, Fla.

The long-married couple moved from Knoxville, Tenn., to Richmond in August of 2004 to be near their daughter, Sandra W. Plant, who came here to work for Bechtel Parsons Blue Grass. They are members of First Baptist Church in Richmond. 

“We haven’t regretted the move one bit,” said Jim. “We have met some really nice people.”

In addition to their two children, the Whittens have four grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren. Summing up their marriage of 71 years, Jim said, “We have had a wonderful life and a wonderful family. We are very thankful.”

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