When Charles Miller was 12 years old, “the cutest little girl I’d ever seen in my life” moved into his neighborhood.
Anna Gentry was 11. Charles was smitten.
“When I saw her, I thought she was the love of my life, and I set out to make it true,” Charles said.
On Friday, Charles, 97, and Anna, 96, will celebrate their 80th wedding anniversary in Lexington. They live in the same neighborhood, in Anna’s mother’s former house, half a mile from where Charles was born.
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The two were married in a modest ceremony in 1936, when Charles was 17 and Anna was 16.
“We said ‘I do,’ and that was it,” Anna said.
They were married at their minister’s house in Lexington, with a few relatives present. There was “no way you could forget that day,” Anna said.
They will celebrate their anniversary with a vow-renewal ceremony and reception at Pilgrim Baptist Church. They both credit their faith and involvement in church as a factor in their long marriage.
“God put us together and kept us together,” Charles said. “I think God was in the plan all along.”
The only time they have been apart was when Charles enlisted in the Army during World War II as a combat and demolition engineer. Anna and their two children moved in with her mother.
Charles is currently a deacon at Pilgrim Church, and Anna helps lead Sunday school.
“When we walk into church, you’d think we were two kids who just got married,” Charles Miller said.
“All them years we worked in the church, and I guess that kept us together,” Anna Miller said.
Their nephew, Marvin Miller, lives nearby. He said he moved from Louisville to be closer to his aunts and uncles. When he was younger, Charles Miller would pick him up every Friday, and he would spend the night at their house each weekend because he was close with their son. He also worked with Charles in construction from the age of 14, and he spent time each week with the family when he attended the University of Kentucky.
He now has “weekly talks” with Charles, and they reminisce and offer advice to each other. Marvin considers Charles to be a mentor and said that over the years, his aunt and uncle have given him and his wife advice on marriage, including keeping God “in the middle” of their marriage.
“He’s taught me a lot about knowing my responsibilities as a husband and as a man,” Marvin Miller said.
He said his aunt and uncle’s 80th anniversary is a “monumental” occasion for the family.
The Millers have two children, eight grandchildren, four great-grandchildren and one great-great-grandchild. They said they plan to spend their anniversary with their daughter, who is coming into town for the weekend.
“We’ve had a good life,” Charles said, sitting on the couch with his wife. “We’ve had a really good life.”
Monica Kast: 859-231-1320, @monicakastwku