Harold Holland starts out with this admission about the failure of his first marriage to Lillian Barnes: “It was 100 percent my fault.”
The couple married in 1955 after meeting at a restaurant in Salt Lick. She was a dark-haired beauty in high school. He lived in Bath County, she in Menifee. Sparks flew.
They were married on December 24, 1955. Harold and Lillian had 5 children — Miriam, Timothy, Larry, Laura and Mark — in their 8 1/2 years together.
They split up in 1967 and stayed friendly. And there we leave the story for 50 years, when Harold and Lillian attended a family reunion together.
Sparks flew again. By December, 2017, the two former spouses were talking marriage. He’s now 83. She’s 78.
“We decided we want to walk the last mile together,” Holland said.
After the divorce, both began attending Baptist churches. They credit their faith with helping restore their late-in-life union. Their grandson Joshua Holland, a minister from New Orleans, will perform the ceremony on April 14 at Trinity Baptist Church.
Lillian will wear a long lavender and white dress.
What caused their original break up? Holland worked too much, he said, leaving his wife to raise the children and manage the house. In the divorce, he atoned: “I gave her everything. I moved into a one-room apartment on North Lime. I would not neglect my kids.”
Now retired, he was the force behind Holland’s Contract Carpets. His sons run it.
Although both remarried, the two had no rancor. Now, they say, they may have stayed just a little bit in love with each other all those years.
Lillian married Ted Malin and had two more children, Susan Tubbs and Ted II. Ted Malin died of a massive heart attack in 1986.
Lillian married again in 1988, to Arval Barnes. He died in January, 2015.
Harold married Maudie Corum, a widow with three children, in 1975. He cared for her children as his own, “which I always claimed, and still do.” Maudie suffered from lupus and died of liver disease in 2015.
Harold said he has learned what to do differently with what both hope will be their final marriage. It’s simple, really. “We’ll go do whatever we want to, whenever we want to do it. I’ll take her wherever she wants to go.”
“We have a lot in common,” Lillian said.
“I don’t think we ever lost that love, to tell you the truth,” echoes Harold.
But there’s a bit of tart in this sweet romance.
Lillian said Harold “didn’t think I’d ever speak to him again. He got fooled.”