When Charles W. Sims, 88, first saw his bride-to-be, he was on a skating date with her best friend.
From that very awkward start, Sims and Frances McFarland Sims, the woman he married about six months later, have been inseparable.
They are celebrating their 70th wedding anniversary Tuesday.
The secret to their long life together? Commitment, according to one of their daughters. Laughter, according to a granddaughter.
According to Charles? "She listened to me for a long time, and now I listen to her," he said.
On the other hand, Frances, 90, still isn't quite sure. "Seventy years and I don't know yet," she said.
The longest-married couple in the United States have been together more than 82 years, according to various reports. If time will allow, the Simses will get there one day.
"They were committed to one another," said their daughter Linda Burton.
They were born on the same day two years apart. Their mothers both were named Myrtle.
Frances is the oldest girl of 13 siblings, and Charles is the oldest boy of 10.
They met in Georgetown, where she lived. He was born in Athertonville in LaRue County and was working with the Civilian Conservation Corps in Elizabethtown and Georgetown before World War II.
Charles worked at the Lexington-Bluegrass Army Depot at Avon before serving in the Philippines during the war. When he was discharged he worked at Avon again before gathering his wife and four children and heading to a similar position in Pennsylvania.
Three years into that job, the allure of running his own business brought the family — child number five was on the way — back to Lexington, where he later started Lexington Home Supply.
Charles and Frances would go door-to-door in Fayette and surrounding counties, selling curtains, bedding and rugs before venturing into furniture and appliances.
As the business grew and prospered, the Simses bought race horses, including stakes winners Mr. Copy Chief and Oh Jayne Oh.
By 1978, though, they gave up racing.
"Never buy nothing that has to eat," Charles said.
"Not just eat, but has to have shoes, and veterinary bills and all," Frances said.
In 2001, Charles retired and closed the business. Now that they are home together 24/7, how do they settle arguments or avoid them?
"I go to the basement," Charles said. "When she gets upset, she'll go off and spend two or three hours somewhere."
That's a lot better than when she was younger. She would pile the children in the car, and end up at Myrtle Beach, S.C., said their daughter Joy Patton.
"When we came back home, everything was fine," Patton said. "I guess she just had to get away from each other for a while."
"You leave for two or three days and he'll be glad to have you back," Frances said.
Their devotion to each other is obvious. And I'm told Charles still opens the car door for his wife, something my husband has not done for years.
And they laugh at one another's jokes.
"One thing that keeps them young is their laughter," said Angie Nunnelley, one of their 11 grandchildren. "They love to laugh."
Though they celebrate July 26 as their anniversary, the couple actually got married twice. The first nuptials took place at the parsonage of Frances' pastor, a Nazarene minister. The second was months later with a Catholic priest, to please Charles' mother.
"She insisted we get married again," he said.
Patton said her parents have never attended the same church, but that never interfered with the marriage.
Recently, Frances hasn't been feeling as spry as usual, which has increased Charles' devotion to her.
"Until recently, my dad didn't even know how to turn the oven on," Patton said. "But now he gets up every morning, fixes her breakfast and lays out their vitamins.
"He said, 'That is the least I could do. She has taken care of me all these years.'"
Why have Charles and Frances stayed together so long?
"I think God blessed them because of their commitment to one another," Burton said.
"I think it is because they've always had each other's backs," Patton said.
Or, maybe because the love they started with conquered all the small stuff that really didn't matter.