Riverview couple doubles the love for golden anniversary

Francis and Becky Carter and Barbara and Frank Eby stand under the double arch at the First Church of the Nazarene of Miami 50 years ago. They’ll repeat the scene Saturday in Brandon.

Courtesy of Frank Eby

Francis and Becky Carter and Barbara and Frank Eby stand under the double arch at the First Church of the Nazarene of Miami 50 years ago. They’ll repeat the scene Saturday in Brandon.

BRANDON

For Frank Eby, the 1963 ceremony stood out because his parents participated in a double wedding ceremony in the same church.

Francis "Red" Carter remembers going out the morning of the wedding — before he put on his tuxedo — and pulling shrubbery off the church hedges to decorate the double arches Frank's father had made by hand.

Barbara Eby and Becky Carter — then they were Barbara and Becky Jones — cherished the fact that their father beamed with so much pride he insisted on escorting both of them down the aisle. He wouldn't hear of his brother serving as a proxy for one of his daughters.

Now the Ebys, who live in Riverview, and the Carters, who have traveled down from Tuckasegee, N.C., will stand together Saturday at Brandon First Church of the Nazarene and exchange vows 50 years after getting married in the First Church of the Nazarene of Miami.

One couple celebrating a 50th anniversary draws raves, but two inspires even more awe — unless you're the Ebys and the Carters. In their families, long marriages are the norm, not the exception.

The parents of Barbara and Becky, Frank and Red were each married for more than 50 years. Barbara and Becky's brother, 13 years younger than Becky, who is 69, has been married 36 years.

The couples attribute the longevity of the relationships to putting God first, spouse second and themselves third.

"We both grew up in Christian homes and decided that our love for each other was stronger because of our love for God," said Barbara, 71.

Red, 72, added that both husband and wife have to give 100 percent. Frank, 75, offered a slightly different formula.

"You have to realize that marriage is not a 50-50 proposition — it's a 90-10 proposition," he said. "If each individual gives 90 percent and only expects 10 percent from the other person, it ends up being 50-50. If both do that, it works out."

Back in 1963, Becky and Red weren't sure if the double wedding ceremony would take place. Barbara had planned her wedding to Frank for four years while Frank studied civil engineering at the University of Florida and interned at Cape Canaveral.

Becky and Red, on the other hand, had enjoyed a shorter courtship before deciding to get married. When she broached the idea with Barbara and her parents, they suggested a double ceremony.

Red said he was all for it.

"I just wanted to get married," he said.

But what about Frank?

"I said, 'That's fine,' " Frank said. "It was only the second double wedding in the church's history. The first one was 46 years earlier and it was my mother and father in a double ceremony."

The news came as welcome relief to Becky, who viewed the coincidence as a sign from God she was making the right decision.

In the end, more than 400 people attended, but the big wedding didn't come with a big price tag. Barbara and Becky borrowed wedding gowns, a friend baked the cake for no charge. Another took photos as his gift.

"It was the least expensive wedding you had ever seen," Frank said.

Two pastors presided, with one singing a beautiful rendition of the Lord's Prayer.

On Saturday, they expect just as much ceremony with the only difference being more of an international flair. Since the mid 1980s, the Ebys have sponsored southeastern Asian refugees who have relocated to the United States.

With the help of their church, they have established three Vietnamese churches in Central Florida — St. Petersburg, Tampa and Orlando — befriending countless families along the way. The Ebys spent a year teaching English in Vietnam in 1994.

"I tell people we probably have 200 Vietnamese friends and probably 2,000 Vietnamese who know about us," Frank said.

Only one bittersweet aspect will tinge the celebration. Barbara, whom doctors have diagnosed with leukemia, is undergoing chemotherapy and has been told not to get too close to people because of her wavering immune system.

"I'm supposed to stay away from crowds," Barbara said. "But there are so many people coming that I haven't seen in a long, long time. I should not be hugging and kissing people, but my personality is such that it's just normal for me. It's going to be hard to know how to greet the crowds."

To be honest, when I first learned about this inspiring celebration, I almost let it fall between the cracks because of news coverage. Then I called planning only to do a brief. Then a short story.

As I spoke to them, I felt my admiration and adoration for their love story grow. I guess the same could be said about how they feel about each other.

That's all I'm saying.

Riverview couple doubles the love for golden anniversary 08/07/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, August 7, 2013 6:28pm]

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