BY MELANIE BUCK –
Valentine’s Day is celebrated all across the planet as a day of love and romance. For one Polk County couple, their love and romance has lasted every day for seventy years. Seventy years of marriage… a fete that very few can boast, but Pete and Betty Brewer can – on February 21st, the couple will celebrate their 70th wedding anniversary.
Pete grew up in Montgomery County and Betty grew up in Polk County. They met when they were both quite young. “He’d been away in Texas working and I was 16 and he was 19,” said Betty. She continued, “A long time ago, people come to town on Saturday, everybody came. My daddy had a flat bed truck and we had loaded up and come to town. Pete had been to an auction and he had come out and flirted with me. He was always a happy-go-lucky person and he had this stool he had bought at the auction. I said, ‘if you were a gentlemen, you’d give a lady a seat,’ and he said, ‘I don’t see no ladies.’” They both gave a big laugh when the story was told, because, of course, it was just his ornery way shining through.
After two years of dating, Pete was destined to serve in Japan during World War II. He was about to leave and the two decided to marry, as many did just before going to war. “We married in secret. The man had to be 21 to marry and I thought the woman did too so I thought if anyone knew, we’d be in trouble,” said Betty. Months later, Betty’s little brother pulled some of her belongings out from under her bed. As her mother was putting the things back, she found Betty and Pete’s marriage license. “I thought I was in trouble,” she said. However, she soon learned that a woman had to be just 18 to marry so she was in the clear, after keeping such a secret for so many months.
After a thirteen-month stint in the Army, Pete made his way back home where he collected his woman and moved to Dallas, Texas where they lived for the next forty years. He became a builder and she worked for the school system. “When he became a Christian we began to ask God where our ministry was and He led us to foster parenting,” smiled Betty. Over the next 48 years, the Brewers would have three biological children and would care for 504 foster children. Yes, 504 children came in and out of their home and lives in just under five decades.
Betty and Pete glow when they speak of the children that have touched their lives and as they tell stories of all the ones who still keep in touch and still call them mom and dad. “We hear from our foster children all over the state of Arkansas and beyond. When we retired and moved back to Arkansas from Texas, we had been here 15 years and got a phone call. The girl on the other end said ‘did you ever live in Dallas, Texas and were you a foster parent?’ and sure enough, it was one of our girls. It was so good to hear from her,” Betty said.
At a young age, Pete lost his mother and he tells stories of he and his brothers being raised by their single father, and a precious sister that took on the role of mother. Pete and Betty insured that so many over the years never went without a parent. “Them days were definitely not what they are now. My momma died when I was just a baby and dad raised us kids by himself and you can just imagine what we were like. It was a hard life for us kids but we were mean,” laughed Pete.
So what is the secret to a seventy-year marriage in today’s world? Pete and Betty both have their own take. “I never did have a worry, she always beat me to it,” Pete laughed. “I ain’t had but two women in my life,” he continued, “my wife and my sister. I picked Betty because she never was like the others. I ain’t sayin’ she’s perfect, but I wouldn’t pick any other. I didn’t see in her what I seen in those other girls. I could hear those other mothers and daddies when we’d go somewhere and I didn’t hear about her like those others. I knew she was a good one.”
Betty said, “I have a good man. I’ve seen the men today and he is exceptional. I depend on him for a lot of things and he depends on me for a lot of things. That’s what you do as man and wife. Don’t try to make them over. You didn’t marry someone you needed to make over. Let God make the direction. We were active with the church, working for the Lord, and with the children. If you’re close to God and you wait on Him to tell you, you don’t make any mistakes. We waited on Him to tell us and it has lasted. And too many times in a marriage it’s, ‘I want it my way’, but that’s not true, it’s our way. Share and listen to the other person. He’s always allowed me to say how I feel and I allow him to say it too.”