DAYTON — Being married for 65 years deserves some recognition but it doesn’t often happen that one of Ohio’s largest cities recognizes such a feat.
Earlier this month, Herb and Betty Burton, formerly of Gallipolis, were honored with a proclamation from Nan Whaley, mayor of Dayton. The proclamation declared Feb. 9 as Herbert and Betty Burton Day in Dayton. The couple has lived in the Western Ohio city for over 60 years.
Herb said the proclamation came as a surprise and later discovered a friend had approached the mayor and put the idea in motion.
Of course, Herb already knows the mayor with volunteering on several boards dealing with issues from homelessness, to assisting low income residents, to economic development, to dealing with landfills. Herb retired from the U.S. Postal Service and Betty was once a secretary at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.
However, the couple’s history can be traced back to Gallipolis. Herb was actually a native of Point Pleasant, W.Va. as a child. He and his family moved to Gallipolis to receive an education, due to the high schools in West Virginia not being integrated.
Growing up, Herb and Betty lived across the street from one another – he at 837 Third Avenue and she at 840 Third Avenue.
Herb graduated from Gallia Academy in 1947 and Betty, who is five years his junior, followed a short time later.
“I remember those beautiful days,” Herb said, saying he played football and basketball while at Gallia Academy.
He also remembers the Gallipolis of long ago, and his uncle was actually the chauffeur for O.O. McIntyre every summer. Herb said McIntyre had a Rolls-Royce.
“I knew who he was (McIntyre)…everybody did,” Herb said. “It was a nice place to grow up, couldn’t have gotten a better experience.”
Herb left Gallipolis in 1948 to join the U.S. Army and saw action in the Korean War, spending a lot of time in Japan. He and Betty married on Feb. 9, 1952 in a double wedding ceremony shared with Betty’s sister and her husband at Paint Creek Church. The two would leave Gallipolis shortly after that.
“I really enjoyed Gallipolis in my youth,” Burton said. “The reason I left Gallipolis was there were no jobs when we were there. But, one thing I can say, Gallia Academy gave us one of the best educations you could ever have. While in Gallia Academy, the teachers were hard on me and I didn’t realize why until I went into the Army. The teachers found out I was in Korea and went to see my mother and asked my mother if they could pray for me, and all my teachers were white. I finally understood they were hard on me because they wanted me to succeed. Those teachers have impacted my life.”
Now that he’s 88 and his wife is 84, the couple comes back to Gallipolis only once a year, typically around Memorial Day to decorate the graves of loved ones.
“I have asked my wife, why do we still do it? She says ‘I want to do it,’” he said, laughing about that explanation being one he could live with.
When asked what the secret to being married for 65 years is, Herb said: “Be nice to each other…you have give and take. Respect…that will cover it.”
Reach Beth Sergent at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @BSergentWrites.