LUMBERTON — It was August 1953, a month after the Korean War had ended, and 21-year-old Army Sgt. James Robert Strickland had just returned to his hometown of Barnesville from a three-year stint in Germany.
Also living in that Robeson County hamlet southeast of Fairmont was Andre Mincey. The petite 19-year-old had graduated high school in rural, Duford, South Carolina, and moved with her parents to the sparsely populated Barnesville.
She was on her way to work at a local grocery store when Robert spotted her.
“I thought she was one of the prettiest girls I’d ever seen,” he said by phone last week from his Lumberton home.
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As the story goes, Robert hatched a scheme — he would cash a check where Andre was a bookkeeper and shoot his chance with that girl.
But Andre had designs of her own. Days earlier as she rode to work, her girlfriend pointed out Robert standing in his yard in uniform.
“She had been telling me about this good-looking guy in the neighborhood, this nice-looking guy that was about to get out of service,” Andre recalled. “And when I saw him I said, ‘I’ll probably have to check that out.'”
The doors of that grocery store may as well have been a chapel.
Three months later, on Nov. 21, 1953, the man tall enough to rest his chin on the top of his 5-foot-tall girlfriend’s head (“Then I’d grab her up and kiss her!”) took her as his bride.
On Tuesday, they celebrated 70 years.
“My philosophy is, if I had planted a Christmas tree each Christmas, I’d have had forest by now,” Andre said.
“When you see a good thing you get on it,” he said. “I did — and wouldn’t turn loose.”
The majority of their years they’ve spent in Lumberton, the couple said. They filled their home with children; Rosemaree came in 1955; Denise was born in 1959; and baby Donna completed the family in 1961. Robert went to barber school, opened his own barber shop, and eventually became a beauty supply salesman. Andre worked for 30 years for Lumberton radio station WAGR. The church played a large role in their lives and still does, Robert said. Andre noted she taught Sunday school “most of my adult life.”
‘You need to go to church and be a Christian,” Robert offered as the secret to their successful marriage. “That’s the foundation for everything.”
And while Robert noted he was the only male in the family for dozens of years, his daughters gave him nothing but grandsons. Rosmaree and her late husband, Gerald Walker, had two sons, Ash and Robert Trent; Denise, whose husband, Mike McIntyre, represented the state’s 7th Congressional District in the U.S. Congress for 18 years, had sons Joshua and Stephen; and Donna and her husband, Rick Astle, had son, John.
While Andre, 89, admits she can’t get around like she used to, Robert, 92, is still very active. He just renewed his driver’s license and goes three times a week to the gym.
“Don’t go shopping with him, he’ll leave you in the dust” his daughter Donna said.
The 70 years went by very fast, they agreed. For this platinum anniversary, Robert’s giving Andre two dozen red roses and three white roses to represent their three girls
Then, they have another goal in mind.
“We’re absolutely shooting for 75 now,” he said.
Local news editor F.T. Norton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.