Starkville couple celebrates 75th wedding anniversary

William and Ruby Nettles. (Submitted photo)

Staff Writer

William R. Nettles glanced at Ruby Gilley when he was in the 5th grade in Tishomingo.

He told his Dad later that day that he saw the girl he was going to marry one day.

On Jan. 1, 2019, the couple celebrated 75 years of marriage surrounded by loved ones.

Was it love at first sight? William said it was.

“Mom had her eye on him when she was in the fifth grade and she never took her eye off of him,” said their son Bob Nettles.

They went to high school together.

“We courted about four years before we married,” Ruby said, remembering the date in 1944 when the couple exchanged vows.

William was PFC in the U.S. Army, stationed at Mississippi State University and Ruby was a teacher in Cleveland, Mississippi at the time.

“There was a military unit there going to school studying transportation and we had graduated from basic training over in Alabama and they had to have a place for us to hold out until we could go over to the Officer Candidate School,” William said.

New Year’s Day was the only date that Ruby could take off work and William could get a three-day pass to leave Mississippi State.

The Nettles got married at First Baptist Church in Starkville.

“We had a very private wedding, just us and the preacher,” Ruby said as she added that the wedding was during World War II.

They caught a standing room only bus ride to Jackson, Mississippi for a three-day honeymoon.

The newlyweds spent their honeymoon at the Robert E. Lee Hotel and William described it as a great time.

Upon their return, William went back to MSU and she returned to teaching in the Delta.

He stayed at MSU for approximately three months before he and his company were scheduled to go to the Officer Candidate School in Fort Benning, Georgia.

During his military career, Ruby devoted her time to his side while raising their three children: Bob, Chris and Sherron.

“I went overseas to Germany and joined the 69th Division, actually I had trained with 69th Division and was trained at Camp Shelby in Mississippi, and I did my unit training there and we went overseas to Germany,” William said. “We finally took up positions right at the French and German border and we moved from there on into Germany,” he added.

William didn’t enjoy World War II but said his military career was a chance to explore the world and see what it was all about.

“I had to raise the children,” she said. “We’ve been just about all over the world.”

William’s military career took the couple all over the United States, Japan and Panama.

Japan was Ruby’s favorite.

Their son Bob Nettles was born in Japan.

Chris Nettles was born in Syracuse.

“We lived in Maryland, we lived in Kansas when dad went to the war college, we lived in Fort Benning, Georgia and the Panama Canal Zone,” Bob said.

William retired from the military when the family lived in the Panama Canal Zone.

With three years of education under his belt from MSU before the army, William returned to complete his final year earning a degree in business administration, and began working for MSU in 1966.

Ruby made their house a home on South Montgomery Street and tended to their children with what Bob called “Christian love and parenting.”

The couple currently lives in Tupelo and to celebrate their 75th wedding anniversary their children honored them with a luncheon at the Summit Center in Tupelo.

“It was exhilarating to us, we really enjoyed it and it was a real honor for the children to invite us to celebrate it - we’re just happy that we’re still able to do such thing,” William said.

Many of their five grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren were in attendance.

When asked what held their marriage together for 75 years, Ruby said one word — compromise.

William would give and she gave to him also.

“It feels just like yesterday,” Ruby said. “I’d do it again.”

Today, Ruby is 97 years old, and William is 95 years old.

“They are just an amazing, loving, Christian couple that have been the best example for all of their children and grandchildren and their great grandchildren,” Bob said.

Their children concluded: “Even beyond the grave, they will continue to parent leaving a trust that will provide an education for any and all members of the family. Certainly this couple is truly one of the greatest of the greatest generation.”