The children of Mr. and Mrs. Rainey Little and their families honored their parents with a surprise service and reception at 2 p.m. February 27 in celebration of the Little's 50th Anniversary. The service was held in the First Baptist Church Chapel in Starkville, followed by a reception in the Applegate Building of First Baptist Church. All activities surrounding the day were kept as a surprise from their parents until the morning of the event when the parents were given an invitation to the activities of the day.
The children were successful in keeping their parents in town for the day by telling Pat several months in advance that they were honoring their father on his 70th birthday – February 27. This actually was the truth, as they honored him that evening with a dinner at Starkville Café that was also attended by several family members and friends. Rainey's sister, Mary Ann Hancock of Florence, Robbie Berry of Jackson, and Dorothy Phillips of Grenada, as well as many friends, helped the Little children spread the word to family and friends about the surprise event.
Part of Pat's surprise was a beautiful dress purchased by the children for her to wear for the day's events. Beautiful flowers adorned both the Chapel and the reception and were arranged by their son Tim.
The Chapel service consisted of brief remarks from the children, Jenni and Tim. Larry, the younger son, recounted many things about the Little family and events in the years the children were in the home as well as the role of their parents in their adult lives. Their son-in-law Ken Chandler offered an opening prayer, and their son-in-law Kevin Atwell read the love chapter from I Corinthians 13. Pat's sister, Robbie Berry of Jackson, gave brief comments regarding Pat and Rainey's engagement and marriage.
Abbey and Gracie, the daughters of Debra and John Swartzendruber of Smithville – dear friends of the Littles, played their violins and sang several songs at the chapel service. Tim Little also sang “The Lord's Prayer.”
Rainey and Pat's pastor, Chip Stevens of First Baptist Church, honored the couple with a devotional and prayer.
The lovely reception following the service was provided by the Little children; Pat's sisters; the Dorcas Sunday school class members, of which Pat is a teacher; and supper club friends of the Littles. Rainey and Pat were honored to have many local friends as well as out-of-town family and friends present for the event.
Some of the highlights of the reception were items from the couple’s past. The children presented them with lovely tabletop chests that contained love letters the couple had written to each other while dating and engaged. Also displayed were the outfit that Pat was wearing when Rainey proposed to her, the suit that Pat wore away from the church on their honeymoon – made by Pat's mother, the late Sue Hartley, and Pat's wedding dress – also designed and made by Pat's mother.
Rainey's brother-in-law, George Hancock of Florence, photographed the occasion. The Littles now enjoy reliving the exciting day as they view the many pictures documenting the event.
Pat and Rainey were married at Enon Baptist Church in Grenada, where Pat's father, the late D. C. Hartley, was the pastor. Rainey and Pat met at this church sometime around 1954 and became good friends when Pat moved to Grenada in 1955. Pat's father and her grandfather, the late J. F. Hartley, performed the marriage ceremony.
At the time of the engagement, Pat was a student at Ole Miss, and Rainey was a student at Mississippi State. After their marriage, Pat transferred to MSU where the couple established their first home. Pat always jokes that you can change Ole Miss “red” blood to Mississippi State “maroon” easier than you can change “maroon” to “red.” Their school loyalties, however, never were an issue, and they were fortunate to live in several college towns, including Oxford, Ruston, La., and Clemson, S.C. However, they have lived in Starkville the majority of their married life.
Rainey's career was in the field of computers and education. He worked for a few years as an engineer with IBM in New Orleans and Memphis before choosing to do the thing he loved most - teaching others about the computer. After serving either as a computer science faculty member or a department head at four universities, he retired in 2003 from the Computer Science and Engineering Department at Mississippi State.
Pat chose to forego a career while raising their four children. After two children were away in college, she joined the work force, retiring in 2004 from the Dean's Office of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Mississippi State where she had been a secretary for 14 years.
One comment made by one of the Littles' children at the ceremony was how much their parents enjoyed being together.
"No greater compliment could have been given to us as parents than one that said our children saw our love for each other as well as for our family," Pat Little said. "Our motto easily could be: Fifty years of marriage seems like a very short time when spending it with the one you truly love."
The Littles are the parents of Jenni Little Atwell (husband - Kevin) of Loxley, Ala.; Tim Little; San Antonio, Texas; Brenda Little Chandler (husband - Ken) of Winona; and Larry Little of Round Rock, Texas.
The grandchildren are Brady Chandler, Landen Chandler, both of Winona; Nathan Atwell, Connor Atwell and Brynn Atwell, all of Loxley, Ala.