It’s a love story that was meant to be.
Johnnie “J.B.” Robertson and Margie Summerhill turned a budding Bible school crush into 50 years of marriage between childhood sweethearts.
“We’ve been together for a long time,” chuckled Johnnie “J.B.” Robertson. “We went to the same church but never dated. So after high school, we worked together at a Bible school that summer.”
Attending the same church for most of their lives, Robertson and Summerhill graduated in 1963 from Northside High School in Fort Smith, Arkansas, and began working for a summer Bible school soon after.
“That’s when we started getting better acquainted and figured out we had some mutual friends. So we started dating about four and a half years, and I went off to college and decided to marry her,” Robertson recalled.
The Robertson’s were married four years later on June 10, 1967, in Ft. Smith, Arkansas at the First Free Will Baptist Church.
Soon after, they started a family when they moved to Kennett, Missouri, and their only daughter, Marnette, was born.
Following graduation, Mrs. Robertson received a Bachelor's of Science in Education and a Master's of Science in School Counseling. She used the two degrees to spend 28 years in public education.
Mr. Robertson earned a Bachelor’s of Music Education and a Master of Science Degree in Psychology and Counselor Education, transitioning into multiple roles throughout his working experience.
From teaching in many public high schools to school counseling, and later instructing at the University of Central Arkansas in Conway, Arkansas, Robertson consistently maintained a part-time position within their home church.
“Throughout the years, I’ve always had part-time church jobs, and we’ve both been very involved throughout our lives in addition to a full-time job,” Robertson credits this aspect a key to their marriage.
“Every marriage has ups and downs but we’ve had a pretty good life throughout the years, and I think that’s because we were very involved in church all the time,” he affirmed.
As time moved on and retirement inched closer, the Robertson’s close-knit family moved to Midlothian, Texas, to be close with their daughter’s family.
“We came down here to be a part of their lives, and I take my grandchildren to tap, jazz, and ballet classes,” Robertson grinned.
In honor of their 50th Wedding Anniversary, the Robertson’s daughter, Marnette Dhooghe, and their two granddaughters Gabriella and Grace Dhooghe, took the couple on a celebratory trip to Washington, DC and New York City in early May.
This began a series of celebrations as the Robertson’s toured all around the two states, visiting the United States Capitol, Times Square, Rockefeller Center, and the Statue of Liberty.
“Just being with my daughter and grandchildren and having them go with us to do all of this is very special," Robertson expressed. “One of my favorite things we did was take the ferry to the Statue of Liberty, which gave such a sense of patriotism to me.”
As the trip came to a close, another venture opened in Robertson’s hometown of Fort Smith, Arkansas on May 27.
“We had a big cake cutting with three different wedding cakes,” Robertson described the scene.
With more than 75 attendants, the Robertson’s once again celebrated their 50th Wedding Anniversary with those closest to them.
"It was fun to get up-to-date with many family and friends from Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Texas. I hadn't seen some of them in about 10 years," Robertson said still amazed.
From decorative memorabilia lining the tables to personal notes written with memories, and the original cake topper to match the wedding cakes on display, the anniversary was a grand success.
“My daughter gave a little talk about being an only child growing up and her special memories and the example we set for her life, it was beautiful,” Robertson admired.
“My oldest granddaughter also gave a little speech which was humorous. And our youngest tried to do the same thing, but she’s so bashful and just stood by,” he chuckled.
Although the Robertson’s official anniversary was Saturday, June 10, they plan to let the celebration come as it may.
“We’re continuing to celebrate,” Robertson laughed. “We’ve been to New York, Washington, Arkansas and did all that. Then we went to Silver Dollar City and met some of our relatives and celebrated there. And now we’re headed to Branson, Missouri to stay at a condo looking over the mountains, thanks to our daughter who arranged it.”
“Our real date is Saturday, and what we’ll probably do is go out to dinner and a show in Dallas,” he explained of their last plans.
Proving that their love has endured the test of time, the Robertsons have redefined the traditional 50th Wedding Anniversary, inspiring young couples that they too can make it.
“We just want to encourage other people to hang in there and make it to 50 years, too,” Robertson heartened. “Just be patient and tolerant of each other, and realize that life changes and you have to change with it.
“Don’t give up on each other. Work through things and don’t throw your hands up because everybody has problems, and nobody’s perfect. So don’t give up and put in the effort, and you'll make it."
Chelsea Groomer, @ChelseaGroomer