The honeymooners: Couple wed 69 years ago returns to hotel

February 16, 2018

FILE - This Oct. 8, 2006 file photo shows The Battle House hotel in Mobile Ala. An east Alabama couple is returning to their honeymoon hotel for the first time since they were married to celebrate their 69th wedding anniversary. Lamar Dill, at 92, and his 95-year-old wife, Mary Nelle, say they have always wanted to go back to the Battle House Hotel in Mobile, but couldn’t make the trip with their work schedules. Their son and daughter surprised them with a trip from their Anniston home back to the hotel this weekend of Saturday, Feb. 17, 2018.( G.M. Andrews/AL.com via AP, File)

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — After a lifetime together, an east Alabama couple is returning to the hotel where they spent their honeymoon to celebrate their 69th anniversary.

Lamar Dill, 92, and his 95-year-old wife, Mary Nelle, said they’ve always wanted to go back to the Battle House Hotel in Mobile, but never made the trip. For years, their work schedules got in the way. Their son and daughter surprised them with a trip back to the hotel this weekend. The family is travelling about 300 miles (483 kilometers) on Friday from their Anniston home in a limousine that Lamar bought last year.

Mary Nelle, a retired schoolteacher, grew up in Gadsen while Lamar worked as chief electrician of Anniston, where he was born and raised. He served three years with the U.S. Navy in the Pacific during WWII. In 1948, the couple was introduced by a cousin in Anniston.

“I said I don’t like blind dates, but she brought him by anyways,” Mary Nelle told the Associated Press. “But he was real cute. I fell for him real hard.”

The couple had their first date at a movie theater in town. They both loved Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn, and Lamar started calling Mary Nelle “Pinky” after one of Hepburn’s characters. The name stuck and their grandchildren still call her “Pinky”.

Three months after they met, Lamar gave Mary Nelle an engagement ring in the same theater — after he’d already proposed in his car one night.

When asked how they knew they should spend the rest of their lives together, Lamar said: “My heart jumped out of my chest.”

The couple was married on April 24, 1949 — a Sunday afternoon — at the First Presbyterian Church of Anniston, which they still attend. They spent their wedding night in Montgomery before driving to the Battle House Hotel in Mobile the next day.

“The Battle House has always been nice,” Mary Nelle said. “In those times hotels were more ornate than they are now.”

The pair said they paid less than $5 for the night. (A room at the hotel now costs more than $150.) The couple continued on to Gulfport, Mississippi, for the rest of their honeymoon.

Back in Anniston, they built and moved into a small house in December 1951, just before their daughter, Lark, was born. They had a son, Jay, three years later. Today, Lamar and Mary Nelle still live in the same house.

What has this couple learned after nearly seven decades of marriage?

“To do what you’re told,” Lamar said with a laugh.

Mary Nelle added: “To be patient and caring and loving and to trust that God will take us from day to day.”

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