For some, 70 years can be an entire lifetime, but for lovebirds Bonnie and Casey McDanel, of Tyler, it’s been a marriage filled with faith and a growing family.
Over those years, the McDanel family has grown to include eight children and eight spouses, 27 grandchildren and 18 spouses, 59 great-grandchildren and two spouses and one great-great grandchild.
Bonnie recalled meeting her future husband at a ladies’ choice dance in her small town.
“And I saw this stranger and I asked him to dance, and we’ve been together ever since,” she said. “Like I say, he’s a keeper.”
Bonnie, 88, and Casey, 93, are both proud of the longevity of their marriage that reached 70 years on Nov. 18.
“We got married, we knew it was for life, but what we brag about of our eight children is they’re all married and four of them have been married over 40 years,” she said.
The couple has lived in Tyler for over nine years, enjoying their retirement.
Casey is a retired Air Force veteran who served during the Vietnam War and he was also sent on numerous deployments across the country and internationally.
During his time in the service, the family traveled to places like Texas, Washington D.C., Germany, Alaska and South Dakota. Despite the travel, Casey and Bonnie focused on staying together as much as possible.
“I got in the service right after we got married, and since I’ve been in the service we’ve been together practically all the time,” he said. “That’s the only time we’ve been apart when I went to ‘Nam and that was only for a year.”
Bonnie took care of the home, and she also worked for a realtor, with a plumbing and AC company and as a bookkeeper for a women’s clothing store.
Casey and Bonnie both received a retirement certificate from the military in 1971.
Bonnie spoke highly of the military and its kindness to their family, including Casey’s commanding officer checking in on her and the kids.
“The service was very good to our family,” she said. “Can’t say enough for the military. No one ever say anything bad about the military in my family.”
As for what makes such a happy, long-lasting marriage, Bonnie attributes their success to faith and family.
“Our whole life has been because of faith and family. That’s it,” she said. “They (the kids) don’t all have to go to the same church, but they all have to have faith.”
Casey added that those two values are the most important things as far as he’s concerned.
“We just stress it to our children all the time that the family’s the thing and you got to keep in the church,” he said. “You’ve got to stay with God because if you don’t you’re on your own.”
He remembered years ago making a comment about wanting a cross. So when his 80th birthday came around, he received eight crosses from their eight children.
But there is also one rule for the McDanel family.
“When we would have a family gathering, the first rule was no politics, and that’s never discussed,” she said. “You can talk about anything else you want. Disagree on anything you want. That’s mama’s rule.”
Bonnie noted that while there may have been some bad moments here and there, the 70 years of matrimony have been 99% good times.
“We have squeezed a lot into our 70 years, but what’s exciting is what’s going to come next,” she said.
As for Casey, he hopes they get to travel in the future and also spend time with their kids.
“Physically, we’re both in good shape,” he said. “I just want to stay close to my children and the friends that we have left, and live out a nice, comfortable life.”
As they live peacefully in retirement, Casey and Bonnie give what money they can to help their family, church and places like the food bank.
“We donate as much money as we can beyond our retirement needs. We give to the church and anyone in the family that needs money we give them something,” he said. “We’ve got everything we need and we’ve always got each other. As long as she holds up, we’ll be OK because I’m getting to the point where I can’t be very fast.”
Normally, the McDanels would get together for a family photo to celebrate such a milestone anniversary, but because of COVID-19 they’re doing something special.
One of their granddaughters, who is a professional photographer, is creating a collage of photos with Bonnie and Casey in the center and the eight children and their spouses surrounding the centerpiece photo.
“We’re going to get that framed and give it to the kids for Christmas, but that’s as close to the family picture as we can get,” Bonnie said.