Editor’s note: Shortly after the story on the 75-year marriage of J.B. (Jim) and Mona Dutton went to press on March 17, the Messenger received word that Jim, 94, went home to be with the Lord that morning. He awoke with chest pains and died at the hospital.If he had it to do over again, there is just one thing he would change about his 75-year marriage, said J.B. (Jim) Dutton.
“I’d get married sooner,” he said as he gazed lovingly into his “bride’s” eyes.
Obviously still very much in love, Jim, 94, and Mona 93, held hands as they reminisced about their life together, sometimes disagreeing on details, but always coming to the same conclusion.
The two lovebirds met at McAlester, Second, in their early teens.
“He kept pestering me to sit beside him at a tent revival, but I wouldn’t do it,” she recalled. “Finally one night, I did, but I was so embarrassed because I thought everyone was looking at us.” She said she was about 13 at the time.
Jim, seemingly at first, was a little more interested in a relationship than Mona was.
“We started seeing each other at church events, but I got tired of him being around all the time,” said Mona. “I wanted to be with other friends, too. However, my mother really liked Jim and gave him some advice.
“She told him to start flirting with another girl. And when he paid attention to someone else, that brought me around. I wanted to be with him after that.”
Jim was so crazy about Mona that he built an altar of rocks in the woods near his home, and every time he went by there, he stopped and prayed that the Lord would let him marry her.
Their “dates” through high school consisted mostly of church events and just walking together.
“After church every Sunday, we met in a back room at the church and kissed each other before we left,” Jim revealed. “Our parents didn’t know that was going on.”
Mona lived just a few blocks from the State Prison, and Jim lived on a farm north of McAlester, so getting together other than at church and school events was difficult for the couple.
“She rode a street car to school and I rode a horse,” Jim said. “One day I pulled my horse up beside the street car, and was looking at her when the horse hit a slab of concrete, and I fell off. She just waved at me.”
Jim worked at McAlester, Second, leading singing for worship services for $10 a week.
“One dollar of that went to my tithe and another dollar went every week towards a wedding ring,” he said. “She still wears that same ring today. She won’t let me buy her another one.”
Not able to wait any longer, Jim, after he graduated from high school, asked his father for permission to marry because he was not yet 21. His father said no, so Jim and Mona, who was still a senior in high school, went to the next county, lied about their ages and got married on Feb. 27, 1936.
They lived with Mona’s parents in McAlester for three months before they all moved to Oklahoma City, and rented two apartments in a four-plex facility.
Jim got a job at a filling station, then worked for an auto supply store and J.C. Penney’s, and was sergeant-at-arms at the State Capitol before going to work at Tinker, where he retired as branch chief of the base procurement division.
The couple joined Oklahoma City, Downtown during an open-air revival in 1936. Jim led singing and Mona played the organ from that time until just a few months ago when pain from back deterioration has kept her from church.
The couple had three children. Their oldest son, Jimmy, was killed in a scooter accident as he was coming home from school when he was 15. Their second son lives in Colorado, and a daughter, their youngest child, is a member of Newcastle, First. They have seven grandchildren, 22 great-grandchildren and four great-great-grandchildren.
Today, Jim is still a reserve deputy with the Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Department, graduating from the first academy in 1981. He is required to put in a minimum of two shifts a month, and now does mostly administrative work, such as interviews and background checks. He still drives a department vehicle.
Their advice to other couples striving to reach 75 years of marriage? His advice is give and take, but they both come together in agreement that being active in church is a key ingredient.
“I believe in continued faithfulness to tithing,” said Jim. “My tithe has always come first. I didn’t do it for the blessing, but the Lord has blessed us.”
And what would they tell couples planning to get married?
“Know the Lord and be considerate of each other,” said Mona. “We’ve done that, haven’t we?” she said as she looked at Jim.
And, of course, Jim’s advice—get married sooner. If they had done that, they might already be celebrating their 80th anniversary.