Mayflower couple to celebrate 75th anniversary

By Tammy Keith Published September 17, 2017 at 12:00 a.m.
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Coy and Rosa Shirley of Mayflower pose in their home in 2016 before their 74th wedding anniversary. The couple will celebrate their 75th anniversary Wednesday. “Seventy-five years is unbelievable,” Rosa said.

MAYFLOWER — Coy and Rosa Shirley of Mayflower will celebrate their 75th wedding anniversary on Wednesday, which is unbelievable, Rosa said.

“I just can’t believe it,” she said. “I tell Coy, ‘You reckon we got the numbers down wrong?’”

Rosa is 91; Coy is 94.

“We’re doing fairly well,” she said last week.

Rosa had a small stroke a few years ago and fell and broke her pelvis in 2015. Coy, who has diabetes, has undergone back surgeries because of a war injury.

Coy saw her at church when she was 14 and he was 17, and he decided right then he was going to marry her, “so nobody else could get her, see,” he said in a previous interview in the River Valley & Ozark Edition.

They are parents of three daughters, the oldest of whom was born when Coy was serving in World War II. Their daughters are Judy Noel of Sherwood, Lynda Thurman

of Conway and Nancy White of Parker, Colorado. The Shirleys have five grandchildren, six great-grandchildren and two great-great-grandchildren.

Rosa — Coy calls her Rosie — said she was just a teenager and was spending the night with a girlfriend all those decades ago, but Coy introduced himself and confidently told Rosa that he’d see her the next day, and he did.

“We got better acquainted, and it sparked from there,” Coy said.

It was 1940 when they met, and Rosa’s mother had died the year before. Her family had moved from Conway to a farm in Mayflower in 1935. Their home was where Lumber One in Mayflower is now, which is owned by Rosa’s niece and the niece’s husband.

Coy and his family — nine brothers and sisters, some half siblings — lived in a little community called Runyon near North Little Rock.

With World War II going on, Coy didn’t want to waste any time. Rosa was 16 (although she said she was 18 to get the marriage license), and he was 19, when they married Sept. 20, 1942, in the pastor’s office of a Pentecostal church in Little Rock.

Coy also worked for a heating-and-air company in California and for his brother, William Shirley, in North Little Rock. Eventually, Coy started Shirley Heating and Electric in Mayflower, across the street from his wife’s old homeplace. He ran the business for 27 years, closing it in 1979.

The couple moved to Greenbrier in 1993 and built a house, but the highway was dangerous, they said. The couple moved back to Mayflower 11 years ago.

“I just couldn’t stay away from Mayflower,” Rosa said.

They also couldn’t stay away from each other.

Rosa said Coy is still her best friend and sweetheart.

“I just couldn’t live without him; and he couldn’t make it without me,” she said.

The secret to staying married for three quarters of a century?

“We’re just always nice to each other and just don’t ever have any big fall-outs. … We’ve just always loved and been nice to each other,” Rosa said.

She said they aren’t planning a big celebration, adding that two of their three daughters and their grandchildren will be with them to celebrate.

And it is something to celebrate, Rosa said.

“Seventy-five years — that’s just unbelievable.”

Senior writer Tammy Keith can be reached at (501) 327-0370 or

Niche Publications Senior Writer Tammy Keith can be reached at 501-327-0370 or

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