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story.lead_photo.caption Dick and Joy Mitchell will celebrate 56 years of marriage on April 14. They met on a blind date, set up by a longtime friend of Joy’s and a former roommate of Dick’s.

Joy Whitten and Dick Mitchell passed each other countless times as they cruised through downtown Little Rock with their friends.

"But I didn't know him then," Joy says.

The first time I saw my future spouse:

She says: “I thought he was cute. And he was polite and I was impressed. I loved his blue eyes.”

He says: “She was a pretty young nurse.”

On our wedding day:

She says: “I was very, very happy and I was happy to have my friends there. I didn’t care then that it was going to be a very small wedding with no music, no nothing — just us and the preacher. I was just really, really happy.”

He says: “I don’t think I was nervous. I think I was ready.”

My advice for a long happy marriage is:

She says: “Talk to each other. Don’t go to bed mad. Talk out your problems. I can’t say that we’ve gotten along all the time. We’ve had our disagreements. But you have to talk about it and pray about it and don’t get mad and just go to bed.”

He says: “Don’t get mad and stay mad.”

She met him when a longtime friend, Barbara, invited them to her house. Barbara's husband, Derrell, had been Dick's roommate, and he invited Dick at the same time. While they were there, Derrell decided he was going fishing.

"So I decided to go fishing with him, because I didn't really know if I had a date or not," Dick says. "When I came back from fishing, well, she was still there."

The couple made supper for Joy and Dick, who by then were fairly certain they were on a blind date. And some time later, Dick drove Joy home.

"We sat out in the car in front of my apartment because it was pouring down rain. It really stormed that night," Joy says.

That gave them more time to talk, and they realized they had much in common.

"When we got together, things just clicked," she says.

Life hadn't been easy up to that point for Joy, the youngest of eight children born to a woman with a mental illness and a man who had Parkinson's disease. Joy and her siblings entered the foster care system when she was just 4 and she lived in five foster homes before she was 12.

Things hadn't been simple for Dick, either. He was also one of eight children, and his parents died when he was 8. He was raised by his older siblings, though day-to-day life was sometimes a struggle as they learned the basics, such as cooking and cleaning, and kept up with chores on the farm.

Barbara was related to the foster family Joy lived with the longest, and Joy surmises her knowing the parallels between her story and Dick's might have been what prompted her to introduce them.

"I think that might have been what attracted us the most. I think the experiences we went through kind of drew us together," Joy says.

Joy was a nurse, working the night shift, when they started dating. Dick was a barber.

"In order for us to see each other he would come over to my apartment at 11 o'clock at night and stay a couple of hours and then go home and get some sleep and go to work because that was the only time we had to see each other," she says. "We just had to work out what we could. That was the only time we could date. We didn't do anything too exciting because we didn't have time."

They got engaged about a year after they met.

"One day she wanted to go out and look at some rings," Dick says. "I said, 'Is that a proposal?' and she said, 'Yeah, I think we ought to get married.'"

They had a small ceremony on April 14, 1962, in St. Paul Methodist Church, officiated by a preacher they knew because Dick cut his hair. Joy was 26 and Dick was 30.

After they were married, they and the few friends who attended went to eat Mexican food, and then they left for a brief honeymoon at Mountain Harbor Resort in Mount Ida.

They took a longer honeymoon later that summer -- with Dick's brother and his wife and their 6-year-old son all crammed into a Volkswagen -- to the Grand Canyon and to visit relatives in California.

"We stopped along the way to buy cans of Spam or some bologna and a tomato and we would eat sandwiches on the lake because we didn't want to pay the price of eating food in a restaurant," Joy says. "We had a good time. It was fun."

The Mitchells have two sons -- Ron Mitchell of Little Rock and Greg Mitchell of Cabot. They also have two granddaughters -- Kate, 9, and Abby, 4, who live in Little Rock.

Kate and Abby will be flower girls next month when Joy and Dick renew their wedding vows in the same church where they were married almost 56 years ago.

"We're going to have a nice, big celebration," Joy says. "We didn't have anything like that when we got married 56 years ago and we're going to have our little granddaughters put pink petals down the aisle and we're going to have a cake."

Their ceremony and reception will begin at St. Paul United Methodist Church on April 8, at 10:30, following the morning service.

Joy was a nurse until 10 years ago. Dick owns Tanglewood Barber Shop.

Joy enjoys going to Oaklawn Racing and Gaming and to casinos and traveling with her friends. Dick prefers to stay closer to home, although they have taken trips together as well -- they went to Hawaii for their 50th anniversary and have been to Savannah, Ga., and Niagara Falls.

"It does not seem like it's been 56 years," Joy says. "It's been a good life. Time just does not wait for anybody. But as long as I can go I'm going to go. If you don't get out and enjoy life, it's gone."

If you have an interesting how-we-met story or if you know someone who does, please call (501) 425-7228 or email:

kimdishongh@gmail.com

Photo by Special to the Democrat-Gazette
Dick and Joy Mitchell will celebrate 56 years of marriage on April 14. They met on a blind date, set up by a longtime friend of Joy’s and a former roommate of Dick’s.

High Profile on 03/18/2018

Print Headline: Blind date leads to 56 years of happy marriage

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