The first time I saw my future spouse:
She says: “We were in the band together and he was dating another girl.”
He says: “I got to see her when I would take my instrument and tune it every morning for the high school band.”
On our wedding day:
She says: “It was wonderful. I just wanted him to be the father of my children.”
He says: “My mother and dad had arranged their living room for the marriage and the mantel was all fixed up with flowers. Laura was dressed in this silvery gray outfit and she had a tiara, and she was just so pretty.”
My advice for a long happy marriage:
She says: “Never fight. Just walk away.”
He says: “You have to be really careful to pick the right woman to be your future spouse. You have to be really considerate of each other.”
Bert Miller didn't know Laura Bogan thought he was anything special until she started showing him she cared by sending packages of fresh-baked goodies to him in college.
Bert and Laura were in the band together at Little Rock Senior High School, now Central High School.
"I wasn't much good, but she was excellent," Bert says.
The band students were a close-knit bunch, he says, and they went out together in groups often. They swam at Lake Nixon, saw movies together and took trips to the Little Rock Zoo.
Bert's parents were often willing to offer up their home as a gathering place, moving furniture out of the way so the band kids could dance in the living room.
"We were just high school kids and we lived full lives," he says. "We were thrown together all the time but I didn't realize she liked me any better than any of the other guys there."
Bert had a girlfriend then, a girl who was not in band but with whom he danced and attended social events.
Bert graduated from high school in 1950 and went straight to the Southern College of Optometry in Memphis.
"I didn't have any vacation or anything," he says. "They normally don't do that, but my dad's friend was an optometrist and he needed somebody there to help him, and he figured in four or five years I would graduate and come work with him."
His then-girlfriend also moved to another state, and they soon reached a mutual decision that absence wasn't making their hearts grow fonder. Laura heard about their breakup almost immediately.
"I was tickled to death," she says.
When asked what she liked about Bert back then, Laura says, simply, "Everything."
He was handsome, with dark, wavy hair, and a physique honed by dancing, and she enjoyed his friendship, too.
Laura started sending him care packages every week -- brownies and various kinds of candies and cookies that she had made over the weekend. He had always enjoyed Laura's company, but he was surprised by the seemingly sudden attention.
"I didn't realize until I started getting those that she was interested in me," he says. "Then when I found out she was interested, I became more interested."
They wrote letters and Bert caught a bus home to Little Rock to visit as often as he could.
"My daddy finally let me have one of his cars so that I could come home when I was able to get away," he says.
Laura had planned to go to nursing school after high school and she opted to start classes in Memphis so she could be near Bert.
It wasn't until she arrived in town that they had what they consider to be their first official date, just the two of them going to a movie.
"All the other times it had just been a friends thing, with a bunch of people," he says.
Within a couple of months they were engaged.
"I proposed to her at Memphis' Overton Park," he says.
Their parents urged them to wait, arguing that they were only 18 and should finish college first.
"But I was ready and I didn't want to wait," he says. "I said, 'I really love this girl and I want to marry right now.' So that's what we did."
They were married on Nov. 25, 1950, while they were both out of class for Thanksgiving break, in Bert's parents' living room in Little Rock.
They went straight back to school after their wedding. Laura, still in her dress with a corsage, returned to the nurses dorm and simply nodded an affirmation to the house mother who made the observation that she had been to a wedding.
She had to quit nursing school then -- nursing students weren't allowed to be married. The newlyweds looked for an apartment to share but discovered that even with Bert's paycheck from selling shoes after his classes they couldn't afford to live as a couple in Memphis. Laura moved back to Little Rock and lived with Bert's family while she went to the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences to be an X-ray technician. Meanwhile, Bert finished school in Memphis and moved back to Little Rock.
Bert practiced optometry in a clinic at Markham and Harrison streets in Little Rock for 53 years. Laura was an X-ray technician at Arkansas Children's Hospital.
The Millers have four daughters -- Sarita Sullivan and Tanya Bradham, both of Little Rock; Renee Easterwood of Bryan, Texas; and LaBerta Russell of Lake Village. They also have seven grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren.
Their children planned a celebration for their 70th anniversary last year but that party had to be called off because of the covid-19 pandemic. This year, their family will visit for Thanksgiving.
"They won't all be here at the same time, but they'll start arriving on Tuesday night and they each one have a different menu planned for the week," Bert says.
Bert and Laura will be 90 next year.
"We have had a wonderful marriage," Bert says. "I would say she's been the perfect wife. It's really been a marvelous experience."
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