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RIGHT TIME, RIGHT PLACE: They were just 19 when they married 60 years ago

by Kimberly Dishongh | September 25, 2022 at 3:27 a.m.
Nancy and Robert McDaniel on their wedding day, Dec. 28, 1962

Robert McDaniel and Nancy Stricklin went for a swim on their first date, and just over four months later they took the plunge.

Their first date was on Aug. 12, 1962. They married Dec. 28, 1962.

Nancy lived in Harrisburg until she was 9 years old, when her father put the family on a train bound for California, where he had a job waiting at an aluminum factory. He died a few years later, though, and after Nancy finished high school her mother sent her to North Little Rock to live with relatives while she settled the family's affairs and prepared to move back herself.

Robert's friend Marian saw Nancy sitting at a bus stop soon after she arrived back in Arkansas. Marian stopped to ask if Nancy would like a ride. Nancy said yes, and they soon became good friends.

Robert, who grew up in Morgan, had worked for Marian's father, who was involved in local politics, and had gone to school with Marian from first grade through their senior year.

"She had a car and I didn't have one," he says of Marian. "I used to ride home with her from time to time."

He saw Marian at a get-together, and she asked him if he would like to meet someone.

"I said yes," he says. "And she introduced me to Nancy."

Their first date was at Lake Nixon, where there was music and swimming.

"We didn't dance because I didn't know how to dance, honestly," Robert says. "We just went out there and went swimming and listened to music and so forth."

Nancy remembers feeling at ease on that first date.

"Robert was real easy to talk to," she says. "That was the thing that impressed me because I was real shy, more of an introvert. We had a good time that afternoon. It was a fun day."

They went to eat at a drive-in after swimming, and after that they saw each other as often as they could.

Sometimes they took Nancy's aunt to Petit Jean Mountain for picnics.

Interstate 40 was under construction then, and they rode horses that belonged to Robert's friend together along its path on occasion.

"We would ride horseback from Morgan, where I lived, down to Crystal Hill and back," he says. "I-40 was just being built and it was just dirt work, not pavement."

He surprised her when he proposed at the home where he was living with his parents.

"And later, I've been surprised that I was so quick to say yes," she says with a laugh. "We were so young and naive, both of us."

They were both 20 when they married at Levy Methodist Church in North Little Rock.

"We were paying for it ourselves. It was a very, very small wedding," he says. "Our families helped do things."

Marian, the friend who introduced them, was their maid of honor.

Robert realized before the ceremony that he had left their marriage license in the apartment they would share.

"[The wedding officiant] knew I had them, so he told me, 'Well, I'm going to go ahead with this but as soon as this is over you have to go get them and bring them to me,'" Robert says of the officiant.

Nancy was blissfully unaware of that snafu.

"I didn't know anything about it until it was all over," she says.

Robert worked for Southern Farmers Association, an agricultural cooperative in North Little Rock, when they married and Nancy worked for a Little Rock insurance company.

In 1965, Robert became a pastor. He had gone to one year of college after high school, and his preacher at Park Avenue Baptist Church encouraged him to go back and finish. He and Nancy moved to Arkadelphia so he could attend Ouachita Baptist University, and then to Fort Worth where he continued his education at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

He pastored two churches in Texas, and in 1973 they returned to Arkansas so he could lead a church in Bradley. They moved around the state over the years, until 2008, when he retired from pastoring Baptist churches full time. Nancy worked as a legal secretary for several years.

Robert and Nancy didn't take a honeymoon as newlyweds because they were young and money was tight. They have traveled extensively since then, though -- four times to Israel, and in 2000 to Oberammergau, Germany, to see the "Passion Play."

The McDaniels live in Conway. He is pastor of a small church in Russellville.

They have two sons and two daughters -- Robert McDaniel II of Conway; David McDaniel of Shamrock, Texas; Amanda McDaniel of Jenks, Okla.; and Sarah Galloway of North Little Rock. They also have 10 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren with two more on the way.

"At times it does not feel that long, but it's been our entire adult life and so it feels like it's been a long, long time," Nancy says of their almost 60 years of marriage. "It seems like it's sure gone by in a hurry, especially when I think that now our kids are grandparents. It's just a blur when you think about all the things that have happened."

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The first time I saw my future spouse:

She says: “My friend and her boyfriend and Robert picked me up. I just remember going out and seeing him, he was in the backseat of the car.”

He says: “She had on shorts because we were going to Lake Nixon.”

On our wedding day:

She says: “The weather was horrible. We had sleet and it was cold and we had to walk outside from the fellowship hall where I had gotten ready to the sanctuary.”

He says: “It was horrible weather.”

My advice for a long happy marriage:

She says: “Give and take. You have to be willing to admit when you’re wrong, and not always have to be proved right, even if you may know you’re right. Have a sense of humor — you have to be able to laugh at yourself. And don’t ever give up.”

He says: “Love the Lord and love each other and tell each other you love each other.”


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