By Mimi Wood, Senior Staff Writer for Island Eye News
When asked if they’d ever encountered “troubled waters” over the course of their 70-year marriage, Margie Sexton coyly replies, “Someone once asked Reverend Billy Graham’s wife if she’d ever thought of divorce. ‘Divorce?’, Ruth Graham responded demurely, ‘oh, heavens, no!’ Pausing briefly, she resumed, ’Murder?? Yes!!’ ” Margie’s eyes twinkle merrily as she recites the anecdote.
Come December 6, Margie Sexton and her husband, Jim, will have the Grahams beat by 6 years, when they celebrate their 70th wedding anniversary. They met on a blind date, in 1945. Jim had just returned to Spartanburg, their hometown, after serving in the Navy Air Corps during World War II. “I was 18, and Jim was 22,” Margie reflects. Jim responds with a quick and definitive “YES!” to the query, ‘Was it love at first sight?’, while Margie, smiling broadly, slowly drawls, “Well… sort of.” Jim’s career brought the couple to Isle of Palms in 1956, with their two young children, Jim Jr. and Sally. After renting several homes, they landed on 21st Avenue, near Waterway. “Twenty-first was pretty much the end of the island back then,” Jim explains. “Jim always said his idea of heaven was to be a housewife on Isle of Palms,” Margie laughs. “If the tide was right, we took the children to the beach. If it was raining, we played bridge,” she confides. The Sextons were very involved in the community, in the Exchange Club, and in their church, First United Methodist. “We called the church ‘The Country Club’, because that’s where all the activity happened,” quips Margie. “The playground was also very busy. We had a Playground Auxiliary, and held bake sales to raise funds to build the ball fields.” “I remember one summer my father bought a bunch of little sailboats,” recalls Sally Sexton. Jim expounds, “Sea Snarks. They were very inexpensive, $99 each. I bought 20 and sold them to all the neighbors, for what I’d paid for them. Everybody wanted one,” he recounts, “we held regattas all summer long.” The family moved again prior to 1989, after Jim “developed three lots on Breach Inlet. I sold two of the homes and we lived in the third. The remains of that home is pictured on page seven of the book, Hugo Was His Name,” Jim recalls. Hence, the reason they have no wedding pictures. “In some ways, it was easier for us,” Margie offers optimistically, “many of our friends had to dig out the pluff mud for months. All we had to do was bulldoze the house. We were able to start fresh.”
Jim continues, “Henry Finch approached me with an offer to purchase a lot in a community he was developing on the north end of the island. ‘Now why would I want to buy in that mosquito-infested jungle?’ I asked him. ‘Because I’m putting in 21 clay tennis courts,’ Henry responded,” and with that the Sextons became some of the first residents of Wild Dunes. Jim attributes his vitality to tennis, and a healthy diet. “I outlived all my siblings by 20 years,” he states proudly. No slacker herself, Margie “reinvented herself as a Realtor, after retiring as the Director of Membership Services” at Wild Dunes, states Sally Sexton. Still actively selling after 40 years, Margie exclaims, “Once our house sells, I think I’m done!” With regard to the remarkable longevity of their marriage, there’s no mystery. “We made a commitment,” Margie states matter-of-factly. “We’re very compatible,” she elaborates, smiling at Jim, “we enjoy the same things.” From all appearances, what they truly enjoy is each other, which may be the secret to their enduring and happy marriage.