The Deasons are the epitome of unconditional love, their family members summarized as the couple celebrated 65 years of marriage this past week at their current residencies at the Morning Pointe campus in Lenoir City.
With Jake, 88, residing at the The Lantern at Morning Pointe Alzheimer’s Center of Excellence and Evelyn, 83, next door at the assisted living community, the two have accomplished a lot together over the years and have proven examples of unconditional love and dignity to live by, their daughter, Sheila Barnett said.
“They are the best parents and raised us with unconditional love, and I feel like I’m the most fortunate kid in the world. Dinner on the table, typical family,” Barnett, who lives in Knoxville, said, describing her life growing up under the couple’s parenting. “Daddy worked 8 a.m.-5 p.m., and dinner was on the table at 5:30 p.m. It was a Ward and June Cleaver ‘Leave it to Beaver’ family. It really was. We went to church every time the doors were open. God has blessed us. He really has.”
Jake and Evelyn were married on March 31, 1950, and celebrated their 65th anniversary with family members and close friends Tuesday afternoon at the Lantern with a meal and cake.
“I can’t believe it’s been that many years, happy years. It’s been good years,” Evelyn said. “We’ve had a good marriage.”
Evelyn’s tips for a long and happy marriage?
“Get along and don’t be fussing and fighting all the time,” she said. “We never did have fights and fusses. We always got along great together.”
For Barnett, the family was the epitome of a cookie cutter suburbia unit growing up under Jake and Evelyn’s parental guidance in Pinson, Ala., which neighbors Birmingham. The family later moved to Memphis, where Jake started his own carpet business while Evelyn was a homemaker and tended to the children. After the children grew up and started their own families, Evelyn helped her husband at the store and was an active volunteer at her church.
“They raised all of us in Memphis. They’re from the Birmingham area, but moved to Memphis and raised us there and moved here,” Barnett said.
The couple’s love for each other has always been “unconditional,” Barnett said.
“They have their ups and downs just like everybody else, but they were committed, and they stuck with it,” she said of her parents’ marriage. “They believed in marriage and the sanctity of marriage and they stuck with it. There was never ever a question that they were not going to be married.”
The two love birds have three children, five grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.
“There’s a bunch of us,” Jake said.
After serving in the Philippines in the U.S. Navy during World War II, Jake, the eighth child of a long list of siblings growing up on the farm, moved in with his older sister, who so happened to be good friends with Evelyn.
“First time he came by the house he had caught some fish and came by the house. I didn’t think much of him,” Evelyn said. But their lives changed forever one special day when Jake brought Evelyn back home from a gospel singing she had attended with his sister.
“Instead of going in for the singing I just sat in the car with him, and he drove me home, and we just hit it off,” Evelyn said. “I finished school, got married and then started us a family.”
The couple retired to Lenoir City in 1985 to be near Barnett, and there they enjoyed their grandchildren. Jake, who his daughter called a “jack-of-all-trades,” also enjoyed fishing, woodworking, tending to his garden and teaching his grandchildren trades, while Evelyn taught her grandchildren how to cook and play games.
“I have good memories of shooting BB guns, and he took us on hayrides. He taught me how to nail, work with wood, work in the garden. He made us all birdhouses,” granddaughter, Kaley Abernathy, said. “Grandma taught us how to cook and play games. We always played games.”
The Deasons’ other daughter lives in Atlanta and a son lives in Ohio.
“Daddy wanted to get out of Memphis and be in the mountains and around water so he could go fishing,” Barnett said, pointing to her parents and their love as a stronghold and an example by which to live. “I love having them close by. ... We’ve all been a real close-knit family.
“As you grow older you realize everybody didn’t have that loving family growing up, and so you wonder how did I get to be so fortunate and why me kind of thing,” she added. “They love the Lord. They have raised us and treated us and loved us with unconditional love like God has always loved them. That’s the way they raised us.”