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ith more than six decades of love shining in his eyes, Everett Leslie Bailey smiled at his wife, Mary Frances, as they sat side by side at Amber Oaks Retirement Home.
When asked what quality they valued most in each other, they both came up with the same answer.
“He’s so easy to get along with,” she said. “We’ll be married 65 years this March, and we’ve never had a really bad argument.”
“Well, I learned early in life to get along with people - I figured I wasn’t big enough to pick on anybody,” her husband quipped, with a mischievous gleam in his eye.
Bailey, 91, -- known mostly by his a shortened version of his middle name, Les - and Mary Frances, 90, were married in 1945 at their pastor’s home in Louisville. They have two children, Gary Bailey of Harrodsburg and Karen Walters of Augusta, Ga.
Like most married couples, they are proud of their children and of their only grandchild, Kyle McCollum, who is the mascot for the Baltimore Orioles.
Les Bailey graduated from the University of Kentucky 70 years ago and still takes great pride in his alma matter as well - and in his community.
He and Mary Frances were born and raised in Shelby County. They lived on a farm near Simpsonville and for years ran a store beside the railroad crossing at Scotts Station Road.
In fact, they have spent their entire lives in Shelby County, except for when they were indulging in one of their passions - traveling.
“I’d say we’ve been to every state in the country, and we have traveled in Europe, too,” Les Bailey said.
He recalled his favorite trip, the couple’s honeymoon trip to Virginia.
“We drove up there in an old 1940 Chevy, and it was a lot different from the way people travel today,” he said. “But it was so special to us.”
The Baileys met when they were about 6 years old, and Mary Frances said she knew he was The One when they went out on their first date - a church outing.
“We went to church together in Simpsonville,” she recalled with a smile and a faraway look in her eyes, as if she could picture that day in her memory.
Did he remember their first date?
Les Bailey had left the room when his wife talked about it, but upon his return, when asked if he remembered their first date, he didn’t hesitate.
“Of course, we went to church together. I suppose you told her I’m not very romantic,” he teased his wife.
The Baileys have been at Amber Oaks since the ice storm of 2009, he said.
“We came here because our power was out, but then we stayed because it’s hard for her to get around,” he said.
Dean Windsor, executive director of Amber Oaks, a retirement/assisted living community, described the Baileys as a very loving couple.
“They are very happy here and have always enjoyed their time together, then and now,” he said. “They have been through a lot together, but have always been there for each other.”
Les Bailey echoed Windsor’s sentiments when asked what is the secret of staying happily married for 65 years.
“You have to trust each, that’s an absolute must,” he said. “And don’t expect each other to be perfect. And very important, you can’t always be right.”
Mary Frances tried to stifle a smile at her husband’s last remark.
“Well, it’s true,” he said with a grin, tightening his arm around her shoulder, and tilting his UK Wildcats cap back on his head.
“Life is too short.”
Mary Frances agreed that the ability to “hang in there” is also important.
“So many young people today get dissatisfied too easily,” he said. “When things get rough, they don’t realize that marriage means give and take. They’re too ready to go their separate ways.”