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'... Still hold hands everywhere we go'
Clogging couple celebrates six decades of marriage
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Forsyth County News
Through marriage, family life and ... clogging, "Big John" Walters said his wife, Shirley, has been the supporting structure in his life and many others.
"Anything we've done, she's been the backbone of it," he said. "She runs the family, and everybody knows who the boss is."
Today, the Walters mark 60 years of marriage -- and they're not alone in the celebration. They've got four children, 10 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren wishing them well.
One son, John Jr., lives in Austin, Texas, while much of their family lives in Forsyth County, including sons, Bruce and Randy, and daughter, Becky Powell.
Powell feels her parents' 60th anniversary is a testament to the couple's commitment to family life.
"I'm very proud to be their daughter," she said. "They set an incredible example for the rest of us."
Powell recalled her parents' affection growing up.
"My dad came in every afternoon after work and kissed my mother as he walked in the door. They truly have always loved each other. They raised the bar for me and the rest of the family."
To this day, the couple's affection for one another has not faltered.
"We still hold hands everywhere we go," said Shirley Walters, 80. "People look at us kind of funny, but we don't care. That's what we want to do."
John Walters, 81 said the secret to marital longevity is to "love each other."
"If you do things right," he said, "your wife will be with you forever.
"The one staple in your life is the mate you pick. You don't have a choice about picking your mama and your daddy or your children. But you got a choice in choosing a wife ... and the best thing you can do is love that woman."
In love and even business, the couple have worked happily together. She worked to put him through Georgia Tech. They then taught classes in clogging for 35 years to students in Forsyth County and the Atlanta area.
The Walters' garage is lined with plaques, framed photos and awards of recognition for their contribution to the folksy, foot-stomping dance style.
John Walters, a World War II veteran and retired Lockheed engineer, said his bride was the financial guru in their clogging days.
"She was the money person and she held the arrangements together," he said. "I was just the pretty face."
John Walters, who stands 6 feet 5 inches tall, said his nickname stuck with clogging students, who all referred to him as "Big John."
"I'm not sure a lot of people knew my last name," he said. "They just called me 'Big John' and that was enough."
John and Shirley Walters speak proudly of their former clogging students, who have all gone on to careers as lawyers, professors and doctors.
"Clogging teaches teamwork," John Walters said. "It teaches you how to function within a group to work together for something good."
The couple learned how to work together from the start, after meeting at a Decatur bowling alley in July 1947.
"I asked her for her phone number when I met her," John Walters said. "And she said, 'It's in the phone book.' Obviously, I looked it up."
His wife said the couple made up their minds when they got married "that we were gonna make a go of it, and stick with each other and put each other first."
John Walters said they've expressed their affection for each other every day since their marriage on June 12, 1948.
"I tell her I love her every day, and she tells me the same," he said.