Web Extra: Longest AR marriage spans nearly 8 decades; couple reveals their secret to love

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LITTLE ROCK, AR – Congratulations to Mr. and Mrs. Whiteside on 79 years of marriage. 

Today the top ten longest married Arkansas couples were celebrated at a special reception at the Arkansas governor’s mansion. 

But despite the eloquent speeches, lavish bouquets, and white pressed linen there was undoubtedly a feeling of love that filled the room and radiated from one specific couple – who’ve been married nearly eight decades. 

Cloevis and Arwilda Whiteside, respectively 97 and 93 years old, of White Hall, Arkansas were married on July 24, 1939. 

The couple says they are still in love. 

“What do you see when you look at each other?” 

“Love,” Arwilda says bashfully. 

“I see love that goes way back,” Cloevis says.   

This is the second time the Family Council held this celebratory dessert reception at the Arkansas Governor’s Mansion. 

Governor Asa Hutchinson and First Lady Susan hosted the event and congratulated each couple personally while handing out personalized gifts. 

“I feel excited to be here,” says Arwilda. “I can remember the first day we met.” 

The couple met at church in Clarendon, Arkansas, when he was 13 and she was 9. 

Cleovis recalls his first kiss to Arwilda. It was while walking home. He says he knew then she would be his wife. 

“I kissed her that day and said you going be my wife,” says Cleovis. 

The couple later married when Arwilda was 13 and he was 17 years old. Cleovis says the secret to their love is God. 

“He tells us what to do, how to do it,” explains Cleovis. “I tell you to believe and trust him and be good.” 

Between working and having 12 kids the couple always made it a point to remind each other how much they cared, loved, and most importantly respected each other. 

“I always came home and always laid in my bed,” says Cleovis. “Separated one time I went to the service for two years. That’s the only time I missed home – that’s the only time I missed sleeping in the bed.” 

Cleovis joined the Navy when he was 21 and later worked at the Pine Bluff Arsenal.

The couple is excited about reaching their 80th anniversary and even jokes about who will remember the day. Serving as a reminder to all, that life should never be taken so seriously. 

“She’s just alright,” Cleovis laughs while looking at his wife. 

“Through heartache and pain,” says Arwilda.

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