Couple Shares Lessons from 65 Years of Marriage

By   •   March 7, 2014   •   Topics:

Henry and Bettie Holley

It’s not often Henry and Bettie Holley are seen apart from one another. After 65 years of marriage, the pair still walk hand in hand, grinning like newlyweds.

Henry calls his wife “Miss America,” while Bettie is convinced her husband “has proven to be the greatest man God ever created.”

“I love him with everlasting love, and it gets better every day… if it could,” Bettie said, adding that she’s probably “about reached the top of the ladder” of possible love for someone else.

An encounter with the Holleys is nothing short of heartwarming, but more than anything, their union exemplifies the beauty of a God-centered marriage.

“We took our vows as sacred and holy commitments. It was a covenant with God and with one another,” Henry said.

Keep Your Word

The Holleys met on a blind date in 1948 at the suggestion of their friends.

“Bettie agreed but then coming toward the weekend, Bettie got cold feet!” Henry recalled.

Concerned about the idea of going on a date with a Marine she’d never met, Bettie told her mother she planned to cancel.

The Holleys, 1949
Henry and Bettie Holley pose together in 1949.

“I said, ‘I’m not going on this date tonight,’ [and] she said, ‘Young lady, you gave your word to your friend that you would go. You must keep your word to your friend,’ ” Bettie shared.

That lesson of commitment has driven their union ever since.

“We fell in love and eventually got married, and that was all because of the integrity of her mother insisting that she keep the word that she gave,” Henry said. “Our word is so important.”

“When I make a commitment, it’s forever and forever and forever,” he continued. “And when you get through saying forever, start all over again because it never ends.”

Walk Together with God

While in the United States Marine Corp, Henry was part of The Navigators, a ministry that worked closely with Billy Graham to connect with those who made commitments to Christ at Crusades.

Henry was asked to help with counseling and follow-up for the Washington, D.C., Crusade in 1960, which he did. Ten days after retiring from the military in 1966, Henry was on a plane to prepare for the 1967 Billy Graham Crusade in Tokyo.

Billy Graham Crusade in Seoul, Korea - 1973
More than 1.1 million people gather for the final day of the Seoul Crusade.

Now serving as the senior advisor of China ministries at the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, Henry organized every Billy Graham Crusade in Asia until 1994—all with his wife by his side.

“We’re always together. We pray together, thank God together. It’s such a large part of our marriage,” Bettie said.

“Everything we do, we walk together with God,” Henry added.

The Holleys would sometimes spend several months in another country for BGEA. While Henry planned and worked with local church leaders, Bettie took care of arrangements in the team office like budgeting, reserving hotels and assigning interpreters.

When it came time to plan the 1973 Crusade in Seoul, Korea, the Holleys spent 13 months in the city. Henry served as Crusade director.

“The two of us helped prepare the greatest Crusade that Billy ever had,” Henry said.

More than 3.2 million people attended the event, including 1.1 million on the final day, June 3, 1973.

Keep Short Accounts

With more than six decades of marriage behind them, the Holleys have had their ups and downs, but as Henry noted, “We always found solutions.”

His advice for a happy marriage? Learn these 12 words:

I was wrong.
I am sorry.
Please forgive me.
I love you.

“One of the key words is respect; respect for one another and individual opinions that you may have,” he explained. “Coming from the same baseline—and that’s God—you need to respect the God living in each other as you discuss your problems.”

Bettie added that it’s important to “keep short accounts,” not allowing small issues to fester.

“That means you don’t get things (problems) in your mind without getting them out,” she said. “You’re honest, you love each other, you show it and listen.”

After 65 years, three children, four grandchildren, three great-grandchildren and one great-great granddaughter, the Holleys have no plans to do anything other than love one another and continue moving forward together.

“Commitment is forever. There are no exceptions,” Henry said. “When I married Bettie, I made three commitments: to provide, to protect and to love her forever.”

And forever. And forever. And forever.

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  1. Alfred & Rosie Yeo says:

    What a great delight to serve under Rev Henry Holley in 1978 in preparation for the Singapore Billy Graham Crusade at the National Stadium, which was used for religious purpose for the first time. What a delightful experience to serve with Rev Henry Holley to have fellowship with Bettie then and from time to time in different parts of the world. They are a wonderful couple indeed!


  2. Kathleen says:

    There is a loveliness in the life of children, when there is marriage commitment, particularly in a home where Christ is honored. Kids cant articulate it, but it is a safe place. I grew up and for the first 16 years of my life, I didn’t know anyone who was divorced. I thought all kids went home to a safe place, where parents lived, made the rules and loved you. Love the Holley’s story, all who read it are cheering for them and thanking God for his love and blessings. The blessings that came from their choices are now rippling all over the place on our planet….their family life, their work, daily life. It’s uplifting!

  3. Louis Cammisa says:

    Hi my mom and dad have bin married for 64 years and still one another. The Lord has bin very good to us all, praise God!

  4. Rose Peaslee says:

    What a wonderful example of God’s “holding power” in a marriage! May God continue to bless the Holleys! My husband Alan and I celebrated 50 yrs. in October. We were able to walk down the same aisle of the church in the Catskills to renew our vows with our 3 children following.
    We know we could never have made it these many years without putting Jesus first in our lives.He deserves ALL the glory! I pray the next generation will begin to see how only a lifetime
    covenant with God and to each other will bring wonderful blessings into their lives.

  5. Lisa Smith says:

    This is a true love story!

  6. Sharon Taylor says:

    The Holley’s are an inspiration. God bless them.

  7. Betty Kaweesa says:

    Thanks & Amen

  8. Grimmer Mapp, Jr. says:

    They say their love so beautifly. Our 55th. ( In Holy Matrimony….a deals a deal) my friends say I am awful (jokeingly) Anyway the Churches coming together makes my heart swell in thanksgiving and praise. My family (Laurel) Ruths family (Bay Springs) even as youngsters…God is the color of water and His breathe he breathed into all has no color. What a wonderful yoke we share. Love to All.

  9. Kathy DeLucio says:

    I am the child of a father and mother who had a similar loving marriage. There is no better gift than to have parents who share a strong marriage commitment and true love for each other. Thank you for providing such a strong testimony to so many.

  10. Tina Atsma says:

    What a lovely commitment, and yes it is the vows we have promised to God. that it would be forever and ever Amen. Every one would face problems along the way, but to forgive each other is the most important answer to married life. So glad that God is the main role in our lives. We keep praying for our whole world. God bless.