Few couples these days can boast of decades-long marriages to the same person; it's probably safe to say that seven decades is quite the accomplishment in anyone's book.

Few couples these days can boast of decades-long marriages to the same person; it's probably safe to say that seven decades is quite the accomplishment in anyone's book.

One such couple living in Shawnee has tucked that distinction securely under their belt — due, at least in part, to the efforts of a pal.

Joel Thomas Catlett can thank his very persistent buddy for repeatedly taking him to the home of Clarrissia Alleene Lee in his hometown of Wewoka.

Though the friend clearly had a good idea with the setup — Lee wasn't at home whenever they would come calling.

After a few failed attempts to introduce the two, the close mutual friend was on the verge of giving up, but at last Catlett and Lee finally met in August of 1946.

The duo didn't even make it to Valentine's Day as boyfriend and girlfriend.

On Jan. 6, 1947, in the home of The Rev. Riley and Ruby Simpson, the couple married; Joel was 21 and Clarrissia was 17.

At the time, Joel — already a WWII vet — was working his way up from the bottom as an employee at Tinker Air Force Base.

His new wife was a country girl at heart, so he took his coworkers' advice to settle down outside of Oklahoma City and made Shawnee their home.

“Those were the days of horses pulling wagons and men still delivered ice and milk, and the trains were still running every day,” Joel said.

The couple started out with a sleeping room on Main Street.

Joel said they didn't have a car — they would walk everywhere or ride a bus.

The Catletts soon had two children, Linda Alleene and Joel Thomas Jr.

As children, Linda grew up pretty much by the book and Tommy was full of life — and questions, Clarrissia said.

The Catletts now have several grandchildren and many great-grandchildren.

The glue that binds the pair together, Clarrissia said, is God.

“God is my life,” Clarrissia said, “and God gave (Joel) to me.”

She said everyone must have a support system to cope with life.

Clarrissia said God guided them to First Christian Church, where R. Scott and Mona Baird were ministers.

“We spent over 60 years there,” Joel said.

The couple's relationship with the Lord has seen them through many difficult times, Clarrissia said.

“You've got hills and valleys,” she said. “Everyone does.”

The biggest struggle the Catletts say they encountered was when their daughter lost her battle with cancer just more than a year ago.

But their faith has kept them going.

After 37 years at Tinker, Joel retired in 1981, ending his career as an engine technician, working in accident investigation and flight testing at a top-secret level.

“He was working in a job where he couldn't tell anyone about anything,” Clarrissia said, “not even me and the children.”

Clarrissia retired from Southwestern Bell in 1987.

The couple enjoyed gardening, camping and traveling over the decades, checking out every state in the continental U.S. and Alaska; Hawaii is the only state they never visited.

Though they don't frequent adventures as much as they once did, they still enjoy giving of themselves to causes they hold dear, such as feeding the hungry.

Clarrissia has spent many years in leadership roles at church.

Of his wife, Joel said, “I owe everything to her; she kept me straight and on the right path.”

The Catletts surpassed a milestone that most will never experience. In celebration of that achievement, the couple was honored by their family members who hosted a reception at Wesley United Methodist Church for their 70th wedding anniversary last month. Despite inclement weather, a large host of family and friends — including their pastor Ben and Jeri Williams — were present, Clarrissia said.

“More than 50 people were at the party; some I never would have expected,” she said.

When asked what they plan to do this Valentine's Day, Clarrissia quipped, “We'll probably just sit here and look at each other, I guess.”

You can reach Vicky O. Misa at (405) 214-3962.