Couple's 70-year story of love began in prison

TYLER, TX (KLTV) - By Sara Story - bio | email
Posted by Ellen Krafve - bio | email | Twitter

TYLER, TX (KLTV) - An East Texas couple's love story began in a very unusual place: Prison.

As Jack and Jeanette Parten celebrate their 69th wedding anniversary, they look back on the things they have survived together.

Holding hands, Jack and Jeanette remember meeting more than 70 years ago in the Huntsville Penitentiary.

"We went up there to look at a program there," said Jeanette. "We weren't inmates."

They were college students at Sam Houston State University and were listening to a radio program that was hosted inside the prison walls.

"I think for him, it was love at first sight," said Jacki Gerla, their youngest daughter.

Love at first sight for Jack may have been a different story for Jeanette. "I just felt like someone was staring at me," said Jeanette. "I'd turn around and he'd turn around."

But, he caught her attention. Jeanette quickly broke up with her boyfriend and began dating Jack.

"We didn't have any money," said Jeanette. "Every now and then we'd have enough money to buy a foot long hot dog and we'd split it...If we had a lot of money, we'd go to the 25 cent movie."

Because of their tight money situation, the couple eloped. "We didn't have a wedding," laughed Jeanette. "We just barely had enough money to pay for the license."

Jeanette says their love got them through the toughest of times. Jack joined the U.S. Coast Guard and served in World War II. Throughout his life, he has been diagnosed with five different types of cancer.

"We can take it...whatever 'it' is," said Jeanette.

The most recent challenge for the couple is Jack's dementia. In spite of his illness, Jacki says her father's love for Jeanette is what keeps him going.

"He just brightens up," said Jacki. "[He] just grins from ear to ear...when he sees her."

Jeanette says her favorite thing to do with Jack is watch football. Their favorite team is, of course, the Dallas Cowboys.

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