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Love: Emma and Claude Babb's story in a word

By Jim Fair, Editor
Published on Monday, February 13, 2012

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Emma and Claude Babb began a friendship that grew into a marriage that is at 64 years and counting.

Emma and Claude Babb began a friendship that grew into a marriage that is at 64 years and counting.

Emma Babb didn't need any coaxing from her husband, Claude, remembering how he proposed to her. "I asked him, how come it took you so long?"

As inseparable as they are nearly 65 years later (their anniversary is April 5), they both said they sensed in their youth their relationship was blossoming into something special.

Emma, 90, and Claude, 94,  said there is one simple reason their relationship continues stronger today than it did nearly 70 years ago. "Love," Claude said. "I still love her. I never wanted to hurt her feelings."

"We've never had a fuss," added Emma.

Emma may have to wait an extra couple of days to receive the box of candy that has been routine on special days like Valentine's Day, anniversaries and holidays. Claude is undergoing rehab at The Cottages at Brushy Creek and is scheduled to go home Thursday. "I love home. I can't wait to go home Thursday," Claude said.

Claude's walking stick, rubberized courtesy of The Cottages' staff to help prevent slipping, is his constant companion. "I like to have it while walking in the woods. I've had it a long time. It's like a cane to me."

It seemed that family and friends closest to Emma and Claude were already matchmaking the couple as teens. "My sister, Lillian, told me I should take Emma out," Claude said. "I didn't know that," Emma said in surprise.

The couple began going to church and picnics together until Claude joined the Army during WWII and was stationed in Honolulu for two years. "He would write letters to my daddy and I would answer them," Emma said with a smile. "Eventually he wrote to me." Claude and Emma's father were friends.

The Army invited Claude to become a career soldier. They promised him rank upgrades. "They could have made me a major and I wouldn't have stayed in," said Claude.

The day after Claude returned home to Greer he visited Emma at a clothing store and bought a pair of overalls and shoes. "I went rabbit hunting until the first of the month," Claude said. When Claude began working he invited Emma to ride to work and back each day. She worked at a clothing store and he at Donaldson Lumber Yard.

Their friendship began mostly around church functions, first at Zion Church and while attending Jordan High School. They dated four years, the first time after Claude returned home from the war. "First he would ask me to church and then I would ask him the next week," Emma said. "We attended ball games and church picnics. We had a good time."

Claude said he had his eyes on Emma when they were friends. "I felt that way with her from the start," he said. "We courted for two years before I asked her to marry me." Emma said, "I told him I was waiting for him to ask."

Emma's dad approved of Claude. "If my daddy could have picked a husband for me, Claude would be the one," she said he told her. "He said it was the happiest he's seen me."

Claude  and Emma live in the same house he built 60 years ago on an acre of land he bought from Emma's father.  "I always wanted to be a carpenter," Claude said. "As a little fella I couldn't keep nails. I would hammer nails in the ground all the time."

Claude remembers when he bought Emma her first car. "We had to get her a driver's license afterward," he said.

Emma said the washing machine (her first was a Maytag) and electric stove were the biggest inventions that changed their lives. She laughs at the thought of coins and Claude's small pocket knife banging the sides of the washing machine.

They had two sons, Ben and John. Ben works in Spartanburg and is a deacon at First Baptist at Spartanburg and John is a baptist minister in Idaho. "We never had any trouble with them. We had two fine sons," Claude said.

The family tended to a garden and raised horses on the land. "When the boys went horseback riding, they had to saddle three horses," Claude said. "Emma always went with them." 

"I was brought up to go to church," Claude said. They attend Mt. Lebanon and when they are absent it is a topic of discussion. "The preacher told us the know if we're not there something is wrong," Emma said.

Emma, head chef at Skyland School for 20 years, and Claude cooked Thanksgiving dinner for 100 people and Christmas dinner for 200 at Mt. Lebanon in past years. "It took us two days to cook at Christmas," Claude said. "We cooked six turkeys for Christmas dinner. I would put one in the oven, take it out and do it over each time. We carved them in the morning.

Emma also worked in the church nursery for 60 years. "I love babies," she said. "One day they came and asked me to come to the nursery because my son was crying and wouldn't stop. I picked him up and he stopped. I've been in the nursery ever since."

They have 4 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. A stuffed puppy occupies a special place in Claude's room at the Cottages. Emma, a great-granddaughter, brought it during a visit. "She hugged it and said this will make Pepa happy," Emma said.

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