Fifty-eight years ago W.L. Shipman married his childhood friend, Lucille.
Recently, they celebrated this milestone during a surprise party thrown by their recently made friends at Wellington Place Senior Assisted Living.
“I had known her since she was a little red-headed, freckle-faced girl in elementary school, so I had known her most of my life,” 81-year-old W.L. Shipman said.
The friendship between the two continued when they both went to work for Dixie Products (formerly Dixie Foundry and later Magic Chef Company and then Maytag Cleveland Cooking Products). The two would sit together and talk at lunch.
“I used to say to her at lunch, ‘You know Lucille, we ought to get married and you can work on if you want to and I’ll hunt and fish and bring in the meat.’ I could have her going real good before lunch was over. We weren’t even dating then,” W.L. said.
They started dating in 1953.
Lucille Shipman, now 78, said she knew W.L. was who she wanted to marry when he asked her.
After the couple was engaged, a conversation W.L. had overheard between Lucille and his sister gave him some concern.
“I had heard her say, ‘I don’t want a doctor for a husband. I don’t want a preacher for a husband,’” W.L. said.
When he had proposed, W.L. knew “God had something special for me” to do, he said. However, he wasn’t sure what that would be.
“One day I asked her, ‘If the Lord calls me to preach, do you still want to be my wife?” W.L. said. “‘She said, ‘I don’t know.’”
The couple took time to pray about the possibility of W.L. being called to preach.
A week passed.
“Then when I picked her up to go to church the first thing I asked her (was), ‘Have you made up your mind?’” W.L. said.
Her response was what he had hoped for.
“She said, ‘If the Lord calls you to be a preacher, then I will be a preacher’s wife, which she has truly been that through the years.”
The couple dated for nearly three years.
They were married on Dec. 17, 1955. In October 1956, W.L. began pastoring.
Although W.L. has performed many church weddings, the Shipmans’ wedding was not in a church.
“At that time, you couldn’t have gotten me in a church wedding. I was too timid,” W.L. said. “But we were married by a Baptist minister. If we had it to do over again, it would be a church wedding.”
The ceremony may have not been in a church, but church was a big part of the couple’s lives.
W.L. served in pastoral roles and missionary administration roles from 1956 to 1998. “Much of my ministry was in Polk County,” W.L. said.
His ministry took him “above the mountains and below the mountains” that divide Polk County in two. Conasauga River Baptist Church was the first church he pastored. His second church took the couple to Copper Basin. W.L. Shipman also served on the Polk County Baptist association as the director of missions for many years.
The longest they stayed at one church was three years.
Lucille said they got used to moving a lot as ministry led them to different churches.
A cooperative agreement between the Baptist churches in Polk County and Northland Baptist Association in Michigan found the couple preaching in Michigan for a year. Occasionally, Michigan pastors would come to speak at the Polk County churches.
“This was really culture shock for a Polk County boy,” W.L. said. “But I enjoyed the ministry.”
At that time, there were only four established churches in the Northland Baptist Association. Now the association has enough churches to form two separate associations.
The couple experienced two blizzards while serving in Michigan.
“I guess what scared me the most was those people drove in those blizzards, just like it was sunshine,” W.L. said.
W.L. said he “got homesick for the mountains” while serving in Michigan.
They attribute the success of their marriage to building it on Christian principles.
“We dedicated our home to the Lord … and his leadership, and that was the foundation of our marriage,” W.L. said.
“We just praise the Lord for what he’s done,” Lucille said.
They have only been at Wellington place for three months, but are already a part of the community.
The Shipmans have two grown sons, four grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
All except one of the grandchildren and great-grandchildren are girls.
“Which has been great, because the only thing we knew anything about was boys,” W.L. said.
While W.L. retired from pastoring in 1998, they have become involved in ministry at Wellington Place. W.L. sometimes preaches at the community’s church services and Lucille remains supportive.