Couple renews vows after 70 years

Lake Okeechobee News/ Cathy Womble
Henrietta and Robert Mills were married on Jan. 29, 1950 and renewed their vows on their 70th anniversary.

OKEECHOBEE — After 70 years of marriage, Robert and Henrietta Mills had a ceremony to renew their vows on Jan. 27, 2020. The ceremony was held at the lake, was attended by family and friends and was followed by a reception at Cowboys BBQ & Steak Co. Their minister, Larry Thompson, performed the ceremony.

Renewing their vows was Mr. Mills’ idea, but their granddaughter Heather Mordew put it all together he said, and she did it all from Ohio. The Mills have a very large and loving family. “Family is everything,” said Mr. Mills. They were blessed with nine children, and seven of them are married. They have 45 grandchildren and their spouses and 76 great-grandchildren and their spouses, and seven great-great grand children. “That makes 144 family members,” said Mrs. Mills. “We’ve been blessed.”

Lake Okeechobee News/ Cathy Womble
Heather Mordew pins a boutonnière on her grandfather, Robert Mills, before the renewal of his vows.

“We have a very close family,” said Mr. Mills. “We raised our family on a dairy farm.”

Both of the Mills’ sons-in-law asked their father-in-law where “the letter” was. “What letter?” he asked. But, he knew what letter. Apparently, when they married his daughters, he required each of them to write a letter to him asking permission to marry his daughter and promising to treat her well. They wanted him to write a letter in kind.

“I still have your letters at home in the safe,” he laughed. He did not write a letter for them, but he did happily agree to use the vows they wrote out for the ceremony — vows including less television time and more time doting on his wife.

“I figure we will do this again in another 70 years,” joked Mrs. Mills.

The Mills were married on Jan. 29, 1950 when they were only 17 years old. They were married in Oakland, Md. Their parents were not too happy about them getting married so young, said Mr. Mills, but they agreed. They met when they were in the ninth grade. Mr. Mills’ first job was driving a school bus when he was 16 years old. His father owned the buses and had a contract with the school board. Mr. Mills drove one bus, and his father drove the other. Mr. Mills got out of school a half hour early so he could pick up the kids on the bus.

Lake Okeechobee News/ Cathy Womble
Henrietta Mills holds her bouquet as she waits for the vow renewal ceremony to begin.

The Mills have been coming to Okeechobee for about 21 years, and they stay about five months each year. They are from a little farm town in Ohio called Rootstown, about 15 miles east of Akron. In 1997, they came down to Orlando, because Mr. Mills’ mother was living there. She loved Disney, but they just didn’t care for all the traffic up there, he said. His mother told them she would take them to a little town they would love, and she brought them to Okeechobee. They fell in love with it immediately. “The people were so nice here,” said Mrs. Mills. “You didn’t have all that hustle and bustle like Orlando.”

The Mills’ daughter Susie Mordew enjoys writing poetry and writes her parents a poem for every anniversary. This year, she wrote,

“On this January 29th day 70 years later, we stand here side by side, hand in hand, celebrating with loved ones and family friends.

“I made a promise to you 70 years ago, to always be by your side, to love you and cherish you till the day that I die.

You said you would love me for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, and together we would promise to always protect each other from anyone else.

Lake Okeechobee News/ Cathy Womble
Larry Thompson, the Mills’ pastor officiated the renewing of the vows’ ceremony for the couple, Henrietta and Robert Mills.

“Your love and your beauty, I continue to see every day, along with the many blessings and gifts God gives us in so many ways.

“So, as I stand here by your side on our 70th anniversary day, holding back my tears, I just want to say, ‘You gave me your heart as I gave you mine. Together we promise to love and protect it till the end of our time.’ A milestone we now have reached, another chapter for us to write, to tell our love story with God’s love in our life.”

Lake Okeechobee News/ Cathy Womble
After the ceremony, family and friends were invited to join Henrietta and Robert Mills at Cowboys BBQ and Steakhouse for dinner and cake.

In granddaughter Heather’s speech, she said 70 years equates to seven decades, 840 months, 3,640 weeks or 25,550 days or 36,792,000 minutes. This is the amount of time her grandparents have spent together.

“Not every day has been easy, but the vows that these two made 70 years ago and with the seed of faith inside, their love has stood strong,” she said. “One of the many things I have learned from my grandparents is the importance of the love of family. A lasting home is built on a good foundation, and they are the foundation of our family.”

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