Benton Harbor couple will celebrate 60 years together

Published 9:37 am Thursday, July 24, 2014

The four generations of the Guidry family make a conscious effort to gather around Ezekiel (front row, left) and Icie Mae (front row, right) at every holiday and family celebration. (Submitted photo)

The four generations of the Guidry family make a conscious effort to gather around Ezekiel (front row, left) and Icie Mae (front row, right) at every holiday and family celebration. (Submitted photo)

BENTON HARBOR—It’s no secret that more than 50 percent of American marriages end in divorce, and that common knowledge is backed up by the 2011 data (the most recent available) from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

So, when you come across a couple that has managed to stay together for 60 years —plus 5 years of courtship, it’s natural to wonder what their secret is.

“A key to anybody’s marriage is that you have to learn how to compromise and to respect each other, and you also have to love,” said Icie Mae (Harris) Guidry, who married Ezekiel “Zeke” Guidry on Aug. 1, 1954 at the New Bethel Baptist Church in Benton Harbor.

Icie Mae has certainly shared that advice with her nine grandchildren.

“My grandmother always encourages me not to settle for anyone who doesn’t really love and respect me,” said Katina Rudley, Icie’s oldest granddaughter, who now lives in Houston, Texas. “She always has a lot of good advice for us.”

Because a marriage relies so heavily on the ability of the two partners to compromise, Icie Mae also recommended that young people take some time to experience the world before they commit to a marriage.

“I would not suggest to any other young people to get married right away out of high school, even though that is what I did,” Icie Mae said. “Once you’re married, it’s a partnership. So, go out and test the waters, and see what the world has to offer because, once you are married, you have to compromise and consider each other’s goals.”

Despite that cautionary advice, Icie Mae said, “I’ve got the glory, the honor and the praise for our marriage.”

Once a couple does marry, Icie Mae stressed the importance of showing appreciation for the things one’s partner does.

“It’s the little things we do for each other and the little compliments we give to each other that keep our marriage good,” Icie Mae said. “Little tokens, like flowers, a little note or a card—those are things that can help to keep a marriage good.”

Icie Mae also pointed to honesty as an important aspect of a lasting marriage.

“You need to be honest and open with each other, and not do things behind each others’ backs,” Icie Mae said. “You should also keep family and other people out of your business and not let them interfere with your marriage. My mother taught me that.”

While Icie Mae said that working to “stay on the same page” and getting to know each other’s likes and dislikes are also important components in a lasting marriage, she pointed to a strong relationship with God as the cornerstone for her marriage to Zeke.

“If you have that relationship with the Lord, you can work through the difficult things,” Icie Mae explained. “The bond that has kept us together has been God. It’s one of God’s favors that has kept us together.”

The sixth of eight children, Icie Mae and Zeke’s daughter Cassandra Benion, also noted the importance of religion in the family’s ability to stick together through good times and bad.

“One important thing for them is their faith. They are God-fearing people, and they have a strong belief system,” Benion said.

Another theme for children growing up in Guidry family has been the importance of commitment to one’s family.

“For my parents, more than anything else, family is really important to them. They’ve weathered the storms and hung in there together, and a lot of it has to do with commitment,” Benion said. “Their commitment to each other has been so important to us as kids that we try to make commitments and stick to them. They were our role models in that.”

Such a focus on commitment and strong family relationships is visible in the Guidry family’s emphasis on spending time together, despite their being spread out into many parts of the country now.

“We are such a close family that, every holiday, we are together. We make a conscious effort to get together at the holidays and for family celebrations like the open house we had for my niece’s graduation recently,” said Benion, who lives in Detroit. “We really pride ourselves on being a strong family and again, that comes from Mom and Dad. They set the example, and we follow that. Good times, bad times—we stick together.”

That commitment to family has been passed down to the next generation as well.

“My family values are definitely strong, and our family bond is definitely tight because of those two,” said TeRhon Guidry, Zeke and Icie Mae’s oldest grandson, who is in the process of moving to Denver, Colorado.

Through faith, commitment, love and respect, Icie Mae and Zeke Guidry have weathered the storms and sailed the calm seas of life for 60 years together, and it seems certain that they will celebrate their wedding anniversary surrounded by many generations of family members in Benton Harbor on Aug. 1.

As TeRhon said, “I hope that later on down the line in life, I’ll have a relationship that lasts as long as theirs has, if not longer.”