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Two people fell in love and share a legacy of faith

Seeds of hard work and commitment to God were planted long before Bob Ross and Judy Nanney married 59 years ago.

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Just three days after she turned 17, the bride wore a simple white gown that her mother made. She was so nervous that she gashed her leg while shaving that morning.

The groom, barely 19, borrowed a white sport coat from his younger brother. His black tie matched his perfect flattop.

On July 2, 1964, Bob Ross and Judy Nanney exchanged wedding vows in their hometown of Portageville, Mo.

Bob and Judy Ross pose on their wedding day 59 years ago. Sharon Klutts, left, served as the maid of honor, while Kenneth Ross was his older brother Bob’s best man.

Long before the simple living-room ceremony 59 years ago, seeds of hard work, Christian faith and commitment to the institution of marriage were planted in both my parents’ hearts.

My father, the third of four children, grew up in a farming family.

My grandfather Lloyd Ross served in World War II and he was shot in the face. After the war, Papa worked as a cotton sharecropper and later as a carpenter and commercial fisherman. My grandmother Margaret Ross helped support the family by sewing in a garment factory.

My mother, the middle child of three siblings, grew up in a less stable — but equally loving — family.

My grandfather Earl Nanney, a sweet man who battled mental illness all his adult life, found it difficult to retain a job. My grandmother Edith Nanney dealt with Grandpa’s frequent stints in jail and mental hospitals and her own chronic physical ailments. Through it all, Grandma fought to keep her family together.

From early ages, both my parents picked cotton in the fields of southeastern Missouri’s Bootheel.

wedding. The Rosses celebrate their 50th anniversary this week.

The young couple on their wedding day, with Judy’s parents Earl and Edith Nanney, left, and Bob’s parents Margaret and Lloyd Ross, right.

Dad’s family raised cows and pigs, so the Rosses ate meat more often than the Nanneys. Mom’s family relied on its garden for potatoes, corn and tomatoes.

In both households, belief in Jesus was stressed. In fact, my parents first connected at a teen Bible study.

The young couple enjoyed roller skating, drive-in movies and ice cream cones at a local café.

Dad grew up in the Church of Christ. Some of my earliest memories of Papa and Grandma are on a light blue church bus. Every Sunday, they’d drive all over the countryside, picking up children for worship and teaching them to sing “Jesus Loves Me.”

Mom grew up in the First Baptist Church. I still remember Grandpa — when he wasn’t hospitalized — rising before dawn on Sunday and playing gospel music at an ungodly volume.

He loved my dad but couldn’t resist calling him a “Campbellite.” I can’t recall a day, meanwhile, that I didn’t see Grandma open up her Bible and spend time in God’s word.

While they were dating, Mom and Dad visited each other’s church from time to time.

“I went to church just to be with her,” Dad said.

“Our lives have certainly been God-centered.”

“But he wouldn’t sing,” Mom said with a laugh — a reference to his concern over the organ and piano used in the Baptist church’s worship.

About six months after they married, Mom stepped forward at a Church of Christ assembly and asked to be baptized for the forgiveness of sins.

“Our lives have certainly been God-centered,” Mom said. “If we didn’t have God to talk to about our kids and our grandkids and ourselves and when terrible things happen, I don’t know what we’d do. I don’t know what people do if they don’t have God.”

Bob and Judy Ross during their early years of marriage. Bob served in the Air Force and spent a year in Greece away from his wife and children.

Mom and Dad were raised to believe that saying “I do” means forever. Papa and Grandma Ross were married 69 years. Grandpa and Grandma Nanney were married 52 years.

As young adults, my parents spent a year apart as Dad joined the Air Force and served overseas — in Greece — during the Vietnam War.

Dad later studied at the White’s Ferry Road School of Preaching in West Monroe, La., and Freed-Hardeman University in Henderson, Tenn., and became a preacher.

In 1982, Mom and Dad began 25 years of full-time ministry as houseparents at Christ’s Haven for Children in Keller, Texas.

Now retired, they dote on their seven grandchildren and five great-grandchildren and remain madly in love. Dad still preaches at a little country church in Greenwood, Texas, about 55 miles north of Fort Worth.

Bob and Judy Ross hold a portrait of their extended family at a wedding.

Bob and Judy Ross hold a portrait of their extended family at a wedding.

I thank God for giving me Christian parents who shared their legacy of faith with me, my brother Scott, my sister Christy and our entire extended family — not to mention the hundreds of girls for whom they cared at Christ’s Haven.

I’m reminded of Brad Paisley’s 2001 hit song “Two People Fell In Love.” I’m so incredibly blessed that my parents fell in love.

Happy 59th anniversary, Mom and Dad!

BOBBY ROSS JR. is Editor-in-Chief of The Christian Chronicle. Reach him at [email protected].


Editor’s Note: This column is adapted from one originally published at the Rosses’ 50th anniversary.

Filed under: Bob and Judy Ross family Inside Story Marriage marriage and family National Opinion personal Rosses Top Stories

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