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Through thick and thin, together after 60 years

Loved ones lined the block in their cars for a parade past the home of Rev. Willie D. Rawls and Idella Rawls to celebrate the couple’s 60th wedding anniversary on Thursday, July 2.
The pair married in 1960 in Derby, Mississippi.

A sign announcing the anniversary was stretched across the lawn. The line of cars wrapped around the corner. Family and friends slowed in front of the couple’s home to call out well wishes to the Rawls as they kept a safe distance, seated on their front porch. One of their grandchildren collected congratulatory cards from passing drivers.

The couple has enjoyed their 60 years together, said Idella.

“It’s been a blessing,” she said. “It’s been a marriage, through thick and thin, but we’ve enjoyed it all—with our eight children, seven girls and one boy.”

Family members were planning to surprise the couple with a celebration over the weekend, said one of their daughters Dorothy Acker. But with COVID-19, a traditional celebration was out of the question.

“So the grandchildren decided to do a celebration parade for them to spread love and show them love at this time,” said Acker.

The Rawls have many grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren, but the couple always makes room at their table, said Acker.

“My dad has always believed, him and my mom, when you cook you cook more. You spread the table because you don’t know how many are going to come by,” said Acker. “That just gives my mom and dad joy, for people to stop by. They’re just loving and giving and caring people. That’s just how they taught us and that’s what they try to spread, is love.”

Rev. Rawls was called into ministry in 1979 and retired in 2017, said Acker. He pastored First Baptist Pearlington for 32 years. Idella Rawls worked for 20 years at Walmart, said their daughter Sandra DeVaughn.

After Hurricane Katrina, the pair both worked to rebuild the community of Pearlington. Idella Rawls assisted with the freedom volunteers doing work in the community for four years, said DeVaughn.

The couple raised their children with an emphasis on hard work and God, said Acker.

“They taught us how to work and that the world doesn’t owe you anything. You have to work by the sweat of your brow for what you want,” she said.

After 60 years together, the couple shares a deep love, said granddaughter Brandi Acker Welch.

“They know each other like clockwork,” said Dorothy Acker. “My mom knows my dad and my dad knows my mom. They know everything about each other.”

Idella Rawls’ advice for young couples is to try to make marriage work through thick and thin.

“Sometimes it works and sometime it doesn’t, but you’ve got to at least try to stay together,” she said. “It’s not a one way street anymore. It’s give and take.”

The couple has shared a good life, she said.

“We’ve had ups and downs like everybody else, but by the grace of God, we’ve been able to be here this long and enjoy life as it comes.”