Couple defies the odds

Sadie and G.C. Odom received letters of commendation from both Gov. Pat McCrory and state Sen. Tom McInnis, right, on Sunday during a celebration of their 75th wedding anniversary at Gibson United Methodist Church as co-pastor the Rev. John Butson looked on.

Sadie Lytch and G.C. Odom pictured on the grounds of Gibson High School before their marriage in 1940.

GIBSON — While no one from their generation could have imagined the level of social buzz or barrage of photographs that accompany most 21st century weddings, the nuptials of Grover “G.C.” Odom and Sadie Lytch were low on fanfare even by 1940s standards.

The couple, G.C. aged 19 and 17-year-old Sadie, were quietly wed on June 26, 1940 by a justice of the peace in Darlington, South Carolina. Both had graduated from Gibson High School five weeks earlier, and decided to tie the knot before heading their separate ways for school — Sadie to Greensboro College and G.C. to electrical school in Chicago.

“Back then if a college found out you were married, they’d put you out,” Sadie said.

But their secret proved short-lived, as her mother discovered a letter from G.C. in Sadie’s pocketbook partway through her first semester of college.

“Mama told me, when you go back to school you might as well tell them you’ll stay until Christmas and then you’ll be coming home,” Sadie said.

But marrying young and foregoing a grand church wedding are not among the nonagenarian’s regrets. In fact, her only wistful thought as she and G.C. celebrated their 75th anniversary on Sunday at Gibson United Methodist Church was that none of their childhood friends had lived to see the occasion. Of the 42 members of Gibson High School’s class of 1940, only one other is still living.

“A lot of my classmates, when they found out that we were married, they said ya’ll are so crazy,” she said. “They said at 17 and 19, there’s too much out there. You will never make it.”

Surveying the fruits of their marriage on Sunday, namely the 145 friends and family members, plus a few Gibson natives who grew up knowing Sadie Odom as the town’s dual postmaster and mayor, those thoughts were summarily quashed.

“Sunday brought back so many memories because so many of the children that grew up knowing me as their postmaster came back for our celebration and it was just like a big reunion.”

The two first lived together in early 1940, six months after their wedding, and their first child was born in 1942.

By then, G.C. was working for the CSX railroad in Hamlet, a career he would continue for 46 years. As for Sadie, she took a clerk’s job at the Gibson Post Office and after three years was promoted to postmaster.

“My husband, he’s the quiet type,” she said. “He’s never been much for public work or anything; he left it all up to me.”

In the 1970s, she decided to try her hand at politics on the advice of her brother, Sheriff B.P. Lytch, who advised her that Gibson needed a leader. That decision led to a 22-year career as the town’s mayor, a post she held in tandem with her role as postmaster before retiring from the latter position in 1988.

Sadie’s devotion to the office, coupled with G.C.’s long hours on the railroad, proved both a blessing and a curse as the two sometimes saw little of each other.

“For so many years he worked the second shift from 3 until 11, so that’s the reason I had so much time to spend with the town,” Sadie said.

Though their 75 years have been fraught with tests, the pair have learned both from each other and their mutual commitment to their shared life.

They have three children: G.C. Odom, III of Longs, South Carolina, Doug Odom of North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and Jean O. Yates of Little River, South Carolina, along with six grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren, the youngest of whom was born seven months ago.

“I would say the strongest word to use is patience with each other and trying to understand, if a problem came up trying to work it out,” said Sadie. “It’s been a long life of togetherness. I won’t lie about it, it’s been some rough days, but we didn’t give up. We tried to overcome it and go on, so after 75 years I’m glad that we did make it.”

Mary Katherine Murphy can be reached at 910-506-3169.