This is the fourth of five articles to be published in The Post's Valentine's Day Series. A new article will publish everyday Feb. 7-11.
Sandy and Jimmy Coats have been married 52 years, and despite incredible trials the years have brought, the two remain happily married as they now spend their retirement years traveling. Today, we meet these locals in Florida — a destination they have spent their last 16 Valentine's Day's traveling to.
It all started when Jimmy, 73, and Sandy, 70, met on an "awful" blind date in 1967. Sandy, who was still in high school in Eldorado at the time, was introduced to Jimmy by her sister, who went to college with him at Henderson State University.
"She told her sister she wasn't going out with me when she first saw me," Jimmy said. "I had been at the race track all day with some friends and had on a fraternity shirt with the sleeves cut out and it wasn't much of a date, it really wasn't."
"I thought I dated cuter boys in Eldorado," Sandy said, laughing.
But the two decided to give it another try.
"I really don't know why I would want to go out with him again, but I did," Sandy said.
"I made some promises that I wouldn't dress like that again," Jimmy said. "... I put on my monogram shirt and slacks and we had another date and that's when things started to click."
The two casually started dated for a few years while continuing to see other people, and by her senior year in high school they started to get serious. By the time she was a freshman in college they married. The year was 1970.
"I don't look back on any of it, it's been a great ride," Sandy said.
They spent their first 20 years of marriage raising a daughter and son, and completing their educations to benefit their careers.
Jimmy said the best part of their marriage is their friendship.
"We're just best friends (and) enjoy doing things together," he said.
"Enjoy being together," Sandy said.
"We need each other," he added.
"We do," she concurred.
From the years 2000-2005 their heavy trials began. Their daughter had been diagnosed with Batten Disease, a rare brain disorder that took her life in 2004. Jimmy was diagnosed with melanoma skin cancer that the doctors initially said was fatal. And Sandy broke her neck while on vacation at the beach.
The biggest challenge was the loss of their daughter.
"We really had to come together for each other because of that," Jimmy said. "... I think it made us stronger because when we met with the neurologist that gave us the diagnosis about our daughter she said when couples lose children about 90% of them end up in divorce, and we vowed right then that wasn't happening to us, so it didn't."
The two did "whatever it took" during these years, and in the end it made them stronger.
"Conflicts haven't really been a part of our lives, we've just had too many trials to go through to have conflicts," Jimmy said. "I mean you know we have little disagreements, but we talk about it, we never go to bed mad at each other. ... We communicate, that's the main thing. We talk to each other."
And now that the two have come out on the other side and are living their golden years traveling and spending time with their two grandchildren from their son, they have some advice to offer to other lovers — young and old.
"First of all, you've got to like each other," Jimmy said. "It's different from love, it really is. And it's not a one-way street, you've got to give and take, and that's what we've been able to do."
"They have to have the same beliefs in a lot of things," Sandy said. "Not just in God, but in politics."
"— and religion," Jimmy interjected. "They have to share common interests, I mean I think that's very important. We both like to travel and that fits us real well and we always have.
"... We just have a lot of faith and confidence in each other and you've got to depend on each other and you've just got to share yourself with one another, that's all I can say. We do that."
"It's such a common thing for us, I don't even know that we're doing it," Sandy said.
"Society has changed so much," Jimmy said, "and a lot of people, when they have a conflict they just take off. They don't want to step and resolve them or talk about them, they just get mad and separate and go their own way and find another way or another time or another person and that's not our style.
"We've done it, I think, the right way."