A Half-Century After Getting Divorced, This Couple Is Heading Back Down The Aisle

Apr 7, 2018
Originally published on April 7, 2018 1:24 pm

Both Lillian Barnes' and Harold Holland's spouses died in 2015. Holland and Barnes saw each other soon after at a family reunion. As Holland put it, they "got to talking, and went to a graduation dinner, and then a Christmas dinner and one thing led to another. I said, 'Well, we should try this again.' "

Barnes and Holland had divorced each other 50 years earlier. This month, they're remarrying each other.

"The whole flame was still there," Holland said. "We just love each other so much right now."

Barnes, 79, and Holland, 83, first met in a restaurant in the small town of Salt Lick, KY. They tied the knot not too long afterward on Christmas Eve, 1955. They were young: she was 16, he was 20.

The couple had five children in eight years, but the marriage fell apart, and the couple divorced in 1968, staying friendly with one another but didn't become close again until after that family reunion about three years ago.

Holland said his hectic work schedule was a source of strife in their original union. "It was 100 percent my fault," Holland said. "She did nothing."

Barnes said she loves the way that Holland shows his love to everybody. "He's got a good sense of humor," she said. "We're older now, and you live and learn ... you live and learn."

Holland said he's always loved Barnes since they first got married — "She's always been a great person and a great mother ... I don't think you can ask for anything better."

The couple finds joy knowing that their shared family will get to celebrate their wedding, including five children they had together, and two from Barnes' second marriage. "And 20-something grandkids, and 30-something great grand-kids," Holland added. "There'll be about 200 or 300 people there ... If we run out of cake or punch they'll just have to do without."

"We decided to walk the last mile together," he said.

The couple says that this time around, they'll be there for each other more often. They have some advice for newlyweds everywhere.

"Don't be a workaholic," Holland said.

"Pay attention to your spouse," Barnes said. "You got that baby on the way, and that's fine and good, but don't forget about each other, either one of you. Go out on a date."

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Lillian Barnes and Harold Holland got married in 1955. They had five kids together, but after a dozen years, they divorced. Both Barnes and Holland remarried and spent decades apart. After both their spouses passed away in 2015, they found their way back into each other's lives.

HAROLD HOLLAND: I'm 83 and she's 79, so we decided we want to walk the last mile together.

DETROW: This coming week, they're doing it all again and getting remarried. We reached them yesterday in Lexington, Ky., and asked how they rekindled their love.

HOLLAND: We got to talking and went to a graduation dinner, and then a Christmas dinner. And one thing led to another, and I said, well, would you like to try this again? And we said, yeah. Let's do it. And the old flame was still there.

DETROW: Yeah. I'm thinking about this because I just got married a couple years ago, and my wife and I are expecting our first kid in just a matter of weeks. And I'm thinking it must be nice to get married, but to have all the family that resulted from your marriage be there and see that wedding in person with you.

HOLLAND: Oh, it's going to be a bunch of them. We had five kids during that first marriage, and then she had two more kids by her second marriage. So there's going to be about 20-some grandkids and about 30-some great-grandkids.

DETROW: You're about to be newlyweds. Is there any advice that you would give to the first time you two were newlyweds - going back to the first time you tried this?

LILLIAN BARNES: You pay attention to your spouse.


BARNES: That's it.

HOLLAND: And don't be a workaholic.

BARNES: You got that baby on the way, and just don't forget your spouse - either one of you. Go out on a date. Go to a movie or whatever.

DETROW: Harold, can you tell us one thing you really love about Lillian?

HOLLAND: Well, I've loved her ever since she was 16 years old. She was one of the most beautiful girls that is in our part of the world. And this divorce - I've told everybody - is 100 percent my fault. She did nothing. She's always been a great person and a great mother. And her five kids are as good as you'll find anywhere. I don't think you could ask for anything better.

DETROW: Lillian, what about you? What's one thing you love about Harold?

BARNES: Well, his caring - the way he shows his love to everybody. And he's got a good sense of humor. I don't know how he's going to put up with me, but (laughter) we'll find a way.

HOLLAND: We'll get along.

BARNES: Yeah, we do get along real good. And we're older now, and you live and learn. Live and learn.

DETROW: Well, Harold Holland and Lillian Barnes divorced in 1968, but they're getting remarried in 2018. Congratulations to both of you, and thanks so much for taking a few minutes to talk to us.

HOLLAND: Take care.

BARNES: Take care. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.