Sweet Lorraine

It was a rare thing that happened to Fred Stobaugh after his wife Lorraine died. Grief is hard work, and out of his grief came something amazing and inspiring.

But first you have to know the back story. He met her at a root beer stand in 1938. Two years later they married. Together they raised three daughters as he supported his family driving trucks. Think of the times they lived in: wars all over the world, the nuclear age, the 1960’s angst, the sexual revolution, Watergate, 911, so many things unimaginable back in 1938. Yet Fred and Lorraine had good times, and lived full lives.

Then she took ill, and died in 2013. He was 95 and they had been married just shy of 73 years. A few months later, the local music studio had a song writing contest, so he penned a few lines and mailed it in with a letter. The studio was so moved by the story that they visited him and agreed to produce the song with professional musicians. It was no longer about the contest; they just wanted to help him tell his love story about “Oh Sweet Lorraine.”

Oh, sweet Lorraine. Life only goes around once but never again. I wish we could do all the good times over again.

They posted the song on YouTube, and it September 2013, it went viral. Soon Mr. Stobaugh was accepting invitations to appear on live national TV, and speak at schools and other venues. In his plain-spoken way, he extolled the virtues of a long marriage in general and of his sweet Lorraine in particular. He became the oldest artist ever to have a song on Billboard’s Hot 100 list.

After a whirlwind year, his friends at the studio asked him how he felt to be famous. As he reached for a sheet of paper nearby, he said, “It’s not over yet.” At age 97, he had written another song he called “Took Her Home.”

He didn’t take her away, He just took her home. He’s keeping her safe and He’s keeping her warm ‘til I show up and call heaven my own.

It’s no wonder the story and the songs are so touching. A deep longing of the human heart is to find its place in the Creator’s plan.   For those who marry, His plan is that “a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife and the two shall become one flesh” (Matt. 19:5). Two people created differently yet complementary with the hope that they can “be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth” (Gen. 1:28). God designed marriage, and it preceded not only nations, but history itself. It is good, holy, and celebrated as a picture of Christ and his church (Eph. 5:32).

Now the story of Fred and Lorraine is told in a six-part video available on YouTube. Search on their names. Seek and you shall find.

A Love Story


 I stepped from the evening cold into a room warmed by the stove in the corner, and by the welcome of a pastor for over 50 years. I sought writing insights from Danny, who is my predecessor in writing a column for the local paper. As we sat by his wall of well-used books, I listened to his heart for people as he shared his story. 

 I finally asked about the subject at hand, love and marriage. “Well, marriage is of God, instituted before the church,” he started. I injected, “Tell me about you and Regina?” 

 “I asked God to give me someone to love, and to be loved by.” Danny doubts the notion of ‘falling in love,’ but believes that God chose Regina for him. Perhaps evidence for that was their first outing together, a double date when he thought he was paired with the other girl! But it was Regina that sat next to him in the car, and the rest is history. 

 “Well, marriage is about leaving, cleaving, and weaving.” What a wordsmith! Actually that comes from Scripture: “A man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” Stories from his life unpack that idea. 

 He and his young family left parents, church, and Fannin County in a U-Haul and VW after church one Sunday night, moving to New Orleans so he could attend seminary. Leaving means starting a new life together, finding your own way. 

 “Everything we have done, we have done together.” Cleaving is having Regina as his partner in life and ministry, so she is always close by. In a service, they usually sit together until sermon time. A friend dubbed their pew ‘the love seat!’ Stepping into the pulpit, he will “look for God, then Regina” before he starts. 

 Sometimes hardship weaves lives into one. It was hard to hear of his nearly tragic crash in a ’52 Ford with his expectant wife and son. But through it, God firmly called them into their life’s work. “I can see the hand of God at work in difficulties, learning the lessons of life.” Good times and bad weave lives into one. 

 Please don’t let this example of a long, loving marriage cause you regrets. Danny has seen “so many people thrown on the scrapheap of life.” No, this example of a faithful relationship gives hope that the love of God is real, and can reach into our world and even touch you. The New Testament uses marriage to teach about Christ’s love for his church. You are included in that great love. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall…have eternal life.” 

 Pondering 55 years of marriage, Danny declares, “I love her far more today than when we first married.” Still weaving, I suppose. Happy Valentine’s Day!