68-year marriage just works, and so do they

By Sean Barron

Special the The Vindicator


In December 1945, Congress officially recognized the Pledge of Allegiance, the World Bank was founded and the microwave oven received a patent.

It also was the month and year that Lonnie and Leotha Arnold walked down the aisle together and got hitched.

“Mom and Dad will be married 68 years on Dec. 31,” their daughter, Carolyn Arnold, said with pride.

Carolyn talked recently from her Lake Drive home on the South Side about her mother, 87, and and father, 98, who have lived with her for about a year.

Lonnie and Leotha Arnold also are thought to be among the oldest black couples in Mahoning County.

Carolyn, who retired after serving 15 years as a deputy with the Mahoning County Sheriff’s Department, attends Choffin Career & Technical Center, where she is studying to be a pharmacy technician. Despite her busy schedule, Carolyn enjoys being there for her parents, who used to live a few houses from her.

“It just didn’t make sense for them to move into an apartment when I was here by myself,” she explained. “Everything fell into place.”

Unquestionably, longevity continues to be a central quality that runs through the couple’s nearly seven decades together. But another core theme has been hard work and raising their four children.

Lonnie, a Camden, Ark., native, served in World War II during his four years in the Army, which included a tour of duty in Germany. He also lived for a while in Hope, Ark., the birthplace of President Clinton.

Lonnie was raised on a large farm. “It was a lot of hard work in those days,” he said.

After arriving in Youngstown in the 1940s, Lonnie worked at the downtown post office before embarking on what turned out to be a 30-year career at the Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co.

Carolyn’s father still maintains an active lifestyle that leaves plenty of room for gardening, one of his main passions, she said.

Beginning at age 15, Leotha, a 65-year member of Victory Lutheran Church on the South Side, worked about 26 years for a local family, which included housekeeping and other similar duties. The Montgomery, Ala., native also spent 33 years at Powers Auditorium, including many evenings as an usher. For 19 years, Leotha was the head baker for a cafeteria in the former F.W. Woolworth Co. at the Southern Park Mall in Boardman.

Today, she remains active in her church, where she is treasurer and largely in charge of its food bank.

Other staples in the Arnold family are traveling and getting together with relatives for Sunday and holiday dinners, explained Carolyn, who also has lived in Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia.

“Definitely, traveling was a big thing with us,” she said, adding that trips to see relatives have taken them to California, New York and Little Rock, Ark., among other places.

Carolyn is grateful for her parents’ long marriage and many other aspects of family life, but if you ask what she’s perhaps most thankful for, don’t expect a long, drawn-out response.

“I’m fortunate that my family provided good morals and values,” she said. “Daddy [also] was a good provider.”

Lonnie and Leotha’s other children are Jeane, a nurse manager with a clinic at St. Elizabeth Health Center in Youngstown; Lonnie Jr., who retired as music director for a high school in Fairpoint, N.Y.; and Wanda, who lives in Charlotte, N.C., after having retired from Packard Electric.

The couple also have two grandchildren.

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