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OPINION: Marital bliss

by By Stan Fine, Columnist | April 20, 2023 at 4:00 a.m.

In 1941 Mr. and Mrs. J.D. Armstrong of Jacket, Missouri, invited more than forty relatives, friends and neighbors to celebrate their golden anniversary. The couple had been married for fifty wonderful years and they wanted everyone to know about it. Mrs. Neville Hendry baked a three-layer angel food cake. Making the cake even more special was the miniature bride and groom that rested on the top layer's icing.

Mrs. Cora Lipscumb, J.C. Schell, Perly Clanton and all enjoyed the iced orange blossom decorated cake. It was later reported that everyone had a wonderful time and, after all was said and done, little or nothing of the cake's existence remained.

Mr. And Mrs. S.B. Shannon of Pineville celebrated their golden wedding anniversary in March of 1938. The couple welcomed well-wishers to their home and accepted not only their congratulations but gifts as well. The married couple came from Kansas City some fourteen years ago and settled in the small town of Pineville, Missouri.

In 1915 the joys of fifty years of marriage were celebrated by Erie residents Mr. and Mrs. J.M. Boyd. The couple said "I do" fifty years ago in the town of Pineville. They came to their present home in 1869 and have called Erie home ever since.

The celebration was a quiet one, but the couple received congratulations from all seven children, friends, and neighbors alike. Mrs. Boyd said her life on the family's farm had been a rewarding one and one that she would not trade for anything in the world.

David J. Utter and wife Christina were married in 1861. Over the years, the two found each other's company acceptable and, well, they loved each other. In August of 1911, they celebrated their fifty years of marriage, their golden wedding anniversary.

The Rocky Comfort, Missouri couple called themselves blessed to have eleven children, thirty-eight grandchildren, and one great-grandchild. David had reached the age of seventy-one while wife Christina was a youngster, being only sixty-seven years of age.

All the living children, their spouses, twenty-one grandchildren and friends and neighbors came to the couple's Rocky Comfort home to celebrate. Following a meal, everyone was entertained by the singing of many of the grandchildren.

The Reverend and Mrs. John Biggs were among the attendees and, following the singing of the last song, the good reverend spoke a few words in honor of the accomplishment. An assortment of well-appreciated gifts was then opened, and all had a wonderful time, especially the loving couple of fifty years.

Now we come to the not-so-blissful marriage of George and Reba Lamphear. There were many who wondered why the two of them ever uttered the words "I do." They seemed so incompatible, and there were those who gave the union between the two slim to none chances of making it past the first year.

George had a temper, a terrible and uncontrollable temper that could manifest itself at the drop of a hat. That, and other assorted issues, led to the couple's constant bickering. Nary a day went by without the sound of raised voices coming from the couple's Erie, Missouri, house.

George was forty years old, and wife Reba was thirty. Not that the age difference mattered, but Reba wanted to get out of the marriage, and she wanted to be free of George. The husband of a mere nine months knew there were problems, but he had no idea Reba wanted to leave him.

There came a beautiful July afternoon in 1935 when the married couple would once again, in anger, scream obscenities at each other. However, this quarrel did not take place in private. Reba, formerly Reba Francisco, asked her sister and brother to come to the house. Reba told the two that she was going to tell George about her plan to leave him the following day and she was afraid; she was afraid of what he might do.

As the quarrel became more and more heated, Reba suddenly blurted out the words she had planned to say. "I'm going to leave you, and I'm going to leave tomorrow." For a moment, the shouting stopped, and maybe, just maybe, George would accept the idea of a life without Reba.

George was enraged. How could Reba have the nerve? How could she have the unmitigated gall to tell him that she wanted a divorce? Neither she nor her words could be tolerated. The author of those cruel and hateful words had to be exterminated, and exterminate her he would surely do.

George finally made his thoughts known to everyone. "Well, we'll have this out right now." Producing a large hunting knife, George began stabbing and slashing Reba. The sounds of Reba's and her sister's screams did not deter George as he continued to plunge the knife's blade deeper and deeper into his wife's chest.

Finally, Reba fell to the floor, and her lifeless body lay there motionless in a pool of her spent blood. Without uttering a single word, George opened the home's front door and ran. It was later determined that he ran to his father's house, located a mile or two from the scene of the gruesome murder.

Reba was taken to a local hospital, but there was no hope. She died at 7:30 p.m. that evening. Reba's death and the details of the murder were brought to the attention of McDonald County Sheriff R.L. Vansandt. Vansandt arrested George Lamphear that evening.

Lamphear later pleaded guilty to first-degree murder. Judge Emory Smith had little sympathy for the defendant as he passed sentence. The murderer of Reba Lamphear was sentenced to serve ninety-nine years in the state penitentiary. George had no words after learning of his fate other than to say, "I'm sorry."

If asked about their fifty years of marriage, each man and woman would undoubtedly tell you that those years of matrimony were filled with good and bad days. There were arguments and there were tears, but there were also smiles and laughter. There was sadness and there was joy but, when all is said and done, those married couples of fifty years would surely say that those five decades together were indeed golden, maybe all save George.

Stan Fine is a retired police officer and Verizon Security Department investigator who, after retiring in 2006, moved from Tampa, Fla., to Noel. Stan's connection to Noel can be traced back to his grandparents, who lived most of their lives there. Stan began writing after the passing of his wife Robin in 2013. The opinions expressed are those of the author.

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