A marriage lasting for 70 years just doesn’t happen every day. When it does, there should be a celebration commemorating that lifetime accomplishment. The great folks at Oakbrook Nursing Home thought the same thing. So on June 13, exactly 70 years later, friends and family gathered together to honor James Hampton Daniels and Irena Mae Gomez Daniels.
Mr. and Mrs. Daniels are both residents of Oakbrook. Mr. Daniels has been there a year and Mrs. Daniels has been residing for two years.
They met while attending Alva High School. Both played basketball, and Irena was real good. She was small (about 5 foot), real fast, and was a good shooter too. Mr. Daniels chuckled and said that when Alva played LaBelle there was always an argument about who was going to guard Irena. She was just that good.
Not only did James and Irena get along good, but he was attracted to her lifestyle. She was brought up in a Christian home and he wasn’t.
Mr. Daniels graduated in 1947, and the two of them wanted to get married. Being two years behind him in age, Irena was underage and couldn’t get married without a parent’s permission. So James, Irena and both their mothers hopped in the car and came to LaBelle to get these two married. They were united in marriage on Friday, June 13, 1947, by Judge Harris with a state patrol officer serving as the witness.
Mr. Daniels stated that he came to the Lord in 1956, but that being a preacher was not for him. A year or two thereafter, Irena was diagnosed with an aneurysm which was putting pressure on the pituitary gland. The only option was surgery to try to save her. This particular surgery had only been performed once before at this hospital, and that patient had died. It was touch and go for Irena. At one point, James goes to the chapel to pray. In his prayer, he tells the Lord that he will do whatever He wants him to do. If He wants him to become a preacher, then he will become a preacher. All he wanted was for Irena to get well. While he was still on his knees praying, a hand was placed on his shoulder. The hand belonged to a nurse who had come to get him as Irena was better.
Being a man of his word, James Daniels began preaching the Gospel by having revivals in different areas. Then he was approached by a pastor in Alva, who stated that he was moving to Groveland to minister to a church there. The pastor stated that he had asked different members of his congregation who they wanted to take his place. They all stated that they wanted James Daniels. This was how Mr. Daniels’ obtained his first church, and over the years there have been four or five more. He was pastor at the Church of God in LaBelle from 1986 to 1991.
This union produced two sons and two daughters. Both sons, Don and Earl, have passed away. Daughter Betty lives in Tennessee, and Kathy lives in Fort Myers.
While sitting at the honorees’ table at the party, James holds Irena’s hand, and she looks at him with adoring eyes. The love that began for the two of them over 70 years ago is still there for everyone to see.