Here at West Virginia Public Broadcasting, there is a man who works at our station who has become something of a legend. Frank Stowers is a part time host of our classical music programming. Roxy Todd sat down with Frank and his wife of 67 years, Emita Stowers, to hear their story.
***Editor's Note: The following has been lightly edited for clarity.
FRANK STOWERS: Our having met and married is almost like a fairy tale. Emita came to the states for a couple of years to study, and then had just gone back to Mexico and started working as an English-Spanish secretary, when I appeared on the scene to participate in a work camp, somewhat like the Peace Corps, run by the Methodist Church, in the mountains of Puebla. And at the end of that summer, I was so taken with the experience that I decided to remain in Mexico and do graduate work in Latin American studies. And so it turns out she spent two years in the states, and I spent two years in Mexico.
We met in the Methodist Church in Mexico City, in the choir.
EMITA STOWERS: I was always singing in the choir. And their rehearsal was every Wednesday or Thursday, and I was sitting there in the rows, and all of a sudden, somebody was touching my hair. I had long hair. And I turn around and there was Frank (laughs). And I didn't say anything, and he didn't say anything. But then, after rehearsal, the whole group went out and had some coffee in some of these coffee shops around the church. So that's how we met then. We started talking.
Q: How many years ago was this? How long have you two been married?
ES: It is 67 years ago.
FS: People wonder how a relationship like that could last for 67 years. It's been easy. She's a great wife, a wonderful mother, and she's my best friend. And besides, we are thoroughly married. When you marry in Mexico, no first thing you discover is that there is complete separation of church and state. And so we were married in a government office. And then a month later we married in the church. Of course, the reason for the time lapse is she had to have time to have her papers fixed in order to be able to come to the states. But it was rather cute because during that month's time, she didn't know whether to call herself Mrs. Stowers or if she was still in Miss Sanchez. But that was really an interesting experience because things are just reversed down there. The man holds is the rehearsal ceremony. And no mom just shows up. Our relationship I think is unique. It mean to spend enough time in the states, and she came to love Americans and things in this country, the language, the literature, all the things that represent the United States. I in turn, I fell deeply in love with everything related to Mexico. I love the language, the literature, the history, the music, the customs, I could have remained there and been perfectly happy. So we had an awful lot in common from the very beginning that I think we just created, glued and stuck us together, we enjoyed too much of the same things.
There was one other thing, since we're talking about Valentine's Day and romance. It was the custom while I was there, and it probably still exists, that if a fella has a girlfriend that he really cares about, he will take a group of friends or maybe a professional band and you serenade under her window at night. And there were several guys in the church choir that were dating at that time. And we all went out and sang under our girls’ windows. Now the interesting thing is that if for some reason, the girl is not too pleased with this, she could follow up by dumping water on the guys from her window. Fortunately, that never happened to me (laughs).
Q: Was there a song in particular you remember singing beneath Emita's window?
FS: Well, there's one in particular Roxy. Imagine, on a moonlight night. You're standing in your window, and your sweetheart is down below with his friends. And they’re singing this song. It's one that folks in this country know pretty well. It's called “Estrellita”, or “Little Star”.
The words to this song are:
Little star, come down and tell me that you love me a little
Because I can't live without your love
You are Little star, my beacon of love.
Come down, and tell me that you love me just a little
Because I can't live without your love
That's typical of love songs in Mexico. And that is a very romantic experience.
Q: And Emita, do you have any advice on how to keep a relationship like this going, after all these years?
ES: Well, in the first place we love each other, and that's very important. And you just have to trust each one as we, as the time goes by, and adjust to the living. Because, you know, neither of us had been married before, and it was new for both of us. But then it was not difficult. It was easy because we trust each other, and we love each other. And we wanted to have a nice marriage. Sometimes when we are in different places and they know that I am from Mexico and Frank is American, they want to know how come we have lasted so long. And if you trust somebody and love somebody, you don't have any problems at all.
FS: I think the important thing is that you have to think of the other person. As long as you're wrapped up in your own interests and your own concerns and your own activities and shut the other person out—that can almost guarantee problems. But if you live with the other person always in your mind, and you are concerned about making life better for that person, no matter how many years go by, that's almost a guarantee of a successful marriage. She's a great gal, and I do it over again.
Q: Frank, you do classical music here at West Virginia Public Broadcasting. Is there a song that you can think of that symbolizes your relationship with your wife, or the romance that you guys have had?
FS: Yes, right. He had to have to say that he took a piece called “Lisboa Antigua”, or "In Old Lisbon". It was quite popular in Mexico in the 50s. And was played frequently in places where we would go dancing, and it soon became our song.