Ann and Roger Ireland recently celebrated their 71st wedding anniversary.

Special to Iredell Free News

Roger and Ann Ireland have shared a lifetime of love and happiness together. Their remarkable story recently took an unexpected turn when a car accident landed them in Iredell Health System’s Hospital-Based Skilled Nursing Facility.

But amidst the facility’s walls and the challenges of recovery, Roger and Ann found themselves celebrating a milestone that few couples will reach – their 71st anniversary.

The skilled nursing staff, moved by Roger and Ann’s unwavering devotion to one another and magical love story, organized a heartfelt celebration to celebrate their anniversary. The theme was “Believe in Magic.”

As they sat surrounded by balloons, friends, and delicious treats, Roger and Ann reminisced on their seven decades of marriage. It was evident that their love had only deepened with each passing year.

Ann met Roger when she was 14 years old. He was a cook at Harmony Cafe, where Ann and her family frequented after Sunday church service.

“Roger had his little white hat and apron on, and when I saw him, I knew I did not want any other boy. I just wanted him,” said Ann.

Roger, who was also 14 at the time, felt the same exact way. They believe it was a true instance of love at first sight.

“I loved her the first time I ever laid my eyes on her. When she came to cafe after church, I saw her and said to myself, ‘Someday I am going to marry that girl,’ ” Roger recalled.

Being only 14, Ann’s father would not let her date Roger. However, Roger, recognizing the uniqueness of their love and unwillingness to lose Ann, started going to her church so they could spend more time together.

“My family kept us in the church all the time, so whenever I met Roger, he started coming to our church. That’s the only way I could see him. When the church doors opened, he was always there.”

Four years later, on January 29, three days after Ann’s 18th birthday, Roger and Ann got married.

“When she turned 18, I picked her up in my daddy’s brand-new Chevrolet, drove it to York, South Carolina, and married my girl,” said Roger.

They did not have a traditional wedding ceremony and, in fact, Roger paid the judge $6 to officiate their union, marrying the love of his life.

“I only paid the judge $6, but she is worth more than any amount of money,” said Roger. “I married an angel. You’re my angel,” Roger told Ann as he held her hand.

When they first got married, the couple moved to Statesville, and then in 1962, they built their forever
home and settled in Union Grove.

As the years progressed, their family grew, and they welcomed four sons. Roger worked in a cotton mill and later at Southern Screw Co. in Statesville. He also helped prepare and clear the land where Iredell Memorial Hospital was built. Ann worked for 31 years in a factory finishing room.

The Irelands renewed their wedding vows on their 50th anniversary.

Since they never had a traditional wedding, Roger and Ann renewed their vows in a ceremony for their 50th anniversary, reminding each other of their enduring love and devotion.

“We’ve had a great life together. Putting God first in our relationship is what has kept us together. That really helps a marriage,” said Ann.

“We’ve had a happy, blessed time ever since we got married,” added Roger.

As they reflect on their 71 years of marriage, Ann and Roger agree that their faith has played a huge role in their success.

“We’ve been together 71 years, but when we go to heaven, we’ll spend an eternity together,” said Ann.

Ann was discharged from skilled nursing on Saturday, February 3, while Roger continues to recover.

“I’m doing a whole lot better. Roger is still recovering and taking his therapy. We’re hoping he can get strong enough to go all the way through it. But the staff here are wonderful, I couldn’t have asked for anything better. I’ll never forget this anniversary party they threw us,” said Ann.

About Iredell Health System

Iredell Health System includes Iredell Memorial Hospital; Iredell Mooresville; two urgent care centers; Iredell Home Health; Iredell Wound Care & Hyperbaric Center; Community and Corporate Wellness; Occupational Medicine; the Iredell Physician Network and more. Iredell Memorial Hospital is the largest and only nonprofit hospital in Iredell County. The comprehensive healthcare facility has 247 beds; more than 1,800 employees; and has 260 physicians representing various specialties. Centers of excellence include Women’s and Children’s; Cardiovascular; Cancer; Surgical Services and Wellness & Prevention. The Health System’s second campus, Iredell Mooresville, is home to the area’s only 24-hour urgent care facility, as well as an ambulatory surgery center, imaging center, rehabilitation services, and physician practices. The mission of Iredell Health System is to inspire wellbeing. For a comprehensive list of services and programs, visit