Couple celebrates 63 years

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 28, 2001

When Celestine Riley and Prince "Tut" Marsh played together as small children, one of Celestine's favorite games was playing "grown-ups" in their makeshift playhouse.

"I was the wife' and Tut was my husband'," the senior citizen says with a positively girlish grin.

"Of course, I didn't realize it was going to be the REAL thing."

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On February 6, 1938, 14-year-old Celestine and 17-year-old Tut made it official when Justice of the Peace Charlie Morgan married them.

The couple, life-long residents of rural eastern Butler County, quietly celebrated their 63rd wedding anniversary last week.

Celestine Marsh, though a woman of small stature, is well known for her giant-sized heart.

She is familiar to many Greenville citizens through her more than 20 years of service as a cook and housekeeper for Mrs. Glenn Stanley in the big white-columned antebellum house on Commerce St.

Marsh gifted the Stanley household with her outstanding cooking skills (it's rumored she makes the tastiest cheese straws in Butler County.)

Those culinary abilities were honed at an early age.

"We had a big family . . . everybody would head out early to work in the fields.

Somebody had to feed all those hungry folks," she explains.

So the diminutive eight-year-old Marsh would climb atop a sturdy bucket and prepare a meal on the stovetop.

"I have to say God taught me how to cook over the years," smiles Marsh, whose skill also came in handy feeding the couple's five children-Jesse, Marie, Rufus, Gracie Bee, and Earley-and many, many friends and acquaintances.

More than a few party, wedding and anniversary celebrants have enjoyed her God-given talent over the years.

Tut Marsh, whose lean, straight-postured frame belies his 80 years, has helped feed more than a few hungry folks in his time, too.

An avid gardener, he tills and tends his plot throughout the year.

Turnips, tomatoes, sweet potatoes and many more fresh vegetables have been planted, harvested and shared with family, friends and neighbors by this gentleman.

Whether he's piloting a tractor, driving nails or employing a pair of hedge clippers, Tut Marsh is one hard working 80-year-old.

Keep in mind, he does it all with the use of one arm.

"I lost my [left] arm in a saw mill accident when I was 17.

It was cut off one Monday.

Next Monday, I was back at the mill," he recalls.

Marsh's strong work ethic is noted throughout the community. "Tut works harder and gets more done than a lot of younger, healthier folks do with two good arms," says long-time family friend and neighbor, Ova Killough.

Both the Marshes have served the community through their 21-year involvement in the Butler County Foster Parent's Association, from which they've received many citations.

The couple has two foster daughters, Cassandra and Renee Gulley.

The Marsh's large extended family includes 40 grandchildren, 94 great-grandchildren and 29 great-great grandchildren of their own. (Mr. Marsh has a daughter and several grandchildren from a previous relationship.)

Celestine Marsh has served the spiritual needs of area residents for many years.

An ordained minister since 1976, she doesn't have far to travel to her church, since the lovingly cared-for cement block building is right next door to the couple's shady mobile home.

The lady minister has long been known as a dynamic "prayer warrior" who, according to neighbors, will leave a person in need "well and truly prayed for".

As well as being spiritual "fishers of men", the Marshes loved to spend time along local creek banks with a cane pole, hoping to catch the "big one".

"Oh, yes ma'am-we sure loved to go fishing in our time," they both chuckle.

In recent years, health problems have taken a certain toll on this always-active couple.

Celestine Marsh's wistful words will surely strike a chord with other seniors:

"I'm just not able to do like I used to . . . and that really hurts when I can't be with people and help and serve them like I want to."

Be assured this team isn't giving up.

Tut Marsh is busily preparing a big spring garden.

And Celestine?

She knows there is always another soul out there, standing in the need of prayer-and a plate of crispy fried chicken, peas and cornbread.