Closer Look

Love is still in the air for these Macon County couples

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Deena Bouknight

Valentine’s Day has some speculative origins, but the contemporary understanding is that it is a day to pause and reflect on relational love. A few couples in Macon County, whose families’ generational roots run deep, offered to take a moment to remember how they met many years ago – and to ponder the success of their enduring marriages.

Denton and Myra Higdon

At least since before the Civil War, Higdons have lived in Macon County. Denton Higdon met his wife, Myra Dills, more than a half century ago. In fact, the couple celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary two years ago. 

“We first met in 1969 at Helen’s Barn in Highlands,” said Denton. “Shortly afterwards, she and her family moved to Canton. It would be three years before I found her again and that was by chance. I was in Army boot camp at Fort Knox, Ky. I wrote her a letter and spelled her first and last name wrong and sent it to the wrong address in Canton. But she got the letter, and I credit that to a postal worker who was a veteran.”


The couple just “knew” they were right for each other, and when Denton returned to Western North Carolina on leave, thinking that he would soon be shipped off to the Vietnam War, he married Myra. Yet, he ended up being stationed in Seattle, Wash., and then Alaska, so he eventually packed up Myra and moved her to Alaska to be with him for the remainder of his military service.

“Then, on Dec. 5, 1973, we had twin boys, Todd and Travis, which strengthened our bond. After being discharged from the Army, we came back to Franklin,” said Denton.

He added, “We attribute our love and dedication to each other to God. Also, during our first two years of marriage, we were living far away from home. I have no doubt that this strengthened our bond and dependency on each other.”

Riley and Wanda Henry

Riley and Wanda Henry have known each other since they were teenagers. A neighborly friendship developed first, since their families lived close to one another in the Ellijay community of Macon County. Wanda’s family had moved to Ellijay after their Mountain Grove home burned. 


“The first thing I noticed when her family moved to our area was how beautiful she was,” said Riley.

Love came next, and the couple were married in 1962.

“We have always just gotten along so well because we have so much in common. We love history, genealogy, collecting antiques, and traveling,” said Riley. “I put on Facebook the other day that she’s now my favorite antique. And, she’s one of the best cooks that’s ever been; so appreciative of that.”

The couple has gardened together, volunteered with Meals on Wheels, and even collaborated on a book about one of Wanda’s notorious family members: Frankie Silver – who was hanged in Western North Carolina during the summer of 1833 for killing and dismembering her husband, Charlie. The couple worked with local writer Danita Stoudemire to compile “A Life for Nancy,” which is about Frankie Silver’s daughter, who is buried at a cemetery on Onion Mountain in Macon County. 

“It’s been a good life,” added Riley, pointing out that they have been married 61-plus years, and are still going strong. “For our ages (he is in his 80s and she is in her 70s), we are doing great!”

Scotty and Nikki Corbin

Scotty and Nikki Corbin have known each other since childhood. 

“She was one of my cousin’s best friends, so we would play together on the swing set in the yard, go to VBS [Vacation Bible School] in the summer, and just play together as little kids,” said Scotty, general manager/artistic director at Smoky Mountain Center for the Performing Arts. “We also did some shows together in middle school and high school, including one time playing brother and sister.”


The irony was not lost on the couple when they finally got together and pursued a relationship.

“Time passes … we each go do our own thing: college, jobs, etc., and we see each other in passing,” explained Scotty. “She had just moved back to town and I was getting ready to do a summer musical. She decided to join in the play group, and after a few years, we ended up together and married. It’s really funny when you look back at all the time we spent together as kids and not having a clue what the future held. Just goes to show, you never know.”

Scotty credits common interests and family as key to their strong relationship.

“Nikki and I are a lot alike; we have many similar interests, our families are very important, and we like going places with fun people,” he said. “We live a very busy lifestyle with work, so it is really important on our off time to make sure we make time to have fun (no matter how simple or extravagant) together. The biggest thing between us, I’ve noticed over the years, is I make sure Nikki is always safe. I’m her protector – physically, mentally, emotionally, creatively. She can always know that whatever she might try or struggle with, I will always be there to push her along or pick her up if she needs backup.”

One aspect of the relationship that benefits Scotty is that “Nikki is my greatest cheerleader,” he shared. “When I have doubts or frustrations, she always makes me feel like I can accomplish anything. A lot of times, she’s so good at making me believe in myself. She also needs to reel me back into reality. We both know that we were created to make the other one a better person. Plus, making another person happy is just a lot of fun.”

Joe and Claire Suminski

Although Joe and Claire Suminski are not natives to Macon County, they have lived in the area – and contributed greatly through business (Dometrics, Inc.) and community involvement – since moving to Franklin in 1991.

The couple met through a Bible Study group when they were 20. They became engaged while completing college and were married one week after graduation, on July 23, 1985. Five days later, they were settling into a tiny apartment and new jobs.


“It was a whirlwind, but well worth the wait,” said Claire. “We both had a strong desire to build a family, and three years later our daughter, Annie, was born. Jamy, Jerome, and Molly were born at the Sylva hospital, with Jamy trying to make her debut as we went over Cowee Mountain. Our foster son, Stanley, joined us a few years later and our quiver was full!”

Despite adversity that Claire pointed out “every couple faces,” she said the key to the Suminski marriage has been keeping “God at the center … through all of life’s ups and downs.”

She added, “As we approach our 39th anniversary, here is my ‘marriage cake recipe for success’: Put the most work into the bottom layer and lay a strong foundation by seeking God first. In the next layer, love and care for your spouse, instead of letting the kids run the show. Add layers of hard work and service. Frost in between the layers and all over the cake with unconditional love, forgiveness, and thankfulness, and sprinkle the top with romance and good humor. In the end, it is love that makes this recipe a first-place, blue-ribbon winner and has really worked for us!