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72-Year-Old Woman Marries 20-Year-Old Man

On June 5, 1926, Mary E. Mouring and Roy Hinton Matthews were married in Newport News, Virginia. Their romance began when the two met at a funeral that was being held in the boarding house where Mrs. Matthews lived.

The newlyweds then spent two days honeymooning at a Roanoke hotel before returning home. Lots of people get married each and every day of the year but few have the news of their nuptials published in newspapers across the entire nation.

Clearly, there was something unusual about their marriage. It wasn’t that the two hadn’t known each other very long. The bride told a reporter, “We have known each other for about two months.” Yet, some people have been married hours after meeting one another, so there was nothing unusual about this.

It also wasn’t this was Mary’s third marriage. Born in North Carolina, she married her first husband when she was sixteen years old. Her second husband, Thomas R. Mouring, had passed away nine months prior. Again, there was nothing unusual with this, since many have been married shortly after losing a spouse.

What got the couple in the press was their great age difference. Roy had just turned 20 and Mary was 72 years old. A 52-year age difference may not be a world record, but it was highly unusual.

The bride seemed very happy with her decision to marry Roy. She told the reporter of another couple that had a 54-year age gap and that they had been happily married for several years. “I don’t think we have made a mistake.” Mary added, “I’ve always said that I expected to live to be 100 years old – if I do, that leaves us twenty-eight years and we expect to be happy together.”

Would the marriage last? The overall odds were certainly against these newlyweds. Sadly, the marriage failed.
While there is no record of exactly what happened, Ancestry does have a copy of their divorce certificate. Mary was the one who asked for the divorce. After 4 years, 11 months, and 6 days of marriage, their wedded union ended on May 11, 1931. The reason Mary gave for the divorce was adultery.

Roy went on to remarry in 1933 and had one daughter. He passed away on November 28, 1956, at fifty years of age.

Did Mary make it to one hundred years of age? I was unable to locate any information on her after the divorce, so I am uncertain. There was a one-line legal notice in the December 24, 1945, publication of the Newport News Daily Press that read, “Estate of Mary E. Matthews, Address Unknown.” Assuming that is the correct Mary E. Matthews, she would have been approximately ninety-one years of age. Not quite one hundred years, but close.

Divorce certificate for Mary and Roy Matthews.
Divorce certificate for Mary and Roy Matthews.
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