Only through the grace of God
Madison couple Henry and Louellen
Besudan reflect on 58 years together
story & portrait
by Angelina Bellebuono
You watch them as they tell stories. One speaks. The other listens. They sit in identical recliners, separated only by an end table adorned with neat stacks of magazines. She talks of two children, five grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren, of her sister who lives across the street, of the friends they have found and kept through the years. He adds a detail here and there, but mostly he waits for a moment to crack a joke. Then they laugh, and you will notice the light in her eyes and the sparkle in his. It is this unique dance of love and friendship that has been nurtured in their 58 years of marriage, and, according the Henry and Louellen Besudan, it is performed entirely to the rhythm of God’s love.
“She chased me till she caught me.”
He chuckles when he says this. Louellen has a different tale. More than 58 years ago, she was a chief telephone operator in Barnesville. Henry attended Gordon Military College, and he was asked by a friend who was dating Louellen at the time to keep her company while he did some recreational flying on a Sunday afternoon.
Ever gallant Henry obliged his friend and spent the afternoon with Louellen. Eventually, she agreed to a date with Henry, but he still recollects that Louellen dated all his friends before she got around to going out with him.
Neither recalls what they did on their first date. But they both remember the vehicle Henry was driving.
“It was a pulpwood truck. I had scrubbed it clean and went over to pick her up. She couldn’t get it in,” he says. “I had to give her a boost.”
“I remember seeing the truck and thinking it was enormous,” Louellen says.
During their courtship, the two went dancing six nights out of seven at the Thomaston VFW club, although Henry swears that once Louellen caught him, she didn’t want to dance anymore.
“But I’ll dance with any lady who wants to dance,” he says. Louellen doesn’t seem to mind.
“We have met so many people. We have had so many blessings.”
In 1978, after 30 years with Carter’s Children’s Clothing, Henry retired. Two years later, Louellen, who had returned to the workforce after motherhood, retired from General Tire and Rubber Company. With time on their hands, and their faith ever strong, they decided to volunteer with the North American Mission Board, the domestic missions agency of the Southern Baptist Convention.
For more than seven years, they traveled twice monthly to different cities across the United States where they assisted with setting up for orientation training sessions for new volunteers. Through their work, they met pastors and Christian volunteers, and had more than a few encounters that reminded them of the power of their faith.
“We had several near misses, accidents that we didn’t have,” Louellen recalls. Each story comes with the accompanying details of how they were helped by a stranger or a new-found friend.
“The people we met were so precious, so sweet,” she says. “We know God was looking out for us. He does everyday.”
“She wanted to come home the whole time we were married. There just wasn’t a way for me to make a living in Madison.”
Originally from Morgan County, and a high school graduate of the Madison Graded School, it was only fitting that on January 22, 1950, Louellen McHugh and Henry Besudan were married at the altar of Madison Baptist Church. Although life took them away from Madison, Louellen had it in her heart to return. Following their time with the North American Mission Board, they found their way to Las Vegas, expecting to spend six months with their son and his family. Instead, Henry and Louellen stayed nine years.
“We were in great church and made wonderful friends,” says Louellen. They watched their grandchildren grow up, and almost three years ago, all the details worked out for them to finally return to Louellen’s roots.
“The house across the street from my sister was for sale. It was perfect,” says Louellen.
When they changed their membership to Madison Baptist, Louellen remembers thinking, ‘This is where I stood more than 50 years ago.’
“I always wanted to come home,” she says.
With their daughter and her family in Commerce, extended family in Madison and their growing friendships with fellow members of Madison Baptist, the Besudans have pleasant, full days.
“It’s not all wine and roses. It’s a lot of give and take. A lot of patience and forgiving. It’s God’s grace.”
Louellen reaches up to fix husband Henry’s hair before their picture is taken. The gesture is quick and instinctual, and Henry’s response is not one of surprise. Still, he speaks.
“We’re not getting pictures of the back of my hair,” he says. Louellen gives him a sweet smile, and he grins back at her.
“She takes care of me like my mother,” he adds.
“I know he has to put up with me,” Louellen quips back.
There is laughter.
Sometimes, explains Luellen, they will be sitting at the breakfast table and they will just start laughing for no reason at all.
“We are happy,” Henry says. “And it’s only through the grace of God’s love that you can have true happiness.”