By Samantha Lambert
“May your troubles be less and your blessings be more, and nothing but happiness come through your door.”
– Irish Blessing
Longtime Fort Walton Beach residents Mary Beth and Cyril Clancy celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary in January. The couple still lives in the house they bought in 1959 and raised six children in. They are now the adored grandparents of 15 grandchildren with their first great-grandchild on the way this summer.
Cyril—or just Clancy as he is known to friends—was born in 1929 in Fordham, New York. When he was three years old, his mother took Clancy and his sister back to the family farm in Carickmacross, Ireland to live with his grandmother and his other brothers and sisters. Clancy was number seven of eight siblings. He came back to the states on Labor Day in 1947 with three of his brothers and one sister, and one travel bag between them.
Clancy worked as a pageboy at the Hampshire House, which faced Central Park in New York City. In November of 1950, he joined the Air Force and was stationed in Texas, Alabama, Greenland and then Newfoundland, Canada. He was a medic whose job was to transport patients from Greenland to Newfoundland and back.
Mary Beth (Betty) Manning was born in 1930 and raised in St. John’s, Newfoundland. Her grandfather came there in 1790 after leaving Ireland. She earned her nursing degree in New York and was a public health nurse in St. John’s. She would travel to fishing outposts via dog sled to care for and treat fishermen and others who needed medical assistance. “I did everything from delivering babies to pulling teeth,” says Betty.
The Clancys met at a squadron picnic in St. John’s. They dated for about four months before becoming engaged. “I gave Betty an engagement ring while we were in a movie theater, because I didn’t want her to see the size of it.” Clancy says with a laugh.
“It was a lovely ring!” Betty adds.
They were married in January of 1957 and sent to Eglin Air Force Base shortly after. Their first child was born at the end of 1957. Betty went to work at the old Fort Walton Beach Hospital in the ER. After that hospital closed, she opened Fort Walton Beach Extended Care as the director of nursing. She would later work with Elder Services and with the Okaloosa Medical Assistance Clinic.
Clancy left the Air Force in 1971 and went to work at the new Humana Hospital. He was an Occupational Therapist in the mental health unit until he retired. He coached his children in Little League, helped build the Shalimar Little League, and was active in the Boy Scouts of America.
The Clancys would take all six of their children on a 3,000-mile trip in a camper to St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada during the summer.
“We accidentally left our son Michael, who was five at the time, at a rest stop on one trip. We were about a mile down the road when we realized it and went back and got him,” says Clancy.
When the Clancys retired in the early 2000s, they traveled to Ireland every May. They also bought a motor home and traveled to St. John’s, Newfoundland many times. In June 2006, Betty suffered a stroke and had to begin using a wheelchair.
That didn’t slow her down. The following June, the couple took another trip to Montreal and Newfoundland. Their daughters took turns meeting them at points along the way and stayed with Clancy and Betty to help.
“We always did a lot as a family,” says eldest child Aileen Clancy Ruess. “We would travel, have picnics, and camp in a tent on weekends at state parks. My husband, children and I have traveled in RVs many times over the years with my parents.”
Clancy continues to travel to Ireland every year to visit his family on the farm where he was raised. He has taken many of his grandchildren with him on those trips. Both he and Betty agree that couples should get on the road and travel. “Don’t argue,” says Betty. “We never had time to argue.”
At their 60th anniversary party with family and friends, Clancy gifted Betty with a new diamond wedding set. This time it was in broad daylight, where she could see the size and how beautiful it was.
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