Mark Mathews has an eye for detail, and he liked every little thing about Beth Seward from the first time he saw the back of her head.
Beth was new to Northeast High School in North Little Rock in 1972 — she and her family had just moved from Memphis — when he began noticing her in his study hall every day.
“I was intrigued because she always had interesting barrettes and stuff in the back of her hair,” says Mark, who like Beth was a junior that year. “She could almost sit on her hair — it was really long — and she always had some kind of barrette or [decorative] comb or whatever.”
He started seeing her in the halls, and he sometimes saw her at the pizza joint with her friends after Friday night football games.
He had been trying to figure out how to approach her for a while by then.
“She was always wandering off with someone else,” he says.
He finally had an opportunity to talk with her, while they were both at Young Life.
“I was playing the guitar so I had a chance to get up and show out in front of her a little bit,” he says.
Mark was so nervous when he went to pick her up for their first date that he temporarily forgot her name when her intimidating father opened the door.
“I totally blanked out. I said, ‘I’m here to pick up your number one daughter,'” Mark says. “He’s got four daughters and he said all his daughters were number one.”
He also drove the wrong way down a one-way street on the way to the movie theater where they went to watch “Play Misty for Me.”
Once they arrived, they both spotted — and reached for — a $20 bill on the ground.
“She said, ‘OK. You can have it if you take me to see Ike and Tina Turner with it next weekend,'” Mark says.
After they saw the duo play at Barton Coliseum, says Beth, they were definitely an item.
“We were both big movie buffs and loved music,” she says. “We went to the movies any time there was a new movie. My parents were kind of strict so we didn’t get to stay out late.”
Mark went to Arkansas State University at Jonesboro following high school graduation, and Beth went to school in Memphis.
“He pretty much came to Memphis every weekend because Memphis had a lot more going on,” Beth says. “Then I couldn’t stand the separation and I transferred to ASU to be with him.”
The summer before their senior year, Beth took a nannying job in New York and Mark worked at a beach resort in Hilton Head, S.C.
“We just decided we would take a little space. It just was to see how much we missed each other and how we wanted to go forward,” she says. “Of course, at the end of the summer I flew to Hilton Head and stayed with him and we were as tight as ever.”
They graduated from ASU in 1977, and several of their friends who had been dating got married right away.
“That just was not our thing,” Beth says. “We kind of wanted to get out, get jobs and explore, and so we didn’t get married until 1979.”
They settled in North Little Rock, where she was working for a bank and he was working for a photographer.
Her parents had moved to Fort Smith while she was in college, and Mark went with her to celebrate the holidays in 1978.
“My brother and all my sisters were there, everybody was there,” Beth says. “He popped the question in front of the whole family.”
They had shopped for rings and though she didn’t know for sure he would propose then, she did have an inkling.
“I had a pretty strong feeling,” she says.
They exchanged their vows on Aug. 11, 1979, in First Presbyterian Church in Argenta.
There was a reception across the street at the North Little Rock Junior League House, and they left the next day for their honeymoon in Mexico City, Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo, Mexico.
Beth’s decision to keep her last name was unconventional for the time, but she was proud of her family’s heritage and stuck to her resolve. William Henry Seward, who served as secretary of state under Abraham Lincoln, was a relative, she explains, and that history is a source of pride for her family.
Their son, Houston, lives in Nashville, Tenn.
“He’s a musician and also a videographer,” she says. “He works on music videos. He’s worked on some really interesting and fun ones.”
Beth recently retired as director of communications for the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences Department of Otolaryngology. Mark is a commercial photographer and videographer.
Seeing concerts and movies are still things they enjoy doing. Over the years, they have seen Santana, Billy Joel, Paul McCartney, Lenny Kravitz, Ed Sheeran and so many more.
“We also always take a trip, at least a couple, every year,” she says. “We always took vacations with our son. We just love to go and explore together.”
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The first time I saw my future spouse:
She says: “He was creative — a musician — and had a great head of hair and a good smile.”
He says: “I saw the back of her head. But then I noticed she dressed differently from all the other girls. She had plenty of mini dresses but she would also have a midi dress, which nobody was wearing at the time.”
On our wedding day:
She says: “I was really nervous. I wore my wedding dress, with a fabulous, huge, long train. I was the first one to wear it and we had kind of changed just a little of the lace around the neck.”
He says: “We weren’t leaving for our honeymoon until the next day, so we stayed out late with our friends after the wedding.”
My advice for a long happy marriage:
She says: “Communication. Don’t go to bed angry. And if you can make each other laugh, that’s great, too.”
He says: “There has to be mutual respect.”