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Peggy and Robert Branch cherish their time together
By ANNA BROWN
Peggy Branch says everybody's heard the old cliché, “it was love at first sight.”
But for Peggy and her husband, the Rev. Robert Branch, that's the way it was and still is. They will celebrate their 54th anniversary on Oct. 1. This anniversary is very special. Because of Robert's battle with cancer and some other health issues, they wondered if they would get the chance to celebrate their wedding date again. They wondered, also, if Robert would ever return to the pulpit at Tanglewood Baptist Church. They are thankful to God that both have happened.
“Our friends have been so good to us, her family has been so good and especially our church,” Robert said. “Our church has really been good to us.”
“They have done things for us that we could not even have imagined,” Peggy said. “We have (served) in four different places - Orlando, Arkansas twice, Kentucky - big churches. I am going to tell you those churches don't compare with this little church as far as the love and support.”
Peggy, the former Peggy Harris, grew up in Union County and graduated from Jonesville High School. Robert grew up in Dadeville, Ala. The two met while Peggy was working for Eastern Airlines in Atlanta and Robert was working for a heating and air conditioning company. Both said their meeting had to be arranged by God.
“She was dating my best friend,” Robert said.
Robert had never seen Peggy up close - only riding in a car. He thought she seemed a little aloof and had made up his mind she wasn't anybody he would want to date. Then one day his friend, Bob, wouldn't let him borrow his car. That miffed him a little.
“I decided I would just call his girlfriend,” Robert said.
Peggy said the call seemed to come from out of the blue. She talked to Robert. Then he started calling every day - for three months.
She finally asked him to come over.
“I can honestly say it was love at first sight,” she said. “It was for both of us.”
They had to tell Robert's friend, who ironically now is also a Baptist minister.
“He saw how we felt and graciously bowed out and wished us well,” Peggy said.
Robert and Peggy married in Ringgold, Ga., during her two days off from work, Tuesday and Wednesday.
Robert surrendered to the ministry in 1964 while living in Atlanta. He attended Emmanuel Bible College in Atlanta and Missionary Baptist Seminary in Little Rock, Ark. He is a graduate of Landmark Baptist Institute in Simpsonville.
Robert's first pastorate was Howie Mine Baptist Church in Waxhaw, N.C. He also has pastored churches in South Carolina, Florida, Arkansas and Kentucky. He returned to Union in 1998 to pastor Tanglewood Baptist Church. He also was pastor of the church when the present building was constructed in 1972.
Robert has had his share of health problems. In February of 2012 he had a heart attack and was flown by helicopter to Spartanburg Regional Medical Center. His treatment included having a defibrillator/pacemaker installed.
In the fall of 2015, Robert wasn't feeling well. He didn't tell Peggy. He went to see Dr. David Keith. Keith sent him to the hospital for tests. Keith didn't feel the results told the whole story, so he referred Bob to surgeon Dr. Tom Young at Greenville Memorial Hospital. Young practiced in Union for many years.
“They said, 'Bring him on. We've got a bed waiting on him,'” Peggy said.
Robert and Peggy said they are grateful to Keith for realizing something was wrong with Robert that tests did not initially show.
“I give Dr. Keith all the credit,” Robert said.
Robert was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Before he could undergo surgery he became severely jaundiced and suffered other complications. On Dec. 31, he developed a severe case of shingles. His surgery had to be postponed until Feb. 3.
Bob underwent “Whipple Surgery.” Studies have shown that patients who undergo a successful Whipple procedure have an increased survival rate.
According to the website webMD, the classic Whipple procedure is named after Allen Whipple, MD, a Columbia University surgeon who was the first American to perform the operation in 1935. Also known as pancreaticoduodenectomy, the Whipple procedure involves removal of the "head" (wide part) of the pancreas next to the first part of the small intestine (duodenum). It also involves removal of the duodenum, a portion of the common bile duct, gallbladder, and sometimes part of the stomach. Afterward, surgeons reconnect the remaining intestine, bile duct, and pancreas. The surgery lasted eight hours. Two cardiologists had to be brought in because Robert's heart gave complications.
Robert went to rehab. He lost around 50 pounds during his illness and his clothes no longer fit. He and Peggy went shopping for a new coat and slacks he could wear while preaching. They were coming in the back door of their home on April 16and Robert fell and fractured his left femur. He had to go to rehabilitative therapy until July 29. Since then he has fallen twice. Robert and Peggy said the Lord has taken care of him both times and no other bones were broken. They thank their neighbor, Curtis Eubanks, for helping them both times.
“He (Robert) has been through so much,” Peggy said. “You would have had to be with him to know what he has been through. He had a triple bypass in 1988. He had diverticulitis that ruptured in 1983.”
Robert and Peggy said they could not believe how many friends stopped to see Bob, including Union residents Martha Lindner and Buddy Smith, both from Bob's hometown.
“People have been praying for me from the Philippines and all over,” Robert said.
He said the staff at Heartland of Union could not have treated him better.
“They told me they never thought I would get out of there,” he said.
Peggy came to see him every day. If she wasn't there by a certain time, the nurses wanted to know where she was.
Robert returned to the pulpit in August, first in a wheelchair and now on a walker.
“It's been a long road, but it's been a happy road,” Peggy said of their marriage. “It's been a blessing.”
“She has been the best wife I could have married,” Robert said. “She has really taken care of me.”
They thanked Brother Charles Hutcherson, a church member who has filled in for Bob in the pulpit and on his WBCU radio show.
When the doctor told Bob he had cancer, they both were devastated, Peggy said. But they did not express any discouraged feelings to one another.
“His quote, one of his famous saying, which he always preaches is, 'I'm not worried about tomorrow because God is already there,'” Peggy said.
Robert, who is undergoing chemotherapy and radiation, said the hardest part of his cancer battle is not being able to be active in the community. He has also worked for two hospices in the past.
“I want to get out and go so badly,” he said.
“He just loves people,” Peggy said. “He always has.”
(Posted September 26, 2016)