Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Features

December 29, 2013

The girl next door

Elmer Byers and Kathy Tilley were next-door neighbors when the teens fell in love

(Continued)

By the time Kathy turned 20, the couple had had four girls, and soon another three baby girls joined the Byers family. They moved to bigger homes to accommodate their growing family. Elmer worked long hours to try and provide enough money for them.

“It didn’t seem like I was making anything,” he said.

“Back in those days you were lucky to make three or four thousand dollars a year,” Kathy said. “That’s not a lot of money to raise a family.”

While Elmer was busy at work, Kathy was just as busy taking care of their seven daughters. It was hard for the young mother at times.

“It wasn’t easy trying to raise them, and it was mainly by myself,” Kathy said. “He came home long enough to eat and sleep before he was gone again.”

Even though they had their fair share of financial problems, Elmer and Kathy said they rarely fought about anything in those days. Life started to get a little bit easier to handle for the Byerses. In fact, after their youngest daughter graduated, Kathy went back to school and got her GED.

There were many happy moments during their marriage, but there have been some sad ones, too. Over the years, the Byerses have lost four of their girls.

“It wasn’t easy,” Kathy said. “It was very hard. Out of the seven, we still have three living.”

Kathy and Elmer became very depressed and their relationship with each other suffered because of it.

“It kinda drew us apart instead of closer together,” Kathy said. “I don’t know how we did it. I guess it was just the Lord who helped us get through it. Otherwise we would not have made it.”

Moving into a smaller house also helped the Byers cope with their losses, and it helped them become close to each other again.

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