The Sopers: A Lasting Love


Love Soper


To endure, love must adapt to the many stages of life, from the birth of children to the death of parents, financial ups and downs, and the changing mores of a society in flux. Monthly recently caught up with Mike and Bess Soper to see if this well-known Bluffton couple could share the secrets to their long, happy marriage.

Where and when did you meet?

Bess. We were both freshman at Athens College, a small liberal arts school in Athens, Alabama. It was in a dry county. This was 1970.

Mike. We met through an older couple — friends of my dad — who invited us both over for dinner.

Was it love at first site, at this dinner?

Bess. It was a disaster — it was too staged.

Mike. You had to sit there and eat properly. It wasn’t a lot of fun. But we saw each other around campus, and eventually started dating after her dad asked me to do some work for him.

Bess. My family was in the cotton business. He used to hire city boys to unload soybean trucks.



How would you describe yourself when you started dating?

Bess. I was very much a free spirit.

Mike. I was pretty laid-back. I’m still pretty laid-back.

What was your first challenge as a couple?

Mike. We dated for three years and then we broke up for five. It was all my fault. She moved to Birmingham and I continued to write cards to her, but she stayed in touch with everybody except me. I called to ask her to dinner when I found out I was going to be in Birmingham on business. She said no.

Bess. My older sister was coaching me. She said, “Make him work for it.”

Obviously, your persistence wore her down since you’ve been married 38 years. How did you end up in the Lowcountry?

Mike. I had decided to move to Hilton Head Island because I was getting out of the furniture business and my sister lived on the island. It was Christmas Eve of 1978, and I asked Bess to move with me.

Bess. I thought it was Fantasyland. I was thrilled.

At what point did the children come?

Bess. McLeod is 30 now and Gray is 28. When they were little, we couldn’t have done it without our night nanny, who was a nurse at the hospital. I was working almost every night and Mike was on Daufuskie all the time.

What happened when you decided to move your family from Hilton Head to Bluffton?

Bess. People said, “What in the world do you want to go to Bluffton for? Nobody’s out there.”

Mike. She called me when she was with the Realtor looking at three acres on Rose Dhu Creek. She said, “I’ve found everything you want, I want and the boys could ever want.”

What activities do you enjoy doing together now?

Mike. Boating on the May River. We have a 21-foot Carolina skiff that’s perfect for these waters.

Bess. We love to walk in Bluffton, and to go out to dinner. I cook for the two of us every night, but on weekends we like to go out.

What have been some of the most stressful times in your marriage?

Bess. Having teenagers is tough in this area.

Mike. Selling our current house. We’re downsizing.

What advice would you give to a young couple just starting out?

Bess. Constant communication. Faith. Be active at church.

Mike. Don’t get over excited. Keep a level head. Tomorrow is a new day.

Bess. Spend a lot of time together. We do so much together.

Mike. We’re not connected at the hip, but we’re not far. We enjoy each other’s company.