Unconditional Love

“Above all, trust in the Lord and practice what the Bible guides you to do in your marriage.”  -John

By Anne Granado

True love is instant and quick in the movies, cutting past the barriers between two people. However, the movie often ends before the challenges and trials of life begin. In the real world, some of the best romances are built on friendship, and these love stories often last the longest, much like the story of John and Larkin Jarvis. The two have been married for 42 years, and in that time, they have faced many challenges, had a lot of fun, and built a life of love together. 

The couple’s story begins in Texarkana, where they grew up. John Jarvis was born and raised in Texarkana. He left to attend college at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas, but decided that the desert climate of west Texas was not for him. “And let me tell you, after living in West Texas and experiencing sand storms and flat land, it was great to get back behind the pine curtain of East Texas. After a sand storm once weakened my car’s paint, I knew this wasn’t the place for me,” John says. 

Growing up, John says he was blessed to be a part of a very loving family. His mother was a stay-at-home mom, and his father owned his own business. He also had two sisters, 11 years and 14 years older than him. “I always teased my parents that I was an accident, but they never would agree,” John says. “Our family was like a combination of Father Knows Best and Bonanza TV shows. I threw in Bonanza because Dad had a few acres with a barn and cabin on the edge of town (now in the city) where we had horses, cows, gardens, and family gatherings. We called it the ‘farm.'” 

Spending weekends on the farm “toughened” John up. “I can’t tell you how many times I was thrown from a horse or dragged by a steer while trying to halter-break it. I spent my time climbing trees, falling from trees, building fences, repairing equipment, and more,” John says. “My family loved life and people. My parents were always involved in the church, and I was blessed to grow up in a loving church family where we laughed, cried, played, and worked together while worshiping God.”

John’s parents provided an excellent model of a loving, supportive relationship; they always treated each other with respect. “I’m sure they had arguments, but they never had them in front of us kids. I witnessed their struggles, too. During tough times of illnesses and tragedies, they were rocks and persevered,” John says. “They enjoyed doing things for each other. As a child, I knew they loved and supported each other. I think that is something a child should clearly see, so they will have an example to prepare themselves for a marital relationship.” 

Across town, Larkin Pringle grew up in what we now call Pleasant Grove (PG). She attended PG school back when it was just a country school. “Back then, PG was Kindergarten through seventh grade, and we all went to school under the same roof,” Larkin says. “We were only separated by a breezeway where the buses ran through.”

Larkin also remembers sharing the same cafeteria, which made the best cinnamon yeast rolls. “Having just moved to Texarkana from Austin, Texas, this small country school shocked me. But I quickly learned to love the country living,” Larkin says. 

She was the youngest of three children and grew up watching her older brother, Jon Marc Pringle, and older sister, Jan Pringle Baker. “I tried to learn from their mistakes, or rather learn how not to get caught! They were the best teachers!” Larkin says. “Since we lived pretty far out–and when I say ‘far out,’ I mean on Tamar Drive right off of Moores Lane–there were no other neighborhoods or businesses close to us, so we were free-range kids. The DeSantis girls across the street had a two-seater bicycle, and we would meet up with our other neighbors–the Willis girls–and ride bikes through the whole ‘Wamba Shuffle.’ It took us all day long. I can’t imagine doing that now!” 

Larkin also learned a lot from watching her parents. They, too, were good role models for what a strong marriage should look like. “They never fought, or they never did in front of us. They showed affection toward each other, which is so good for kids to see and know that mom and dad love each other. They both worked full-time, so when everyone was home, it was all hands on deck. Everyone pitched in to make the household flow. They expected that of each other, and they expected that of us kids,” Larkin says. “Living in a household of five, we were able to see that if everyone works together, good things happen.” 

Maintaining good relationships when three teenagers were in the house was not always easy, but being kind was something that Larkin’s parents highly valued. “We were not allowed to be mean and say unkind things to each other. That was a rule. Once hurtful things are said, you can’t unhear them. Even when we were sick, I can remember my mom saying, ‘Even though you don’t feel good, you still can still be nice!’” Larkin says. “Watching my parents, I learned that marriage is not 50/50 or 80/20 or 60/40. It is both giving 100% and doing that consistently.”

Larkin and John crossed paths at Pine Street Junior High but didn’t notice each other. “Now, if she spent much time in the principal’s office, she would’ve seen me!” John says. “But, we actually met for the first time at Texas High School.” 

John asked Larkin on a date, but it was not love at first sight. “I was not impressed and, evidently, he was not either because he never asked me out again while we were in high school,” Larkin says. 

Then, after coming back from college, John underwent shoulder surgery from an old sports injury, and Larkin worked at the clinic. “Larkin’s beauty and the way she carried herself really attracted me,” John says. “Me being younger and dumber a few years before kept me from noticing. I’m sure it was God’s timing. After spending more time with Larkin I discovered that her beauty was beyond skin deep and to her core.”

John and Larkin immediately noticed their compatibility the second time around and fell hard for each other. “Johnny made me feel like I was the only person in the room. He never scanned the room looking for someone more interesting when we were talking, and he never acted like he wanted to be anywhere else,” Larkin says. “He made me laugh. There were days that my stomach muscles would hurt the next day after having been on a date the night before. He was and is a genuinely happy person.”

Once they started dating, the couple would go water skiing at the lake almost every evening right after work. The lake was smooth, and they would ski that soft, calm water and then watch the sun go down. Then, they would get fried chicken at a little chicken shack by the lake. “On the boat one late afternoon, Johnny started talking about the future, all he was hoping for, and how he thought I fit into that plan. At this point, my mind was reeling. I could see where he was going, and then it happened. He asked the question, ‘Will you marry me?’” Larkin says. “My first thought was, ‘We aren’t even dating each other exclusively yet!’ I didn’t feel it was the right time to make such a huge leap, so I said, ‘Well, how about we just go steady first?’ He was so sweet and took that as a win.”

Though he was deterred at first, John was determined to marry Larkin. “Like being thrown off a horse, I dusted myself off and got back on because I knew this was the ride I wanted forever,” John says. 

John randomly popped the question for months after the initial proposal, and Larkin would always put him off. One day, Larkin decided that she would say “yes” the next time he asked. However, once she made that decision, it was months before he asked again. “I was afraid I had missed the boat and that he was done asking. The day finally came, and he nonchalantly asked again. I’m sure he thought I would again say ‘Not yet,’” Larkin says. “When I actually said ‘Yes,’ he ran around like a puppy with the zoomies. Neither of us wanted a big wedding, so we agreed to get married the next weekend.”

John says that they rushed to the altar so that Larkin would not back out, and the two were married on Friday, July 3, 1981, in a small chapel at the Methodist Church in downtown Texarkana. “My most vivid memory of that day is how special my sweet mama made our wedding reception. Bless her heart, I didn’t give her any time to put it together, and I left it all up to her,” Larkin says. It was absolutely perfect, though.”

For the couple, the first few years of their marriage presented a great learning experience. “I had to learn how to be less selfish since we were together more than ever and lived in the same home,” John says. “It was not hard to do when you truly love each other. Larkin is an amazing person. To this day, being married to Larkin makes me want to be successful in anything I do.”

Like many newly married couples, Larkin said her biggest lesson was learning to accept his family as hers. “They were very easy to love, but that was an adjustment for me,” Larkin says. “But, Johnny and I are very compatible, so actually, there have not been any huge compromises needed. We are pretty much on the same page on most everything. If we do have differing opinions on something, we talk it out, and we come to an agreement that we are both happy with.”

John and Larkin stayed active in those early years, especially since John’s family farm was still a part of their lives. “We had horses we cared for and rode, and a lot of time was spent at the lakehouse,” John says. “Boating and watersports were also great fun, and we slowly became more active in our church.” 

The couple had been married 13 years before they had children. Their daughter, Natalie, was born in 1994, and their son, Grant, was born in 1998. “We were so ready for these kids! We had done all of the fun crazy stuff we wanted to do so when Natalie was born we were ready to be parents and leave all that other stuff behind,” Larkin says. “I loved watching John with our children. I saw what a solid rock-steady person Johnny was. He was so committed to raising happy, healthy, and well-adjusted kids. Nothing took precedence over our kids. He used to love to play golf on the weekends, but when little Natalie would routinely cry when he left to play golf for the afternoon, he decided he didn’t like golf that much after all.”

Larkin says that John quit going to the golf course and that they would all do things together. “Then, when Grant came along, it was wonderful to watch Johnny with Grant and see him mold Grant and shape him into the upstanding young man he is today,” Larkin says. 

John says he was shocked that babies did not come with an instructional manual, but he was lucky that Larkin was a natural. “Larkin seemed to fall right into being an outstanding mother while I had to really think about things. Larkin guided me a lot and helped me. Once I bonded with the babies between 12 and 18 months old, It became easy to love and care for them,” John says. “We had a great and fun life before the kids but a more wonderful and blessed life after children.” 

The couple’s Christian faith played a significant role in raising their kids. “We made sure they were involved in church activities, and their hearts are where we prayed they would be now that they are adults,” John says. 

Now, Natalie lives in Hope and works in Texarkana at O’Reilly Auto. Grant is an iOS developer for Anima Virtuality, Inc., and can work remotely from his home in Texarkana. “We are so glad that they have chosen to stay close by,” Larkin says. 

While their children were young, John and Larkin spent most of their time going to various activities, but now that their kids are grown, the couple is left to their own devices. “We love to go on short weekend getaways to experience different restaurants and sporting events. We try to get to a few Texas Rangers games each year, and we watch a lot of sports on TV together,” Larkin says. “We also love to work on our home. We like adding different features, which is probably where we will focus our efforts as a couple. We will continue to travel; planning the next trip is almost as fun as going. We can’t wait!”

Before children, John and Larkin frequented Acapulco, Mexico. “We enjoy the beach, but now we are enjoying other beaches. Our 40th anniversary was spent in Hawaii, where I rented a motorcycle and kept Larkin half-scared while we enjoyed the amazing views of the island,” John says. 

In 2022, John and Larkin celebrated 41 years of marriage, and John can not imagine life without Larkin. “She is truly my better half. I really don’t know why God blessed me with her, but I’m forever thankful,” John says. “All of my close friends remind me I married up, and I agree. Larkin is smart and a team player, and sometimes, she laughs at my jokes. I’ve watched her be a good friend to many people, and she continues to be my best friend.”

When John thinks about his wife, a quote from Franz Schubert comes to mind. “He said, ‘Happy is a man who finds a true friend, and far happier is he who finds that true friend in his wife.’ Larkin has been with me and supported me during several business ventures, along with being an elected official. There have been ups and downs through all of it,” John says. “Her understanding, voice of reason, encouragement, and support made the rollercoaster ride safer. No one got too sick or fell out. There are many more wonderful things about Larkin I could share. It’s great to be married to a woman that loves our children and me unconditionally.”

For Larkin, her friendship with Johnny is what makes their marriage work. She says they actually like each other and want to be with each other. “I would rather be with him than anyone else. He is just easy to be around. But the best part is that he still makes me laugh!” Larkin says. “Johnny is so patient—way more so than I am. I have learned to be more patient just from seeing him practice it. He is also very, very kind and has a soft heart. 

He is much more of a softie than I am. He is even nice to telemarketers on the phone! After a conversation with a telemarketer that ran way too long, in my opinion, he will say to me, ‘They are just trying to do their job; it didn’t cost me anything to be nice to them.’ He is clearly a better human than me!” 

In addition to loving each other, keeping their marriage alive, and raising children together, Larkin and John also work together for Supreme Lending, providing loans for primary residences, second homes, and investment property. John is licensed to do business anywhere in Texas, Arkansas, Louisana, Oklahoma, and Colorado and manages the Texarkana office. Larkin specializes in setting up all loans for processing. “I stated earlier that Larkin is smart and a team player. If you want to build a business, that is the kind of person you want to work with. Her added value is being great with people,” John says. “We really work together. I’m not her boss, and she isn’t mine. There is an abundance of guidelines, rules, and processing involved in the mortgage business. It takes dedication and professionalism to succeed in this business. We each have a different part in the process. It can sometimes become stressful, but understanding, respect, and support get us past those times. We tend to harass each other playfully from time to time too. Laughter is a great stress reliever. The bottom line is that this business is successful because we make a good team.”

Though it may seem they have it all figured out, John and Larkin agree that they are still learning. Some of their greatest advice is to be nice to each other, even if you do not want to be. “If you are afraid you will say something you might regret or know will be hurtful, go to a different room for a bit. Hurtful things said in anger can’t be unheard,” John says. “One big thing all couples should do is to spend time together with someone who is a trained pastor on marriage before you are married; it will be well worth the time.”

Both John and Larkin had excellent role models for what a marriage should look like in both sets of parents, but the two faced challenges. “No one is perfect, so no marriage can be perfect,” Larkin says. “If you accept that going in and know there will be a few bumps in the road, you will be ahead of the game.”

Looking to the next decades of their marriage, John and Larkin plan to continue growing their friendship and having fun. “Our advice to keep your marriage great is to make your life together interesting and fun—dodge boredom. Work to stay young at heart and healthy,” John says. “Be active and exercise. Above all, trust in the Lord and practice what the Bible guides you to do in your marriage.” 

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