By  Laura Lee Leathers

From left: Alice Cottrell, Alice Youngblood, and Billy and Martha Thames on a mission trip to Global Maritime Ministries in New Orleans.

A wise teacher knows you need to create and follow a lesson plan. Two people who have years of experience creating lesson plans are educators Billy and Martha Thames. 

Dr. Billy B. Thames taught in Jackson Public Schools. Later he served as president of Copiah-Lincoln Community College, from 1968 until his retirement in 1997. Dr. Martha Morris Thames was the director of nursing for William Carey University’s Hattiesburg campus until her retirement in 2006. But they did not meet each other until after retirement.

After retiring, they each moved to Madison, at different times, to be near their respective children. Martha became a widow in 2014, and Billy became a widower in 2017. They met at First Baptist Madison and married on Valentine’s Day 2019. They each have three children, and together they have 15 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

Planning is essential

Soon after Billy became a nonagenarian, on July 3, I had the opportunity to interview him and Martha. Listen in to their wisdom on preparing for retirement.

Martha shared first, “You never know what will happen as you age. You must plan for those things — be prepared. But the number one thing, as believers, God doesn’t want us just to sit down and do nothing. As long as we’re living, He has a plan for our lives.

“I had an aging mother who needed some help. One of my goals was to take care of my family. We’ve both been through cancer, so we know health is important. Being active in retirement means having goals to maintain your health so that you can be a servant to your family and community.

“It’s easy to flitter away your time. The day is gone before you know it. If you don’t have something in your schedule to make you have a structure in your life, you have wasted the time God has given you. (He) wants to use you in ways that would be helpful to other people.”

Billy’s turn: “I’ve always been a person that had a plan. I carry a card in my pocket where I have written down what I need to do. For years, I have planned my day, the week, and whatever was in the future. If I didn’t do it, I revisit my plan and determine why it was not completed.

“I’m enjoying retirement. I have served on various committees at church, involved with the Lions Club, and have volunteered at the Baptist Hospital. I enjoy helping people. But most of all, I’m available to my children.”

Implement the plan

After breakfast and devotions together, it’s time for the Thameses to review their plans for the day. Appointments, meeting with men’s and women’s groups at church, going to the gym (a goal of three times a week), and yard and garden maintenance are just a few of their to-do items.

Billy enjoys doing woodwork in his shop, and Martha enjoys reading. They also serve on a caring committee. Regularly, they check on six individuals, including one lady who is 100 and a neighbor who is 91. 

A writing project

At the suggestion of his daughters, Billy has been working on a book for the past year and a half. He uses a website called Storyworth and has written around 75 stories based on questions his children submitted. They will add pictures. Once completed, his stories will be available for family and friends.

“I recommend people seriously consider doing a project like this because it’s passing on information about your life. It’s your legacy to your family,” Martha said.

Enrichment lessons

When asked how they add daily laughter to their lives, Martha responded, “Try to keep joy at the forefront. I think the joy of the Lord is there every day, having faith and knowing He’s in control. This gives us a peace that adds joy to our lives.” They both agreed they have a great time with their family and friends — laughter is spontaneous.

More tips

  • Find ways to serve people outside your family. Be intentional about sharing the gospel, and engage in mission trips.
  • Travel if you are able. The Thameses travel with close friends and through church-sponsored trips.
  • Try to re-establish friendships from the past. After retirement, there is more time. Billy has recently reconnected with an army buddy from 50 years ago.

Looking back through 26 years of his retirement, Billy remarked, “I’m completely satisfied with what I’ve done.” Martha nods, smiles with pride, and you know she is satisfied too.  

At this age and stage of her life, Laura Lee Leathers focuses on “Helping You Flourish in Faith & Finish Well by His Word.” She is an award-winning freelance writer, speaker, and mentor. She has started the Facebook group scribes4HIM to connect with writers. But her favorite thing to do is host Nana’s Weekend for her grandchildren. Connect with her at or visit