The year was 1975. It took place on Flag Day, Saturday, June 14. That is almost 45 years ago.
That is a long time to know someone. It’s a long time to be close friends with anyone. She is my closest. These days, it’s certainly a long time to be married to anyone, but in many ways, it seems like it’s only been a few years.
That is the date when Jean Willis and I exchanged vows, at Broadway Baptist Church, in Rainsville, Ala. I wanted to get married on Friday, so we would have a long weekend for our honeymoon.
Friday was the 13th. Jean said she was not superstitious, but she was not getting married on Friday-the-Thirteenth. She must have been onto something, because this has worked out quite well.
We didn’t know it then, but we were little more than kids when we married. Jean was 18, and I was one month from being 20. The odds were not in our favor. We had barely started our college educations.
We packed up and moved to Birmingham, for me to enroll at Samford University. We had little money and no jobs. We had no idea where we might get either. For the next 20 years, we took turns going to school and eating peanut butter sandwiches.
We were completely on our own financially, so we could not afford to go to school at the same time. Jean worked at Samford while I finished my degree there. Then we moved to New Orleans so I could attend the seminary there. Jean worked at Catholic Charities.
A few years later, we moved to Rainbow City, Ala., where I served as pastor of White Springs Baptist Church. Jean commuted to Jacksonville University to finish her bachelor’s degree.
The exact day she graduated I received my acceptance letter into the doctoral program at New Orleans Seminary. Then we moved to Southaven, Miss., where I served at Gracewood Baptist Church. Jean taught school there and finished two advanced degrees in education at Delta State. Young people, it’s not always easy, but it can be done.
We’ve seen some hard days. I’ve accused Jean of being like a cat with nine lives. She almost lost one in a really bad wreck in 1982. She has survived two major, life-threatening surgeries since then, not to mention several smaller ones.
A few years ago, she had pulmonary embolisms in both lungs. She has seen me through cancer surgery and almost losing one eye.
We’ve survived all that, building a house and raising a teenager! That teenager turned into a wonderful woman, married a good man and gave us one magnificent grandson.
For our honeymoon, we spent two nights and three days in fabulous Panama City Beach. We would have gone further and stayed longer if there had been a few more funds. We saved enough money to buy groceries once we returned to Birmingham. I think it was $35.
This year we had that big trip planned to the West, but Ms. Corona changed those plans. We’ve decided to head back to the beach for two nights and three days. No, not Panama City, but Dauphin Island. We may even slip over to Ocean Springs, Miss., for some barbecue at The Shed.
Maybe for our 50th we can make that trip out West, or at least all the way down to Destin!
Thank you, Jean Willis King, for putting up with me all these years. Our life has not always been easy, but it has been good. I am one blessed man. We have had some great times, and we have had some hard times. With God’s help, he has seen us through it all. There is no one else I would spend my life with.
Bill King is director of Tuskegee Lee Baptist Association (www.tuskegeelee.com). He is a minister, author, singer/songwriter, and performs humor as Bro. Billy Bob Bohannon (www.brobillybob.com). Contact him at email@example.com.