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‘Listen to your pastor and his message … take that and apply’

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By Anita Debro
Special to the Birmingham Times

“You Had Me at Hello’’ highlights married couples and the love that binds them. If you would like to be considered for a future “Hello’’ column, or know someone who would, please send nominations to Erica Wright at ewright@birminghamtimes.com. Include the couple’s name, contact number(s) and what makes their love story unique.

TARELL AND RONNIE DENSON

Live: Hoover

Married: August 3, 1991

Met: Tarell and Ronnie met in 1990 at a friend’s house while both were students at the Alabama Agriculture & Mechanical University. It was game night where friend’s played dominos and cards.  Ronnie, who was a sophomore at the time, said he found Tarell, a senior, “intriguing.” “She seemed to be smart, intelligent, professional,” he recalled. Tarell said she was struck by his demeanor and good looks. “I thought he was extremely handsome … and he had a lot of confidence and I liked that.” That night they set their first date, which would be the following day.

First date: “We went to church,” Ronnie said. “That was our first date.”  Ronnie and Tarell explained that they were both God centered at that point in their lives. “That Sunday she came to pick me up and when she came to the door I was like ‘wow’,” Ronnie said. Tarell said the day went well and after church they met back up with friends and made dinner. After that date, it would be a few weeks before they would see one another again. “I was a senior, so I was pretty busy,” Tarell recalled. “I saw him next while he was registering for classes.”

Perfect pairing: Eventually, the pair, who shared similar ambitions for military careers, would start showing up as a couple to friend’s houses. They would run to the store or grab something to eat or go to the movies. “We were very comfortable with one another,” Tarell said. Both knew they wanted to continue seeing one another, Ronnie said. As the school year went on and graduation neared for Tarell, Ronnie said he started thinking about what life would be like without her in Huntsville. “Neither one of us wanted to be apart,” he said.

The proposal: One night in July of 1991, Ronnie visited Tarell’s apartment and he spontaneously proposed. “I didn’t think he was serious at first,” Tarell said. The couple were both excited and nervous. Tarell sai her mother would not approve of her getting married at such a young age and Ronnie had not yet met her parents.  Ronnie said he was not going to get married until his 30’s but plans had changed. Their parents eventually warmed to the idea and, in one month, with the help of Tarell’s mother’s neighbor, who was a wedding coordinator, the wedding came together.

The wedding: Ronnie and Tarell married at Hopewell Missionary in Wylam. “I remember being nervous and excited that day,” Tarell said. “And I remember Ronnie sweating like crazy.” Ronnie said he was not nervous. “I thought that day was a beautiful confirmation of what we had.”

Long Distance Love: Tarell worked for two years in Huntsville while Ronnie finished school. Once he graduated in 1994, he enlisted in the Army, kicking off more than a decade of globe traveling. Ronnie, after training in Georgia, spent a year living abroad in Korea while Tarell remained in Alabama.  Upon his return, the couple moved to Tacoma, Washington. They would go on to live in Texas, Arkansas, California and Kansas before Ronnie deployed to Afghanistan and then Iraq. During his deployments, Tarell and the couple’s children moved back to Birmingham. “We wanted the stability for our children,” Ronnie said. Shortly after returning from his yearlong deployment in Iraq, Ronnie was called to work at the Pentagon in Washington, DC. Tarell and the children remained in Birmingham while he finished his assignment there. Through all the long distance, Tarell and Ronnie said they managed to maintain a strong bond. “We were evenly yoked,” he said. “We didn’t know that in the beginning but God knew.”

“God gave us the strength to do it,” Tarell said.

Words of Wisdom: For Tarell, the cornerstone of a strong relationship is God. “Always put God first,” she said. “Pray together and go to church together.” For Ronnie, he said listening to the word of his pastors has helped. “Guys don’t realize that the teaching wisdom of older males is important,” he said. “Listen to your pastor and his message … take that and apply to the best of your ability.”

Happily ever after: Ronnie and Tarell have sons ages 28, 25, 17 and 16.  They enjoy traveling, listening to music together. Both enjoy watching college football— he is an Alabama fan and she cheers for Auburn.