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‘Speak openly and honestly . . . and keep it real’

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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.

ANGELA AND WILBERT CROCHEN

Live: Center Point

Married: August 8, 1992

Met: Angela and Wilbert met in 1990 while they were both students at the former West Central Skills Center in downtown Birmingham. Wilbert would see her often while he was taking building maintenance classes and Angela was working towards her GED. “She really gave me the run around,” he recalled. Angela said she didn’t return Wilbert’s interest at first but she and her friends had taken notice of him. One day the two ran into one another at the bus stop. “My friends were like, ‘there he is,’” she recalled. Wilbert, driving a Ford Granada, offered to take her to school and Angela agreed. “She never rode the bus again after that day,” he said.

First date: The two spent months talking to one another on the telephone before Wilbert invited Angela over for a dinner at his apartment.  That first dinner, Wilbert cooked turkey necks and noodles for Angela. “I serve her steak now,” he joked. But that dinner was just what Angela wanted and after that date the two were inseparable. 

Life challenges: Angela and Wilbert soon moved in together. While the couple grew closer in their relationship the two faced many challenges. Wilbert, who had been incarcerated and in drug treatment before meeting Angela, was working toward regaining custody of his son and stepdaughter who were in foster care. Angela, a single mother of a daughter, was going through a divorce while working on her GED. One day she went to church and accepted the Lord. She told Wilbert she wanted the two of them to get married instead of living together and Wilbert agreed.

The proposal: On Mothers’ Day 1991 Wilbert proposed to her while they were at church, New Life Christian Church in Fairfield. “I had planned it that way,” he said. “I got up during the service right before the announcements and asked her to marry me.” Angela said she was surprised. “I was not expecting that,” she said.

The wedding: The couple married at New Life Christian Church in a small ceremony in front of family and friends and afterwards drove to Atlanta to go to Six Flags. The couple returned to a full house of children with Wilbert’s two children and Angela’s daughter now under one roof.

Words of Wisdom: Wilbert said it is important for couples to know how to apologize to one another when something goes wrong and to understand that couples should not stay angry without talking about the issues, Wilbert said.  Angela said couples should form a partnership that helps one another achieve goals. “We do a lot of things together,” she said. “We make the bed together in the mornings, if something needs to be done and I don’t have time to do it then he will come in and help.”

Angela and Wilbert now oversee the couple’s ministry at Harvest Community Church. Wilbert said his relationship with God helped him to become a better husband. “Church had a lot to do with my growth,” he said. “I give the credit to the Lord. I had to learn to be a servant and to humble myself.”  

In their ministry, Angela and Wilbert focus on helping couples learn to communicate. “We think it is important for couples to speak openly and honestly,” she said. “And we try to keep it real. I am honest when something happens in our relationship so that couples can see you can talk about the challenges and learn to deal with those challenges together.”

Happily ever after: Wilbert is a building maintenance supervisor for a group of apartment homes in Trussville. Angela is a nursing assistant at Children’s Hospital of Alabama and also owns and operates an adult and child caregiver business.  The couple has three adult children (one son passed away), four grandsons and a granddaughter on the way. The couple enjoy spending time with one another. They like to go bowling, they have movie nights at home and enjoy traveling. “We really just like being together,” Wilbert said.