BY JE’DON HOLLOWAY-TALLEY
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, please send nominations to Erica Wright email@example.com. Include the couple’s name, contact number(s) and what makes their love story unique.
ORVILLE AND JOAN IFILL
Live: College Hills
Married: May 21, 2011
Met: In 1985 at a fundraiser at Our Lady Queen of the Universe Catholic Church in Birmingham.
“I saw her at mass, and when she hit the door all the men paused,” Orville said. “Everybody was like ‘who is that?’ I mean she was really good looking, she’s still good looking now… And we started talking.
Joan agreed with Orville about the meeting at the church, but that was not her first time seeing him. “I was in the midst of a divorce and I had [been] attending Holy Family Catholic Church [but when] I moved to Fountain Heights, Our Lady Queen of the Universe Catholic Church was closer to where I lived, so, one Sunday I went with my son. And I saw Orville [at the podium in Our Lady Queen] reading, and I thought ‘what an intelligent black man’,” Joan recalled.
First date: Summer 1985, at Shoney’s restaurant in downtown Birmingham.
“At the time I was working at University Hospital [UAB] and he invited me to lunch. “He was kind, he was attentive… I actually told him I was not interested in a relationship, I had just gotten out of a bad relationship and that all I wanted was to be friends.”
“It was a typical date, I asked her to lunch and Shoney’s was the closest… I made the comment at how well she ate her food, it was a joke, but that girl could eat,” Orville said. “She was very pleasant to look at and she was engaging to talk to so we had a great time.”
The turn: In February 2011. “He was not going anywhere, I ran from him for a long time, he was determined,” said Joan, after a 25-year on again, off again relationship with Orville. “We were together and a couple of times we split and dated other people and it just came to a point where we said we’re not getting any younger, so we looked at each other and said ‘what are we going to do, are we going to stay in this relationship or are we going to move on?’”
“It was time,” said Orville. “Both of our children [Joan has a son; Orville, a daughter] were grown and out of college and they understood the way the world worked… by the time we decided, we were empty nesters, our careers were solid, we didn’t have to worry about finances, we knew it was right and we could enjoy life. We both had things that happened in our [health] where it made us realize that God only allows you a certain amount of time and you need to make the most of it”
The proposal: February 2011 in the living room at Joan’s house in Fountain Heights.
“I had survived cancer, and being that I realized that no time was promised, I asked her, ‘why not now?”’ Orville said. “I asked her if she would honor me and be willing to accept it [his proposal] and she said ‘yes.’ It was a mutual feeling that the time had come.”
“I was ready,” Joan said, “I felt we had wasted enough time on dating. It got to a point that I didn’t know how to introduce him, and people would ask us how long we’d been together, and when we would say [more than] 20 years they would look at us [as if to say] you have got to be kidding me and would make inappropriate comments…it was time.”
The wedding: Our Lady Queen of the Universe Catholic Church in College Hills, officiated by Reverend Father Kevin Bazzel. Their colors were pink and white.
Most memorable for the bride was her promptness. “He [Orville] says that I always have a problem with being on time, but I was ready and the wedding started exactly on time [at 3:00 PM], I made sure of it,” Joan said.
Most memorable for the groom was the number of priests (four) at the altar.
“The fact that four [additional] priests wanted to make sure I got married,” he laughed, “and that it was the day [someone] had predicted the world was supposed to come to an end at 3 o’clock, and we were getting married…the priest made fun of it…,” Orville said.
Words of wisdom: “In marriage, you have to be understanding and willing to compromise, it’s not ‘your way’ or ‘my way’, it’s both ways,” said Orville. “Marriage is partnership, you gotta be all the way in, it’s got to be one 100 percent on both sides, not 50-50. If you wanted it completely your way, you should’ve stayed single. Work through [obstacles], talk, and work them out.”
Joan said, “Always remember that you did not grow up in the same household, everyone has their differences, and you have to decide whether or not you’re willing to accept their differences,”
And when it comes to differences “sometimes it’s best to walk away. Think about the situation and then come back to it,” Joan said.
Happily ever after: Joan has a son, Korey, 47, from her previous marriage, and Orville has a daughter, Rachel, 43, from a previous relationship, and they have six grandchildren combined.
Joan, a Smithfield native and A.H. Parker High School graduate, attended the University of Alabama at Birmingham [UAB] where she studied English Literature and is a retired medical coder.
Orville, a Smithfield native and Holy Family High School graduate, attended Howard University where he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science and is retired from Jefferson County.