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The beginning was a ‘casual friendship with a twist of romance’

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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 ewright@birminghamtimes.com. Include the couple’s name, contact number(s) and what makes their love story unique.

 

RALPH AND DEIDRE ‘DEE’ SIMS 

Live: Bessemer

Married: August 1, 1992

Met: September 1981, on the Tuskegee Institute now Tuskegee University campus, where both were students. “At the beginning of my junior year at Tuskegee, I noticed this new ‘Q’ [a member of the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc.], standing at the Omega Rock, and I had not seen him on the campus before, and I knew most of the Omega’s that were there,” Dee recalled.  “I was with one of my dorm mates, and I asked her if she knew who he was, and she said that’s [an Omega] from Birmingham, want me to introduce you?” Deidre, who was also from Birmingham, said, “no, not yet … I had a high school sweetheart and I knew then I had to get rid of him because I was interested in this new thang,” she laughed.

“I had no idea that I was providing her with an eviction notice for her current boyfriend by coming to see her at the dormitory,” Ralph said.

Ralph and Dee said they built a “casual friendship with a twist of romance” for a year and a half, attending one another’s sorority and fraternity parties and hanging out before going on a traditional first date.

First date: Spring 1982, at the 20 Grand Club in Tuskegee, at the Delta Sigma Theta Soiree. Ralph was her escort. “I remember Ralph looking very debonair, he looked regal, and it felt good to be seen with him at our soiree. We were known as a couple on campus, but to be seen together at this event made it official,” Dee said. “We had a good time… I remember his appearance, I liked being on his arm.”

“Prior to [the soiree] I had only ever seen her in jeans… but seeing her in an elegant dress, she looked delicious,” Ralph said.

“That was the first time my heart and my mind got together and said this can be more than a friendship. I began feeling the romantic vibes. And I wasn’t interested in getting drunk and acting wild because I was beginning to see that this was the person that could be my wife. “

The turn: Despite going their separate ways after college and having children, “I considered Ralph my eagle that left and flew back in my life,” Dee said. “I had married and had two children between college and when we reconnected again in Spring 1991. We started dating again and it was great, we rebuilt our relationship. He was still my eye candy, we picked up where we left off.”

Ralph had had one child of his own and said part of reconnecting was sorting out the details of their lives during the 10 years they had been apart.

“She shared with me details of her relationship and divorce, and I reluctantly shared my struggles with drugs and alcohol, and poured out my heart and shared that I wanted to go to rehab, and she supported me,” Ralph said. “She had my back and that’s when I knew this was the right time. I was ready to give it another try, but drugs and alcohol was a dark time in my life and I didn’t want it to become a part of our new life together. I completed rehab in August 1991 and have been clean ever since.”

The proposal:  Christmas Day 1991, at Dee’s mother’s house in Hillman Gardens in Birmingham. “I was nervous, excited, and scared all at the same time and I wasn’t high,” Ralph laughed. “I had a [mixture] of feelings, but knew this was the time I needed to step forward with my feelings as a man. I had a conversation with her mother prior to Christmas about my feelings for Dee and she gave me her blessing. I got down on one knee, with butterflies in my stomach and a trembling voice and asked her to marry me.”

Dee and her kids were visiting her mother on Christmas, when Ralph came over and proposed.

“I was surprised [by the proposal] … I had two small children (ages 7 and 4) and I told Ralph that [that children and I] were a package deal and told him that if he married me he had to marry my children and the dog too,” Dee laughed. “He promised me all of us could be together, and it was the best Christmas gift I’ve ever gotten.  I have never, not a day in my life, regretted becoming his wife.”

The wedding: New St. James Baptist Church in Birmingham, officiated by Reverend Walter Solomon Sr. Their colors were mauve, cream and silver.

Most memorable for the bride was standing at the altar and holding hands with the groom because “both of our hands were wet and sweaty because we were nervous. But we held on to each other. We were looking at each other smiling and I was thinking ‘yeah baby, we in this thang together’,” Dee said.

Most memorable for the groom was a moment during the vow exchange. “When we got to the last ‘I Do’, I didn’t say ‘I Do’, instead I let out an extreme, excited ‘YES’,” Ralph said.

They honeymooned in Alpharetta, Georgia. “We visited a couple of friends and spent quality time together, enjoying beginning a new life together as husband and wife,” said Ralph.

“We went shopping, ate at nice restaurants, and did some sightseeing,” Dee said.

Words of wisdom: “Always remember that if God is the foundation of the marriage, He must remain the foundation throughout the marriage,” Ralph said. “Dee is my very best friend, I can talk to her about any life issues. We can be vulnerable and we’re able to be honest, we can admit when we’re wrong and be quick to apologize. We’re human, and when things go wrong it’s because of human error. And so, we correct each other in love and with respect. As long as both of you all are pulling from the same God, you have the same spirit.”

“Ditto,” said Dee.

Happily ever after: The Sims have four children: Antuan, 42, Dominic, 36, Ashley, 33, Alexius, 23 and have five grandchildren, three boys and two girls.

Dee, 60, is a Hillman Gardens native and a Jones Valley High School grad. She attended Tuskegee Institute [Tuskegee University], where she earned a bachelor’s of arts degree in English. She is a librarian at Bessemer Public Library and retired from Birmingham Public Library in 2015.

Ralph, 60, is a West End native and West End High School grad. He attended Alabama Agricultural & Mechanical University and Tuskegee Institute which is now Tuskegee University where he studied health and physical education, and physical therapy. Ralph works at Enon Baptist Church in Morris, Ala, in the building services and maintenance department.

During the pandemic, Dee continues to work at the library and Ralph continues to work at Enon Baptist.