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 Barnett Wright firstname.lastname@example.org. Include the couple’s name, contact number(s) and what makes their love story unique.
DONALD AND VERONICA CHAMBLEE
Live: North Birmingham
Married: Aug. 13, 2016
Met: June 2015, at The Cathedral of The Cross AOH [Apostolic Overcoming Holy] Church of God in Birmingham where both were attending a national Pentecostal meeting. At the time Veronica had been a widow for 16 years and Donald a widower for two. Both had been praying the Lord would bless them with new mates.
“A friend suggested we introduce ourselves. We were [a part of the same organization] but our paths had never crossed…,” Veronica said. “I said, ‘I don’t know about this, this man seems kind of boring,’” she laughed. “I went ahead and introduced myself and all he said was ‘hello’, and I was a little disappointed.”
As a pastor, Donald said he had to move wisely.
“I didn’t want to seem forward, but I was thinking she was a nice-looking lady, and I wanted to take my time and see how things would develop,” Donald said. “I didn’t want her to think I was desperate, but she had really caught my eye and I want her to know that.”
After the initial meeting Veronica, who lived in Mobile, returned to a friend’s house in Prattville [Ala.] where she was staying for the convention and received a call from Donald the next morning.
“He had gotten my phone number from [our mutual friend] and called me and asked me if I was coming to the service that day, and I told him I wanted to but I didn’t have any transportation” and he offered a ride. While we were driving back to Birmingham ‘I said, Lord what have I done, I don’t even know this man.’ And then I heard God say, ‘He’s a man of God’, and I was relieved. And then Donald asked me if I wanted to get dinner after service, and I said ‘yes, I was happy to go,’” Veronica said.
First date: At Cracker Barrel in Gardendale after church service in Birmingham that day. “He was very shy. We ordered good food, but I noticed he didn’t eat too much, and I didn’t eat too much either, we both had carry-out plates…” Veronica said.
“I was floating on air, and my appetite disappeared,” Donald recalled. “We ate a little for the sake of going out, but the dinner was secondary, being with her was primary. She was a gracious company, but I was thinking about her living in Mobile.”
The turn: September 2015. Despite the distance, Veronica and Donald made it work. “We never stopped talking, he began to call, and he said that he wanted to see me again and he would come to Mobile. My birthday was the last day of June, and he came to Mobile for my birthday, and he brought me flowers and a card and we went to dinner. This time I got to pick where we went [Oyster House],” Veronica remembered. “We had a fun evening, and it never stopped. Every other weekend he would come down and visit and I would take him to different sites, the Battleship, the beach, and Colonial Fort Conde’ Museum, we ate at a lot of seafood places, and we had fun getting to know one another.”
“I would make the trip down there to see her after service every other week and I would stay at a hotel… I was really interested and in love with her. I wanted to be with her. When you get up in age, you ain’t got time to be playing around. You keep it real. We’re not teeny boppers, I liked her, I’m a serious person,” Donald said.
“A couple of times in between we met at the halfway point in Evergreen, Ala., and we had picnic dates, dinner, and we’d go shopping… [during one shopping trip] Donald bought me a roasting pan, and he said, ‘I’m gonna keep it because when we get married you’re gonna make my turkey in it,’” Veronica said. “… and when we got married I pulled out the pan and said ‘I can make your turkey now’,” she laughed.
The proposal: November 2015, at Donald’s house in Birmingham. “By that time I was ready to make that step… We shopped and she picked out her ring, but I didn’t give it to her right away. [I waited until] she was down here [in Birmingham] for another one of [their organization’s meetings] … She was staying with a friend and I invited her over to the house and I had the ring and told her I love you and I want you to spend your life with me, and I asked her ‘will you be my wife’ and she said ‘yes’. I was floating on Cloud Nine,” Donald said.
“At first, he said he was going to [propose] in front of the church members but I was glad he didn’t and did it in private,” Veronica said. “I was expecting it. He had said he was ready to get married and I thought he was going to get on his knee but he didn’t,” she laughed. “I took pictures of the ring and posted them on Facebook. I was excited, I loved the ring and I loved the one that gave me the ring,” Veronica said.
The wedding: In Mobile at Phillips Temple AOH [Apostolic Overcoming Holy] Church of God, officiated by their national presiding Bishop, John H. Matthews Jr. of Dayton, Ohio. Their wedding colors were purple, lavender, and cream.
Most memorable for the bride was their vow exchange. “We made our own vows and after he gave me his vows, I sang to him my vows. Seeing everybody there and all the people that were in the wedding; we had a large wedding party [of 28 people] … The whole ceremony, the songs, lighting the unity candle, it was all so memorable,” Veronica said.
Most memorable for the groom was that his son was his best man, and he was anticipating a great life with his bride “and she really fulfilled that. When the pastor announced us husband and wife and I gave her a kiss; that was memorable [because it was] our first kiss,” Donald said. “Seeing her coming down that aisle really took my heart. She was decked from head to toe and I was amazed at how gorgeous she was.”
The couple honeymooned in Biloxi, Mississippi, and Lookout Mountain, Tennessee. “We had an amazing time,” Donald said.
Words of wisdom: “Remember the moments that brought you together: love, respect, and caring for one another. If you keep those things first in your marriage, everything else will disappear. And if you’re going to exchange words [disagreements], get it right before you go to bed. Communication is key in a marriage, you’ve got to have an understanding about everything with your man. Don’t keep secrets, put it out in the open and work on it because it’s two lives coming together so you have to let each other know what you like and are comfortable or uncomfortable with, and that’s how the two become one. You have got to meet each other [in the middle] and come together and agree,” Veronica said.
“Acknowledge the Lord, first of all, because that’s where the origin of marriage began; God put man and woman together. Be a friend as well as a lover. Understanding one another is a key point in marriage [because] no two fingerprints are alike, they are different. But when you come together and consolidate your [lives] you have to have understanding,” Donald said. “Laughter is important, enjoy one another, laughter is healthy, my wife has a good sense of humor and I love that. Keep things interesting. Find out what your mate likes and go from there. Sometimes you got to sit down and cool off, go for a drive, you’re not always going to see eye to eye, but don’t break up, stay together for the make-ups!”
Veronica added, “It’s never too late, you can love again. Life can begin again for you. God had promised me a new mate, but so many years went by I started to wonder where he was, but God knew what he was doing.” Don’t give up when you’re waiting on God.”
Happily ever after: The Chamblee’s are a blended family with nine children: Otis, Carolyn, LaKethea, Ernest III, Timon, April, Charity, Jeremy, Leron, and 15 grandchildren. The couple are ministers and run Ruth Bryant Memorial AOH [Apostolic Overcoming Holy] Church of God, in Powderly, where Donald serves as Pastor and Veronica as First Lady.
Veronica, 66, is a Prichard, Ala [Mobile, Ala.] native, and Mattie T. Blount High School grad. She has worked in the fields of beauty, education, medical care, and retail. Veronica is a licensed CNA [certified nursing assistant] and works as a caregiver for First Choice Home Care in Birmingham, and runs a rolling boutique called Ms. V’s Top Fashion at various locations and events.
Donald, 70, is a Riggins Community [North Birmingham] native, and Glenn High School grad. He attended Birmingham Metropolitan Skill Center, where he earned several certificates in welding. Donald retired from Thompson Fabrications LLC, where he worked as a welder and did structural work for 35 years, and currently works for Daniel Iron in Trussville, where he works as a welder and fitter.