By Je’Don Holloway-Talley
For The Birmingham Times
In celebration of Valentine’s Day, Tuesday February 14, The Birmingham Times asked couples previously featured in our You Had Me At Hello marriage column how they stay connected, keep fire burning and continue to make their love last a lifetime. Here’s what they had to say:
ANGELINE AND LARRY WOODRUFF
MARRIED: March 2, 1984
First appeared in The Birmingham Times: Nov. 28, 2018
Real love and a spiritual connection can provide the spark that keeps a marriage alive, said the couple.
“Many times a relationship is conceived through the physical, and we have to connect spiritually in order for that physical part to mean anything. A lot of people fall in lust instead of in love, and in love is where we’ve been for the last 39 years,” Larry said.
“We love each other and we’re in love with each other and it’s always been like that since the very start,” said Angeline. “We’ve always been very passionate about each other and pleasing each other has always been a mutual goal. Both of us have been selfless in our marriage, and not selfish in any way at any time. I’ve always seen that and felt that from Larry.”
The two met 41 years ago on Miles College campus.
“Angeline was walking across the courtyard when our eyes met and it was love at first sight,” Larry recalled.
“We knew we loved each other from the moment we made eye contact, and when I experienced it I realized there’s truth to [the idea of] love at first sight because he had me at hello,” said Angeline, and we’ve been married 39 years.”
Character and Integrity also keeps a marriage together, said the Woodruffs.
“…love is not always enough, you have to have the other characteristics of being devoted and faithful; those elements are a part of love,” Angeline said.
“Commitment and devotion that’s what we’ve had, with the goal of being one. That’s how we [achieved] unity,” Larry said.
For them, Valentine’s Day is what they do year-round. “Sharing love and giving love. Love is a lot like respect, when you give respect you get respect, and love follows the same principle,” Larry said. “Whether it’s a party for the two of you, watching a movie with a Valentine’s Day theme, or taking a trip together to a place that you love…make it special for the two of you. When you have children, you have to lock them out, family included you have to do that in order to really enjoy each other.”
“When you’re in that phase [of having small children] the couple still has to be attentive to one another’s needs. Knowing what your husband needs and staying on top of that [prevents] things from getting stale, and keeps that fire burning for each other,” Angeline said. “Prepare an intimate dinner at home together, or make reservations at a restaurant and enjoy, but it’s about intimacy. As we sit here talking with [the Birmingham Times] we have a candle lit because there’s always time throughout the day to set that intimacy aside and enjoy one another.”
“I saw her, that was the first thing. I truly believe our love is an instance of love at first sight. I loved her then, and I love her now,” Larry said.
YAIKINSHA AND ANTHONY COLES
LIVE: Downtown Birmingham
MARRIED: Dec. 16, 2016
First appeared: March 20, 2019
Good communication and feeling like a priority keep the sparks flying for Yaikinsha, “You want to feel validated, and affirmed, that’s next level for me. I have to have that feeling in order for me to be creative, spontaneous and do out-of-the-box stuff.”
Pouring into one another keeps the love flowing, said Anthony. “Every fruit bears seed after its own kind. If you look to give more than you receive, it should make the other person do the same and provoke recurring reciprocity.”
For the Coles, Valentine’s Day became a day of remembrance as they lost their daughter, Nya, in 2018 to a pulmonary embolism at 18 years old.
“Nya would want for us to celebrate love. We both had to get to a place where we agreed that we would honor Nya and celebrate her through loving each other,” Yaikinsha said. “Last year I surprised him and went all out; I had our entire loft decorated. It was spontaneous, he wasn’t expecting it at all.”
“Think outside the box, if you’re always going on a dinner date, don’t. If you’re always going to the movies or sending flowers to her job, don’t. Switch it up because it doesn’t feel special when you do the same thing over and over again,” Anthony said. “As for how the night turns, I look to impress in every way,” he laughed.
AMELIA AND NATHANIEL PERRY
MARRIED: Oct. 29, 1961
First appeared: Oct. 6, 2021
“Do and share things together… travel. Don’t stop each other from living their dreams, and when he says ‘honey, are you in the mood?’ say yes,” said Amelia, on ways to keep the spark alive.
“Love one another and don’t get too far ahead of each other,” Nathaniel said. “We share, we compromise, and we stay the course. What got us here is what keeps us here. Spend some quality time, date, hold hands, and say, ‘I love you’… that’s what makes a man and a woman feel good when you appreciate one another.”
As for how a couple should spend the holiday, Amelia recommends, “You have got to have a date on Valentine’s Day, get someone to keep your children. They have 7, the oldest is 60, and the youngest is 49] … that night is between me and him with no children around. You have to have special time for your husband, just like you did before you married. Buy that beautiful lingerie and dress up and have yourself looking like you did when you got him,” said Amelia, who added she wishes she had somebody to tell her these things when she was in her younger married years.
“We’re 81 years old now, and we don’t go out much now, but I try to make sure I get her a Valentine’s Day card and some candy. And our children bring her flowers and candy, so she feels loved.,” Nathaniel said. “But we have Valentine’s Day every day, I’m sweet to her, and tell her I love her.”
JENNELL AND LATERRIUS STEELE
MARRIED: December 6, 2014
First appeared: April 4, 2018
Dates are a must, Laterrius said. “Constantly do dinner dates, go out and socialize together, take trips together, and be real flirty. I’m touchy-feely, and when she walks past me, I’m gonna reach out and grab her,” he laughed.
Valentine’s Day is worth celebrating but “to actually have a day where we’re only focusing on one another and not doing anything is romantic to us,” Jennell said. “But we do like to switch it up, sometimes we celebrate with the kids [3 daughters, 11, 6, and 5] and show them love, and sometimes we make it about us.”
“A change of scenery is always good. That can be us going on a trip with the kids to Gatlinburg and being in the mountains for Valentine’s as a family, or hitting Atlanta or Miami for some alone time,” Laterrius said. “When we go out of town we create memories. And fellas, if you don’t get her flowers no other time of the year, please make sure you do it for Valentine’s Day”
ROLANDA HOLLIS-JEFFERSON AND AARON JEFFERSON
MARRIED: August 29, 2015
First appeared: Sept. 4, 2019
Planning and celebrating milestones fan the flame, say the Jeffersons.
“Set goals as a couple, we do that every year, we make a new goal list and when we achieve those goals we celebrate… even if it’s just sitting down having a glass of wine together,” Rolanda said. “Leave work at work. Pick a specific day for date night and enjoy each other’s company.”
Aaron said, “keep the lines of communication open regardless of what’s going on, whether it’s good, bad, ugly or indifferent. And do things like buy flowers just because, you don’t need a special occasion.
Three years ago, the Jeffersons began a Valentine Day’s tradition with four other couples.
“We do a nice dinner at our house. The men plan the menu, do the cooking, all the prepping/decoration, hors d’oeuvres, appetizers, salads the whole nine,” Rolanda said. The men serve the women, and we just sit there and relax and everybody usually leaves really happy.”
“We’re a working couple and it made more sense for us to be at home where we can be comfortable and be ourselves. We can still dress up if we want to and everyone has a good time in a good environment,” Aaron said. “And during that time, before or after dinner we share our gifts, and afterward, it’s dessert time [literally and figuratively].”
RIKO AND AQUILLA HARRIS
LIVE: Pleasant Grove
MARRIED: Oct. 10, 2008
First appeared: Aug. 8, 2018
To keep the spark alive, Aquila said, “make it interesting, and don’t base it off anyone else, base it off of the two of you,” said Aquila. “People evolve, and likes and dislikes change so stay current with what your spouse needs.
Riko said, “keep it trendy, don’t let everything be so traditional and expected. …there are so many traditions placed on marriage and people think they have to conform to those traditions [but] people evolve and it’s important for marriage to evolve too,” he said.
As for celebrations “it depends on the mood that day; usually, it’s not traditional,”
Aquilla said, Riko said it’s about recognizing their love. “Some people like to buy gifts or go on trips as if that’s the purpose of it, but for us, it’s recognizing each other and putting [our love and recognition of each other) first, versus what we do or buy.”
DERRICK AND WHITNEY LEWIS
MARRIED: Sept. 1, 2019
First appeared: July 28, 2021
Have fun, Derrick said. “Tell jokes, watch funny movies, have quality time. We have three girls (14, 2, and 4 months) and once we put the girls down for bed we have a rule that there are no phones, it’s just time for us to connect. Even if it’s just pillow talk, and we’re not saying anything and just cuddled up watching tv, it’s about being present [in the moment].”
“Dating keeps the spark going,” Whitney said. “Remember your ‘why’ — why you married, why you fell in love with that person, and get back to that; that keeps you growing together mentally, emotionally, and intimately.”
As for Valentine’s Day “it can be repetitive doing the same thing every year, the roses, the cards, the teddy bears… be spontaneous, and do something creative and out of the norm. I’ve seen people do the sip and strokes together and sip wine as they paint, or make a charcuterie board. Do something to make it fun, and interesting,” Whitney said.
“If you’re working that day, send a text message telling them to be ready by six, catch them off guard, something other than the traditional candy and roses. Fella’s take charge and plan the day,” Derrick said.
VALERIE AND JEFFREY SIMMONS
LIVE: Pleasant Grove
MARRIED: Sept. 23, 1995
First appeared: Sept. 15, 2021
For Valentine’s Day “we’ve always picked a nice romantic dinner, we’ll go somewhere we both like, and one time he surprised me with a chef who came in and cooked a four-course meal,” Valerie said. “When I walked in [the chef] had the table set beautifully, and candlelight, it was really nice and special,” Valerie said. “
That was a winner because it’s very intimate,” Jeffrey added.
“And he always gets my flowers from the place that did our wedding, he always gets the same flowers that we had [arranged at] our wedding,” Valerie said.
“You gotta date her like she’s a college girl. Make it special, cards, candy, flowers, make her smile, and appreciate everything. Valerie likes for me to buy a blank card and put my own ideas in there, and I get her favorite bottle of wine,” Jeffrey said.
As for keeping the spark alive “communicate… it’s a key tool in keeping your minds and hearts open to one another,” Valerie said. “[It’s also] the little silly things that count, not taking things so seriously is a big plus for us. Pick your battles and don’t make a mountain out of a hill…moving forward, and working together for peace and harmony, that’s easier said than done.”
“Traveling, laughter, and setting aside dates. You can set it aside all you want, but you actually have to do it,” Jeffrey said. “As a man, you gotta make sure you still date her. Find out what their hobbies are, my wife likes enjoyment … and I love traveling and learning about different cultures. Balance one another, still dress up for her, groom yourself and look nice for her,” Jeffrey said.
JOYCE AND JIMMY TYUS
MARRIED: Aug. 29, 1998
First appeared: March 11, 2020
“Usually, I try to surprise her on a date night, going somewhere that she likes to go that we haven’t been to in a while or a new place that she’s talked about trying,” Jimmy said.
“We show affection and touch each other, we pay attention to each other, it’s more about delicate intimacy,” Joyce said.
Daily, “we show our love toward each other, it’s not all about the candy and the flowers. I accept the love and return the love,” Joyce said.
“Try to fulfill something that we have talked about doing, go somewhere we have talked about going to try and make the other person happy on that particular day,” Jimmy said.
ARTHUR AND DAVEINA GODFREY
MARRIED: June 5, 1982
First appeared: Jan. 2, 2019
Daveina said she and her husband take care of each other. “What my needs are he takes care of it, and what his needs are, I take care of them. We inspire each other in that way. We slow dance to our favorite songs, and we have fancy candlelight dinners.
“God gave us the gift of love, and because my wife is that gift, I try and make sure I treasure that gift,” Arthur said.
Daveina said her husband taught her that a Valentine can be anyone that you love, “and when our children [2 sons, 38, 34, and 1 daughter, 29] were growing up he would bring them home some candy and stuff too, and he said that’s because Valentine’s Day is to celebrate anyone that you love. We were friends before we were lovers, and the kids bought a special bond to us being together and still do, even though they’re grown.”
“I’m gonna get the gifts, and the flowers and candy, and going to dinner is [a must] we do a Valentine’s Day dinner with our friends,” Arthur said.
TAMARA ‘TAMMIE’ AND DAMIEN LITTLEJOHN
MARRIED: May 6, 1995
First Appeared: Feb. 19, 2020
On their way home from work, Tammie and Damien call each other “and we spend that hour’s drive talking about how our days went, and anything that may be on our hearts,” Tammie said. “Listen to one another… and remember that your spouse is human and not superhuman.”
“Be willing to listen even when you don’t have an answer,” Damien said, “some conversations your spouse may have with you are just for you to listen to and not try to fix. Sometimes your spouse already knows what they need and just wants your comfort and to be heard.”
On Valentine’s Day “[every year] I cook dinner on that night, I always make shrimp scampi, garlic bread, and salad. We sit and have our dinner together, talk about how our day went, and try to talk about pleasant things, laughing and reminiscing, then off to bed, and enjoy spending that intimate time together,” Tammie said. “We always get each other something nice and [exchange gifts] over dinner, and when our girls [now 24 and 20] were young, on that night they had to stay in their rooms with the door closed,” she laughed.
“My wife is fine as long as she gets some pink roses, but I like to try to be a little different…,” Damien said. “One way to get the best bang for your buck is to send your wife flowers/gifts to her job. Not only is she getting something she likes, but she also has a crowd around her and they magnify whatever you’ve done,”
One year I sent a gorilla to serenade her.” Tammie laughed as she reminisced.
“I turned around and a man-sized gorilla started singing to me,” she laughed. “My coworkers thought it was wonderful, but I thought he’d lost his mind!”
EMMA AND SAM K. FORD
LIVE: Birmingham [280 area]
MARRIED: Nov 1, 2014
First appeared: August 29, 2018
“We keep the spark and romance alive by making sure we carve out time for each other. With kids [2 sons, 6, and 3], it can be easy to get into the mundane cycle of life and forget each other,” said Emma.
“We make sure to schedule date nights, to make sure we have intentional conversations and put each other first,” Sam added.
[Valentine’s Day] can be simple or extravagant depending on your tastes. A trip to a winery is a great bonding and fun experience,” Emma said. “If you’re up for it, hiring a chef and eating by candlelight can be so romantic.”
“Personally, I love a dinner reservation and an event like axe throwing or classes for couples,” Sam added.
EDWARD AND JAVACIA BOWSER
MARRIED: April 8, 2006
First appeared: May 9, 2018
With both keeping busy schedules “time doesn’t just open up so we have to plan quality time or it won’t happen,” said Edward.
“Almost every day I’m thinking of ways to be my husband’s girlfriend; that’s how I keep the spark alive,” said Javacia.
The couple also steps outside the box. “We go to live professional wrestling shows and concerts. We went to the Museum of Ice Cream in New York and Candytopia in Atlanta. And for the past few summers, we’ve taken a “baecation” to Orange Beach,” Javacia added.
As for how married couples should celebrate valentine’s Day, the Bowsers have a few ideas: “…we decided to stop going out on Valentine’s Day and have an at-home indoor picnic instead. We order pizza, I bake cookies, and I decorate the living room. And the evening is complete with a playlist of our favorite love songs. It’s such a stress-free evening and I love that we don’t have to deal with crowded restaurants.” Javacia said.
“The more intimate setting works better for us. It gives us downtime and one-on-one time which can be rare because of our busy schedules,” Edward added.
VALENCIA AND MICHAEL CARPENTER
MARRIED: December 9, 1997
First appeared: May 30, 2018
Evolution and authenticity are part of keeping the spark alive, said Valencia. “Once you become your authentic self you are free to explore and enjoy the ‘new you’ the two of you have become.”
Michael said “…you have to continue to date one another, keeping in mind the importance of making sure the other person is a priority,” he said.
The Carpenter’s said, “every day is Valentine’s Day”.
“Fun for Valentine’s Day is whatever the couple needs it to be on that day. Especially if both are working and taking care of other people,” Valencia said. “Make adjustments as time goes on to whatever your new norms are,” Michael said, “and being grateful and learning to seize the moments.”
PETER AND MEREDITH DAVIS
LIVE: McCalla, AL
MARRIED: April 4, 2016
First appeared: Sept. 22, 2021
Spontaneous communication keeps it light and fun, said Peter. “I will call or text Meredith often just to tell her something interesting, funny… Make it a priority to carve out quality time for each other…. [and] try to spend time as a couple with people who nurture and/or inspire the marriage,” he said.
Date nights… A lot of date nights where we just get to laugh and talk. Car rides together just the two of us. Nothing fancy… Simple is absolutely the best for me,” Meredith said.
“Every day with Meredith is Valentine’s Day, said Peter. “I love her more and more each day.”
Meredith said, “Lucky for me, he manages to shower me with gifts often. In essence, I think we celebrate Valentine’s Day throughout the year.”
KENA AND JONATHAN ‘JG’ PITTS
MARRIED: March 9, 2013
First appeared: March 25, 2020
For the Pitts, support plays a huge role in their spark.
“Whatever business, whatever idea, whatever thing one of us has, the other goes above and beyond to show up with support, love, prayer, whatever is needed,” Jonathan said. “Kena has no bigger fan than me. I have no bigger fan or support system than her. No one loves me more fully and more completely than my wife, and nobody loves her more than her husband… As a result, we look to each other, and the sparks fly just like we first met. That keeps the fire ignited.”
Kena said, it’s in their ability to be transparent and vulnerable with one another.
“We are completely vulnerable with each other and embrace those hard conversations because we are fully committed to cleaving to one another. And when you can talk about anything, say what hurts or what made one of you uncomfortable or how something upset you, it removes those hidden fire starters that can spring up later and paves the way for greater intimacy,” she said.
Valentine’s Day is more than to going out to dinner, Jonathan said. “If that’s what you and your spouse want to do, have at it (especially if you haven’t been out in a while). But the key thing to do on Valentine’s Day is to connect. Intentionally connect with your spouse and grow in intimacy that will last all year long. Whether that’s done with gifts, sitting at home together watching movies, or flying off on vacation …”
Get back to basics, Kena said.
“Do the things that drew you together in the first place. Focus on the experience of one another’s presence. [For us] it’s culture, it’s music, it’s quiet. So maybe a picnic in your own backyard or park. A romantic walk through the museum and jazz spot for the evening. Whatever it is, make sure it speaks to who you are as a couple,” she said.
TOSHA AND MICHAEL SMITH
MARRIED: June 23, 2018
First appeared: Nov. 10, 2021
Be “intentional”, say the Smiths with the phone calls to check on [one another] throughout the day. “I make plans when I know we’ll have free time together, and whether we are alone, out for dinner, or with friends and family, I make sure that these times are about her. Holding hands, creating laughter, dance moves in our kitchen… [connection] and understanding drives it all,” Michael said.
“…on the days we can be together, we make it count,” Tosha said. “Good food and a movie, it’s like having a slumber party every day. I still get excited when I know we are going to be together in that way… we even talk a little kinky that really gets things pumping. We have grown so much over the years and we figured out how to serve each other.”
V-Day is not just once a month for the couple. “I treat my wife to something special every month, and now holidays are just another day,” Michael said. “So I say make this upcoming V-Day a blast and create a V-Day in all the months,” he said.
“…we give all year long, romantic gestures, and quick little getaways because we are purpose-driven and we enjoy being a light for other couples,” Tosha said.