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 email@example.com. Include the couple’s name, contact number(s) and what makes their love story unique.
GLORIA AND THOMAS DILLARD
Married: July 6, 2002
Met: At Radio Shack on Green Springs highway, in Spring 1999. Thomas, who was a store manager for the Radio Shack franchise, drove up from his location in Anniston to pick up merchandise from Gloria’s store on Green Springs, who was also a manager for the company.
“It was professional at first, I just [tended to the business]. But, a couple of days later I called her up at her store, reintroduced myself, and asked her for her personal phone number, but she didn’t give it to me right away,” Thomas said.
“He had to earn it,” Gloria laughed. “I’m the type of woman where you have to show yourself more than one time for me. I’m not gonna give it out the first time, but when he called me again and again (he tried to wear me down), I went on and gave it to him.”
First date: Summer of 1999, they attended a coworker’s wedding in Birmingham.
“When he called and asked if I would attend the wedding, we made arrangements for him to pick me up from home… I think that was his way of trying to find out where I live [Titusville],” Gloria laughed”, and after the wedding, we went to the reception…. It [seemed] like the wedding gave us an opportunity to really interact, and it gave me the mindset that we may need to do this again to see where it can go.”
“She was a good person with a good personality, we joked and teased a lot. Our district manager saw us together and saw [the chemistry] and kinda pushed us together.
The turn: February 2000, when Thomas asked Gloria to be his Valentine. Thomas was working in Anniston for Radio Shack but took over a Birmingham location to be closer to Gloria.
Gloria’s “inner beauty, her intelligence, her personality, the way she carried herself, made me want to be closer,” Thomas said. “She understood me and I tell her all the time she should’ve been a social worker because she has that listening ear, she keeps you leveled, and people really [gravitate] towards her and love her, even if they haven’t seen her in 10 years” Thomas said.
“Thomas has the most gorgeous spirit, and he loves well beyond measure,” Gloria said. “He’s loving and giving, and he has a way of bringing out the best in me… his heart is ever-giving. Once he met my kids, they loved him, and he has been there for them.”
The proposal: February 2002, at Brookwood Village. “We had gone out to dinner at Brookwood Village, and I asked her to go for a walk. We got to a nicely decorated area with some lights and tables and chairs and we sat down, and I asked her, ‘what would be her wildest dream?’ and she said, ‘to get married.’ And I already had the ring in my pocket because that’s what I was planning to do, so I pulled the box out and opened it up and said, ‘well, let’s get married then’, and she was speechless,” Thomas recalled.
“We had a great dinner at the restaurant, and as we were walking he kept trying to get me to [walk to a certain area] but I didn’t know he was about to propose,” Gloria said. “And he surprised me when he asked me what my wildest dream was, and then when he pulled out a ring, I was in shock. I didn’t answer him right away. I waited until we got back to the car and looked over at him and smiled and said ‘yes’, and called my mama on my cell phone,’” she laughed.
The wedding: At Gloria’s home church, Sixth Street Peace Baptist Church in Birmingham, officiated by Reverend Hobdy Moorer. Their colors were sage and green.
Most memorable for the bride was a moment during their vow exchange. “…one thing I was not prepared to say was the ‘love, honor, and obey’ part, I got stuck at ‘obey’ and I couldn’t move forward,” Gloria laughed, “and my mama yelled out ‘you better say it’, and at that point, I knew I had found the man of my dreams when he waited patiently for me to say ‘obey’, and here we are 20 years later.”
Most memorable for the groom was “the bride and groom dance at the reception. We danced to ‘Just Be My Lady’, by Larry Graham, and it was the realization that we were together now. It was the completion of my mission to find happiness, but with the right person, and it was clear that I could move forward with my life now with a God-fearing woman. Her relationship with Christ helped me to come to a more solid relationship with Christ myself,” Thomas said.
Honeymoon: “We had to go back to work,” Gloria said, “he still owes me a trip.”
Words of wisdom: “A man and a woman have to know how to respect each other, and when you’re giving respect, you have to be a good listener. Listen to what he has to say. Always be the woman that your man expects you to be. Don’t let anyone else in your marriage. Once we’re over the threshold [of our home], that’s our personal business and it shouldn’t go anywhere else. Also, never go to bed angry because that can lead to more discord,” Gloria said.
Thomas said, “Seek guidance from the Lord through prayer and have someone in your life like a pastor or minister that you feel comfortable talking with. But most importantly let the Lord guide you. As a man, you have got to let go of feeling like you need to be right all the time. Love and marriage is give and take.
Happily ever after: The Dillards attend Sixth Street Peace Baptist Church in Birmingham and are a blended family, with four adult daughters from Gloria’s previous relationship: LaTonya, Cemethia, Terica, and BreAnna and Thomas’s two adult sons from his previous marriage: Thomas, and James.
Gloria, 63, is a Titusville native, an A. H. Parker high school grad, and a retired retail worker with 33 years of experience.
Thomas, 67, is an Athens, GA, native, a Rockmart High School grad [Rockmart, GA], who attended Berry College [Mt. Berry, GA.], where he earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration. He moved to Birmingham in 2000, when he relocated for his job [Radio Shack], where he worked for 40 years, and retired in 2017 when the company closed.