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Communication, prayer, faithfulness

By Anita Debro
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 who would, please send nominations to Erica Wright at ewright@birminghamtimes.com. Include the couple’s name, contact number(s) and what makes their love story unique.


Live: Adamsville

Married: Feb. 13, 1988

Met: Michael was walking down the hall of the former Southern Junior College of Business in downtown Birmingham in early 1985 when he spotted a girl wearing stylish two-toned jeans. “I walked passed her and then turned back around and walked back,” he said. “To be sure of what I saw. She was cute.” Michael caught Ella’s eye as well. “I thought he had cute bow legs,” she recalled.  Michael asked her for her number. Ella agreed and the two began a friendship.

First date: A few weeks after meeting, Ella and Michael decided to go on a “friendly date” to the movies.  They watched “New Jack City” and then “Eddie Murphy Raw” at the movie theater in Midfield. They enjoyed each other’s company, but it wasn’t until a third date when they decided to make the relationship exclusive. “I remember asking her if we were dating,” Michael said. Ella gave it some thought and then agreed. “Why not?” she responded. “I knew that I liked him. He was funny and he kept me laughing.”

The couple dated for three years and at one point Michael moved to Atlanta for nearly one year. The couple saw one another on the weekends and in 1987 decided they would get married, but a wedding was not on the horizon. “It never went anywhere,” Ella said. “He never asked my family for permission.”

The proposal: About six months after first talking about getting married, Ella went to Michael. “She told me to set a wedding date or we were done,” he said. “So I just told her February 13.”  Ella was relieved. “That date was fine with me,” she said. “I felt like I was ready to spend the rest of my life with him. I was in love. I couldn’t see anyone else in my life.”

The wedding: About one year after the proposal, Ella and Michael were married in her church, New Salem Baptist in Bessemer. It was a large and festive ceremony of red and white. “We had about 30 people in our wedding party,” Ella recalled.  “The church was packed,” Michael said. The two remembered the day as joyous. “I was overjoyed,” Michael said. “There was a lot of singing.” Ella said she recalled being both scared and happy.

Words of Wisdom: After 31 years of marriage, Michael said he has learned that sustaining the relationship takes work. “Marriage turns into a business that you have to be in for the long haul,” he said. “You have to understand that in the relationship, you will have good times and tough times.”

Ella agreed and added that it takes communication, prayer, faithfulness and commitment to have a successful marriage. “And keep people out of your business,” she said. Seeking advice is ok for some things, but sharing to much of what goes on in your marriage with friends or family can damage the relationship, she said.  “You can’t run and tell your sisters, friends or mom about every argument because then they will be upset with him and then you will get over it, but they will not and will still be mad at him.”

Happily ever after: Ella works for Social Security administration. Michael is retired from the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) as a surgical tech. He continues to work, however, as a surgical tech at Children’s Hospital and works for Johnson Memorial Funeral in Bessemer. He is also a photographer.  The couple has two daughters and four grandchildren — two boys and two girls. They stay busy traveling to football games and concerts and other outings. “We burn that road up,” Michael joked.