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‘God’s timing and patience is everything’

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.

A chance meeting at a grocery store in 1996 has led to a nearly 22-year marriage for Renee and Curtis Johnson. (Ameera Steward Photos, The Birmingham Times)


Live: Bessemer

Married: May 16, 1997

Met: It was Sunday, Nov. 2, 1996 at the Fairfield Food World. At his mother’s request, Curtis was shopping for a lemon pound cake to go along with Sunday dinner when he bumped into Renee, who was in Food World at her mother’s request shopping for items for Sunday dinner. “She caught my eye,” Curtis said. “She had on a black shirt and a mini skirt and it was hugging and I was looking,” he said. “I went back to aisle 13 just to ask her how she was doing and if she was married, and after she said she was, I attempted to walk off but she stopped me and ‘hey, what’s your name?’,” Curtis said.

Yes, Renee said she was married, but there was a “but . . .I had just filed for divorce,” she said. “I filed for divorce the previous Tuesday…by this time it’s Sunday.”

Renee got his phone number to use when she was ready. She called by Wednesday of the same week and the pair met at a local McDonalds. They hit it off so well, Curtis invited her to his family’s Mike Tyson fight party that coming Friday night.

First date: While Curtis had invited Renee to the fight, his family had invited another woman to be his date.  “I told them that I had Renee coming and that they needed to get rid of her,” Curtis said.

The date went so well, Renee said she moved in the next week. “I was staying over there every night…”.

Curtis said, “in a week’s time, she was my fiancee.”

“The only person that had met him was my mom,” Renee said. “I didn’t want to take him around anyone until my divorce was final, and it finalized two days before Christmas,” Renee said.

The proposal: It was more so a decision to get married the couple said.

“We were talking marriage since January, but I knew I couldn’t get married for two months so we knew we couldn’t do it until after February,” Renee said.

“We both had been married and in other relationships, we were 31 when we met, and knew what we wanted and where we were going,” Curtis said, “and we were both trying to pursue something and we went for it. That’s how we’re still here 22 years later,” he said.

A chance meeting at a grocery store in 1996 has led to a nearly 22-year marriage for Renee and Curtis Johnson. (Ameera Steward Photos, The Birmingham Times)

The wedding: At the Bessemer Courthouse. “I wore a little tan skirt and an orange top, Renee said, “we were married by Judge Dunn,  he became our neighbor later on.”

Curtis said, “I can’t remember the outfit I had on, but I had on some shoes, slacks and a button down,” he laughed.

The couple remembers picking up their daughter from school after taking their vows.

“We did a little Red Lobster thing and went on a honeymoon…We took our daughter with us,” Renee said. “I made the mistake of not checking my daughter out of school early, and she was really upset at not being included in the nuptials, she was seven at the time.”

That night, the couple got Renee’s daughter, Kamilya, set up in her new home.  

“He had two bedrooms and we had one of them set up for her anyway…but she was living with my mother at the time because I had moved in with him so soon after meeting.”

Curtis, an Army veteran, said he used his VA loan to build their house and “we’ve been here for 19 years.”

Words of wisdom: “Prior to meeting [Curtis] I wrote down a prayer, and asked the Lord that if my ex husband was really for me, then help me, change me, change him. And if he’s not the one, send me a man that’s all about Renee,” she said. “I met [Curtis] and we became unbreakable, I have never had a man be all about Renee the way he is. God’s timing and patience is everything” she said.

A couple must always “be willing to weather the storm,” Curtis said. “Every day is not going to be perfect, we are human and we all make mistakes … you gotta keep that love strong for one another and be willing to stay there with your mate through thick and thin,” he said. “Keep Christ in your life, that’s one thing that we have done.”

Renee added that it’s important to “like” your spouse as a person, it builds the friendship that sustains long-term relationships . . . I think that when you meet the person that is going to be your ‘forever’ you have to like each other, you have to enjoy being friends and hanging out,” she said.

Happily ever after: Curtis and Renee Johnson are parents of daughter Kamilya, 29, and son, Malik, 18, who is a senior at Gunn Christian Academy and they share three grandchildren.

Curtis, a Jamaica, Queens native has been an area resident for the past 24 years, and is a lieutenant with the Midfield Fire Department.  

Renee, a Hueytown native, is a University of Alabama at Birmingham grad. She earned her B.S. degree in computer science, and works in litigation support with Birmingham-based law firm Hare, Wynn, Newell & Newton, LLP.

The couple likes to travel, take cruises and see how people live in different parts of the world.