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‘Not only listen to their voice, but listen to their heart’

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.



Live: Pleasant Grove

Married: May 3, 2014

Met: In 1988 at Pittman Jr. High School (now Hueytown Middle School) in their seventh grade math class. They became good friends while attending Hueytown High School together, but lost touch after graduating in 1994. The two reconnected in February 2010 on a Facebook  post.

Neeky’s post read ‘another year I’ll be in the house alone on Valentine’s Day’, and [Jeff] saw it and sent me a message saying ‘I can’t be your Valentine because we haven’t seen each other in 16 years, but I would love to take you out as friends’…,” Neeky recalled.

Jeff said he hadn’t seen Neeky since graduation and wanted to see her since it had been a while. He also hadn’t been in a relationship in a long time and was casually dating, “so I wasn’t trying to get into anything serious … But like I said, I wanted to see her and I wanted to go out.”

First date: February 13, 2010, at the Carmike Dollar Movie Theater in Hoover. They saw Avatar. Although Jeff had asked her out for Valentine’s Day, he did not like the crowd movie theaters drew on the actual day, so they opted to go out the day before.

“I really did not want to go to the dollar movies, I tried and tried to get her to let me take her to the real movies (full price movies), but she insisted on the dollar movies. She had this big purse with her and on the way she made me stop at the gas station to fill up on snacks to save money,” Jeff laughed.  “I spent a total of six dollars on the whole date, including the movie and snacks. I went home that night and told my friend that [Neeky] was a real one and a keeper.”

“I didn’t want him to think that he had to spend all this money for us to have a good time,” Neeky said. “When he dropped me off at home, he popped the trunk and pulled out a dozen roses and one of those real huge Valentine’s Day balloons, and he said, ‘I know I’m not your Valentine, but I think every woman should get something for Valentine’s Day’, that really made me smile.”

The turn: Spring 2010 when Neeky told Jeff that he would be committed to her. “We had already been going out and he met my [sons Dezmond and DeShun] and he had already told me he loved me… so to me he was my man. So one day I got on Facebook and asked him what’s it going to be: ‘Me or freedom?’, and he said ‘Me’”, Neeky recalled.

“That first night we went to the movies [Neeky] went to the top of the list, but I was in denial. She was reeling me in and I liked it, but I was still dating [other people] so I was getting myself to the point of cutting everything and everybody else off, but she made me do the cut off [sooner] and I was fine with it,” Jeff said. The proposal: July 31, 2012, in Las Vegas at Neeky’s family reunion.

“Before we left for the trip, I asked [Neeky’s] aunt who is like a mother to her for [Neeky’s] hand in marriage, and after I got that approval I told the boys [Neeky’s sons].  I waited until we [got to Las Vegas and] were in front of the Bellagio Hotel…I wanted her to see the water [fountain] show, and at the end [of the show] I got on one knee and proposed to her in front of her sons and her cousin, Pat,” Jeff said.

Neeky said it was a great surprise because “I wasn’t expecting [the proposal], we’d only been together two years and I didn’t know he was that serious about me… I was elated and crying, and after I composed myself I called my aunt and my sisters…,” Neeky said. “That Saturday night at the family reunion banquet, my cousin called us up to the front and announced to the whole family that Jeff had proposed to me.

The wedding: New Mount Moriah Baptist Church in Hueytown, officiated by Rev. Adolphus Moody and Jeff’s pastor, Rev. Charles Winston. Their colors were black, white and red.

Most memorable for the bride was being pronounced husband and wife. “I knew I had found the one I had been praying for my whole life. He was good to his mom, he was good to me for the four years we had been together and always went above and beyond for our boys.” Also, “I was sick that day, I had done everything for the wedding except cook, so I was tired and ready to rest.”

Most memorable for the groom was when reality had set in inside the pastor’s office before walking to the altar. “It hit me like a ton of bricks. I got sick, the room started spinning… it wasn’t cold feet, I loved her, I knew she was the woman I wanted to spend the rest of my life with, she was good to my mom… it was just real,” Jeff said. “I was also glad when it was over too because we did everything ourselves and now we got to relax.

They honeymooned in Cozumel, Mexico aboard the ‘Ecstasy’ Carnival cruise ship where Jeff upgraded to a suite with a balcony, “and we loved being able to overlook the water from our room, said Neeky. Once back in Florida the couple spent a few days in Key West.

Words of wisdom: “Never talk down to your mate,” Neeky said, “the power of life and death is in the tongue. In marriage you will have disagreements, but even though you’re mad at [your spouse] you still gotta speak life into him. We experience enough negativity in this world, so be the encouragement that [your spouse] needs; and not only listen to their voice, but listen to their heart.”

Differing opinions can help a couple grow, Jeff said.  “Just because you’re married doesn’t mean you’ll agree on everything, but if you respect those differences and each other, you can grow from them,” he said.

Happily ever after: The Jacksons have three children; sons Dezmond, 24, DeShun, 21, and daughter Kaliyah, 5.

Neeky, 44, is a Brighton native and Hueytown High School grad. She attended Virginia College and earned an associate’s degree in surgical technology. She now works as an independent baker from home.

Jeff, 43, is a Hueytown native and Hueytown High School grad. He attended the University of Alabama at Birmingham [UAB], where he earned a bachelor of science degree in electrical and computer engineering. He works at US Steel in Fairfield in electrical maintenance.