By Sydney Melson
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Include the couple’s name, contact number(s) and what makes their love story unique.
RON AND JUANITA PAIGE
Married: June 29, 1974
Met: In the 1970’s while attending dance classes in Massachusetts. “I was 40 years old. We both loved to dance,” Ron said. “We didn’t really keep in touch with each other because she lived in Somerville, Massachusetts and I lived in Boston, and then my brother and I went into the Marine Corps for a few years.” When they re-connected, both Ron and Juanita had been previously married, both their spouses had passed away.
“We ended up meeting up later,” said Juanita. “A friend of mine ran into him when he was at work [in Massachusetts at a sheet metal company] and told him to give me a call and he did. Because I knew him years ago when I was younger and I knew his parents, I decided it was a good idea!”
“The girl I ran into was her best friend, and they used to dance together. She saw me in the morning, I was in the cafeteria before I went to work, and she mentioned Juanita was single like I was, so I should give her a call,” Ron said. “A few days passed, and I gave her a call and invited her to lunch. She said she wasn’t interested,” he laughed. “I had problems with ladies, but it didn’t bother me. She called me back a couple days later and asked me out to a party, and I almost said ‘I’m not interested’ to be a smart-aleck, but instead I said, ‘why not?,’” he recalled
Juanita was drawn by how kind Ron was. “He was handsome, he had a nice personality, he was respectful. We talked a lot about when we knew each other, and he was always a gentleman to me. I was impressed with him,” Juanita said.
“She was a nice person, and I appreciated that because I was single for a while. You run into someone and think they’re cool, and that was more or less it for me,” Ron said. “Nice, truthful, I appreciate that.”
First date: 1972, at a house party. “It was on a Saturday night. It was a casual party, and I was just introducing him to people that I knew, just a general party,” Juanita recalled.
“I don’t know that there was much emotion at the time. I hadn’t seen her for years, and she hadn’t seen me for years, so we were still getting acquainted,” Ron said. Much of their time was spent getting to know each other, and they discovered they enjoyed doing things together.
The turn: Ron and Juanita dated for about a year when they realized they really enjoyed each other’s company, and it helped that they shared a lot of the same hobbies. “We loved going dancing, and up until recently we would play a lot of tennis,” Juanita said. The dancing, skiing, boating and sports meant the time they spent together was precious. “Our children were close too, so we decided we might as well get married.”
The proposal: About a year before they got married in 1973. “It’s kind of hard to nail down. Was it really a proposal?,” Ron asked. “It was more like an agreement. For me, I didn’t really know whether I wanted to get married or not, but Juanita said we should get married, and it’s the best thing I ever did.”
“We had been together for over a year and seeing each other exclusively, so we both decided we thought we could do that. It was a nonchalant thing,” she said. Ron didn’t get down on his knee until we renewed our vows. On Juanita’s 70th birthday, Ron threw her a party. “I had no idea that was going to happen! It was mainly family, but it was really something,” said Juanita.
Last year, they held another surprise birthday party for Juanita at Barber Motorsports Park. “I was more shocked than surprised, I just didn’t have a clue. There were friends and family from all over the country, there were friends I hadn’t seen in years, it’s something I will never forget. I think about it a lot. I don’t know how they did it without me having a clue,” she laughed.
The wedding: Ron and Juanita were married in the St. Paul AME Church in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The wedding was officiated by the Reverend John Bryant. “I had a peach-colored jumpsuit that my mom made for me, it was very pretty. Ron had on black pants and a peach-colored shirt with suspenders,” Juanita said. The wedding was small, and only had close friends and family members.
Most memorable for the bride and the groom were the friends and family in attendance.
“The wedding ceremony, Rev. Brian had a ceremony that he had written for African-American couples. It wasn’t traditional, but it was very nice,” Juanita said.
The wedding reminded him of memorable moments of being with his wife, Ron said. “One time, I was pushing my speedboat away from a dock. I was at the back of the boat, and Juanita hit the throttle on the boat too fast, the boat shoots off and I fall off the back of the boat,” he said. “We have a lot of little memories like that, and we think about them all the time.”
For their honeymoon, they went to Cape Cod for a week and stayed at a hotel with a pool and did a lot of relaxing.
Words of wisdom: “Don’t just jump into your marriage,” Juanita said. “You have to have a lot of discussions about your likes and dislikes, and things you think you can deal with. Having things in common and having respect is so important,” she said.
“Talk things over,” Ron said. “Not everyone comes to the same agreement on what you’re doing and how you’re gonna do it. I don’t mean argue, you should be able to sit down and speak with each other. Sometimes you can be right, sometimes you can be wrong. Fortunately, we haven’t had too many serious issues, but every time we’ve had disagreements, we speak to each other.”
“I think when you’re younger you might argue, but when you get older you just fuss,” Juanita laughed. “You just have to pick your battles.
Happily ever after: The Paiges’ have four children: Liza, 60, Anthony, 59, Kelli, 58, and Shellie, 54.
Juanita, 80, is a native of Somerville, Massachusetts. Currently retired, Juanita worked for the City of Cambridge in community development as well as an administrative assistant for a real estate firm.
Ron, 84, is a native of Boston, Massachusetts. Currently retired, Ron worked as a welding fabrication supervisor.
During COVID-19, Ron and Juanita have been at home enjoying each other’s company.