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 Erica Wright firstname.lastname@example.org. Include the couple’s name, contact number(s) and what makes their love story unique.
KENNETH AND ORLETTA RUSH
Married: June 29, 2002
Met: Spring 1999, at Lee County Youth Center in Opelika, Ala. Orletta was a teacher there, and Kenneth was a Juvenile Probation Officer. Kenneth had nowhere to go but up. “The first time I tried to get a date with her she dissed me,” he said. But “… prayer does work because I could not ever get her off my mind,” he added. “She was even in my dreams . . .During that time I was doing a lot of praying trying to get my life in order and I prayed that the Lord would bring somebody into my life that could keep me motivated, that would support me in my endeavors, ambitions, and goals.” Kenneth said he built up the courage again to ask her out a second time “and she said yes…”
When Kenneth first approached Orletta she had just come out of a bad relationship, “so dating was the furthest thing from my mind. So, the first time [he asked her out] was just not a good time for me. But the second time he did, I obliged because I was amused by his persistence … I thought he was a very handsome, charismatic kind of guy. There was something intriguing about him because he was always a perfect gentleman and that sparked my interest.”
First date: Spring 1999, Kenneth asked Orletta to accompany him to a cookout and Orletta remembers being nervous.
“He was over an hour late picking me up for our first date, so I ended up channeling some of that nervousness into anger while I was a sitting duck,” Orletta laughed. “Luckily, it was a 45-minute drive from my home to Montgomery [where the cookout was] so we had the opportunity to [converse] and let my anger melt away. I had a wonderful time and it ended up being a wonderful first date. I made a lot of lifelong friends.
The turn: That cookout led to the two becoming an item. “…He began inviting me to events in his hometown [Mobile]. We attended Madi Gras, balls, weddings, and family functions, and the more that we did together the closer we became,” said Orletta. “And during that time, most of his friends were getting married, and it became one of those things where the more you see it [weddings] the more we talked about it, and we arrived at the point where we knew neither one of us were going anywhere and we admitted that we truly loved one another dearly…,” Kenneth said, “seeing how she adapted to my lifestyle, friends, and family [was a big deal]… we were attending a wedding every six months and it seemed like [getting married] was contagious,” he laughed. “And my dad, before he passed away he had a talk with me and said ‘aye boy, you need to sit your tail down and you need to keep her’ my mom and my dad both loved her.
The proposal: July 2001, in Opelika on a drive to Orletta’s parents’ home. “It was one of the most beautiful things that ever happened to me, my husband is not a huge attention seeker so the proposal was very simple. He had the ring and as we were driving he gave me the ring and asked me to marry him in the car on the way. There were so many people at my parent’s home that day because of a celebration they were all in town for, so it ended up being a big celebration and the perfect time to reveal our engagement,” said Orletta.
Kenneth recalled the ring was in the glove compartment when he told Orletta to open it. “When she did the leather ring box was sitting there and I told her to reach in and get it. Her cheeks got all big, and I told her to open it, and when she opened it I asked her would she marry me. I knew that the Lord had brought someone into my life that I could love and cherish forever.”
The wedding: Pleasant Grove Baptist Church in Opelika, Ala., officiated by the Rev. George C. McCulloh. Their wedding colors were buttercup (yellow) and cream.
Most memorable for the bride was the moment she walked into the sanctuary. “I’ll never forget the look on my husband’s face. He’s 6’3, and the typical big, tall [unemotional] man. And the moment those doors opened and my father began walking me down the aisle and Kenneth saw me in my bridal attire, tears immediately filled his eyes. To me, his body language, the look on his face, the tears, it all showed the unconditional love that he had for me.”
Most memorable for the groom was his nervous energy and emotions.
“I was very emotional, everybody in the church was crying, my groomsmen, my brother-in-law, my mom and aunts, it was like the spirit resounded the church that day. It was a moment I’ll never forget.”
Words of wisdom: “You have to think about each other’s feelings on a regular basis, communication is the key when it comes to our marriage. Ask each other how your day went, about their feelings, and sit down and share how you’re feeling the best way you can,” Kenneth said. “We try to sit down and discuss things to see if we can alleviate any problems. I keep an open ear, we talk every day and that’s one of the best parts of our marriage.
“We always keep God first, God has been in our relationship even when we were dating; we always attended church together and had some of the same beliefs,” Orletta said. “He actually joined my church in Opelika before we were married and was rebaptized there, and to me, that showed a tremendous effort on his behalf. Even with going through premarital counseling, God has been first with us, through prayer, faith, and your strong ability to allow God to be first in everything that we do . . . With God as the center of our marriage, a lot of other things can’t get in it.”
Happily ever after: The Rush’s have one child, son, Jordan, 13.
Orletta, 48, is an Opelika, Ala. native and an Opelika High School grad. She attended Auburn University where she earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education, and a master’s degree from Troy University. Orletta also earned an Education Doctorate Degree (EdD) at Samford University and is the Deputy Superintendent of Jefferson County School System. Kenneth, 48, is a Mobile Ala. native and a Leflore High School grad. He attended Auburn University of Montgomery, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. He worked with CSX Railroad for 16 years before joining the Jefferson County School system as a law teacher at Clay Chalkville High School.