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‘He Pulled Me Close, Started Talking in my Ear…I Realized He Was Proposing’

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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 Barnett Wright bwright@birminghamtimes.com. Include the couple’s name, contact number(s) and what makes their love story unique.

STEPHEN AND TYESHA HOWARD

Live: Pleasant Grove

Married: Oct. 15, 2011

Met: In 2002, at Minor High School in their 10th-grade biology class. Stephen had transferred in from George W. Carver High School, and after becoming acquainted both realized they were also in the same kindergarten class at Central Park Elementary [in Ensley]. However, it wasn’t until college while Tyesha was away at the University of Montevallo and Stephen at Alabama Agricultural & Mechanical University that they really hit it off when Stephen contacted Tyesha on Facebook.

“We were cool in high school, and I was always interested in her, so I reached out on Facebook to hang out and see if there was something there,” Stephen recalled.

“He’s handsome, so I was open to the possibilities,” Tyesha said. “I was excited and interested because we had always been cool with each other and had hung out [during and after high school] so I was like, ‘yeah, let’s do it.’”

First date: Summer 2010, for Stephen’s birthday at Joe’s Italian restaurant in Alabaster. After dinner, they went and saw a movie at Amstar Movie Theater in Alabaster, and saw “The Karate Kid.”

“She was taking me out for my birthday … I went and picked her up and she looked really sexy, she had on a grey and black skirt and it happened to match what I had on; I was trying to look fresh and cool for the date,” Stephen said. “The vibe was chill, it was comfortable, but our conversation had changed and got more intimate and was more about what she liked in a guy…,” Stephen said.

“It went really well, it seemed like all the music that was playing on the car ride alluded to being in a relationship. I was excited to introduce him to the restaurant [because] previously whenever we hung out he always picked the movie, but I picked [the restaurant and movie] … He always lead and initiated things whenever we hung out, but I kinda lead this one because I was taking him out for his birthday,” Tyesha said. “The vibe was comfortable almost like we were dating, but he had not asked me to date him yet, so there was an unspoken tension in the air.”

The turn: Summer 2010, a couple of weeks after Stephen’s birthday date. “One night we had gone out on a date and when he brought me back home and it was time to say ‘good night’ it’s like the question was in the air, and he asked me what’d I think about making this exclusive, and I said ‘yes,’” Tyesha said.

The proposal: March 2011, underneath the waterfall at Noccalula falls in Gadsden, Ala. “I wanted to do something romantic and memorable. Classy, but not showy so I thought about the waterfall,” Stephen said. “I framed it like, ‘hey, let’s go check out this place in Gadsden with a waterfall’ because of course, you want it to be a surprise, and it was easy to do that because we had a list called ‘Adventure Bound All Year Round’ of fun activities and things we wanted to do, so I framed that day as another adventure. She didn’t know what was going on, she just thought we were [checking an adventure off the list]… When we got to the waterfall I told a stranger I was about to propose and asked him to take some pictures for me. I had written a poem for her and I was trying to recite the poem underneath the waterfall, but the water was so loud it was hard to hear so I had to pull her in real close to me and say it directly in her ear, and I asked her to spend her life with me. It was really muddy, and I had on khakis, but I got down on one knee in the mud under the waterfall and put the ring on her finger.

“I remember getting to the park and was really excited because I didn’t know it existed, or that there even was a waterfall in Alabama. But I was kinda bothered because he kept rushing us to get to the waterfall, and I just wanted to explore the whole park and see everything that was there,” Tyesha said. “…I had on sandals, and I was like ‘oh my God, are we really about to go all the way down there . . .  [and when we got down there], he pulled me close and leaned in and started talking in my ear. That’s when I realized he was reciting a poem that he had written for me and that he was proposing. I couldn’t really hear, but at the end of it, he asked me to marry him … I thought the ring was beautiful, it was perfect. I said ‘yes’.”

The wedding: At Woodrow Hall in Woodlawn, officiated by Stephens’s grandfather, Pastor Steve Clark, of Ensley Church of Christ. Their colors were classic black and white with touches of rose-red.

Most memorable for the bride was “Stephen crying during his vows. People always see me as the more serious one, so when he cried and I didn’t, I was like ‘great, he stole the show, and now it’s my turn; how do I cry too?,” Tyesha laughed. “At the reception, everyone kept reminding me of how sweet his tears were, someone said ‘he was up there crying and you were up there like it was all business’.”

Most memorable for the groom was the first look. “We stayed overnight at the Tutwiler Hotel [downtown, Birmingham], each one of us had our wedding party stay in our suites with us. And the first time we saw each other that day was during the first look outside the hotel for the pictures. I turned around and I remember feeling shocked, she was so beautiful, she looked amazing,” Stephen said. “And after the wedding and reception, we came back to the hotel and ate and fell asleep.”

The couple honeymooned in the United Kingdom the following summer and stayed for two weeks: “The great part was exploring abandoned castles, and getting to be foreigners for a change, and the ones with accents,” Tyesha said

“And I learned and mastered driving a stick [manual gear shift car] on the other side of the road,” Stephen said. “It tested the strength of our marriage during our near-death experiences,” he laughed.

Words of wisdom: “The most important thing in marriage is to have unconditional positive regard for your spouse, and to always remember that it’s the two of you against the world,” Tyesha said.

“Communication needs to be number one. I’m a believer that your spouse is an extension of yourself, you’re one flesh. You have to remember that during communication, and be open and honest. If you can be honest with yourself, you can be honest with your spouse. Just be real. And on the other end, you have to be able to receive the honesty of the other person,” Stephen said.

Happily ever after: The Howard’s have four children: Alivia, 8, Stephen, 6, Tripp, 3, and Ivory, 1, who was delivered by her father at home during the pandemic, November 2020.

Tyesha, 35, is a Forestdale native, and a Minor high school grad. She attended the University of Montevallo, where she earned a bachelor of science degree in communication studies and a master’s degree in counseling. Tyesha is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Inc., the University of Montevallo Communication Studies Alumni Board Chair, and an elementary school counselor at U.W. Clemon Elementary in Forestdale. She is also the owner and creative director of the children’s boutique ‘The Carrot Patch’, where she specializes in custom handmade items at www.Shopcarrotpatch.com.

Stephen, 35, is an Ensley native, a Minor High School grad, and attended Alabama Agricultural & Mechanical University where he earned a bachelor’s degree in Chemistry, and the University of Montevallo where he obtained a master’s degree in general science education with instructional leadership certification. Stephen is the Assistant Principal at Glen Iris Elementary School in Birmingham and owns a bow tie company called Red Thread. The Howard family are members of Ensley Church of Christ.

Updated at 6:33 p.m. on 11/24/2021 to correct spelling of name.