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‘We played Pictionary and I drew ‘will you marry me?’… she realized it was her proposal’



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.


Live: Oxmoor Valley

Married: Aug. 22, 1992

Met: Dec. 22, 1984, at Candace’s parent’s house in West End. Candace was in need of an escort to the Imperial Club debutante ball so a mutual friend introduced Steven, thinking that he’d make a good date.

“[Mutual friend Jacques Richardson] and I were good friends at [West End High School], and he and Steven had just met in their freshman year at Tuskegee [University] and I had told [Jacques] I needed a date. I trust Jacques, he was my best friend and he told me some good things about Steven…,” Candace recalled.

“…we had had our initial telephone conversations, I enjoyed them and it piqued my interest to want to meet her in person,” Steven said. “When I first stepped into the house I saw a young lady in some corduroy shorts and a brown puffy sweater, and I said I sure hope she’s Candace! …I was pleasantly pleased the young lady in the shorts was Candace,” Steven laughed.

First date: That night turned into their first date. Candace and Steven attended two parties, one was a college party on Birmingham-Southern College’s campus, and the other was a random party they happened upon at the Parliament House [a hotel on Birmingham’s southside].

“We had a good time dancing and laughing and talking, it was really a fun night,” Candace reminisced. “Steven loves to dance, and he’s a pretty good dancer.”

“It was crowded at both parties and I made a point to keep up with Candace and made sure she stayed with me the whole night,” Steven said.

“That was really sweet to me that he was so attentive, he would grab my hand [as we maneuvered through the crowd] to make sure we stayed together… and at the end of the night, I asked him if he would like to go to the debutante ball with me.”

“I was already familiar with the debutante ball so I was excited about going, and as soon as I got home I told my brother that I had to get me a tuxedo,” Steven recalled.

The turn: “It got serious right away,” Steven said. “By that spring semester we were exclusive and started riding home together (Candace attended Huntingdon College in Montgomery AL and Steven, Tuskegee University) on weekends and breaks, he’d come through Montgomery and pick me up, and we’d come on to Birmingham,” she said.

“I was really impressed with Steven, and our colleges were only 30 miles apart, so he started coming to visit me, and I would go back and forth to Tuskegee, and we would go to parties and he was always so attentive,” Candace said. “We talked on the phone all the time and I knew that he was special, thoughtful, and kind.”

“I definitely enjoyed that Christmas break [when they met the previous month] and even though I was ready to get back to Tuskegee, I didn’t want to be apart from Candace and I started missing her immediately,” Steven said.  “We stayed on the phone during the week…”

“That was until we got in trouble with our parents because back then you had to pay to talk long-distance… We only had one payphone in each [dormitory] hall, and you had to charge the phone calls to your parent’s phone bill and when they got the bills they told us to stay off that telephone!” Candace laughed.

“We also wrote letters, and we still have all those letters in a shoebox today,” Steven said.

The proposal: Dec. 14, 1991, at Candace’s parents’ home in West End. Steven had talked it over with both of their parents in advance “and I was nervous as a cat,” he said and he had gotten their blessing.

“It was on a Saturday, Candace had planned a Christmas party at her parent’s house and she was going to have friends and family over so my thought was that it would be the perfect time to propose. Jacques was there as well and we were playing Pictionary, and we went a couple of rounds and when it came back around to my turn I actually drew out on the board ‘will you marry me?’ [in illustrations], that was my proposal to Candace. After a little while, she finally guessed it and realized it was her proposal and me asking for her hand in marriage, and she said ‘yes’,” Steven said.

“By the time I figured it out, I started screaming and so were all the girls, the room was in an uproar,” Candace laughed. “He came over and put the ring on my finger and I grabbed him around the neck and hugged him real tight, it was so sweet. That was a special night.”

The wedding: At Candace’s church, First Baptist Church Powderly, officiated by Reverend Thomas Wilder Jr., their colors were peach and teal.

Most memorable for the bride was “when I started down the aisle and I saw Steven and he was justa smiling and he kept a smile on his face the entire time. He was so happy and so was I. Everybody talked about how he started beaming soon as the doors opened and he laid eyes on me,” Candace said.

Most memorable for the groom was “when we exchanged vows. When it came time for me to state my vows there was no doubt in my heart or mind that I was doing the right thing and that Candace was the one for me,” he said. “I remember stating my vows with true conviction.”

The pair honeymooned in Destin, Florida. “. . . that was our first trip together, but there was a hurricane. We woke up on the day before it was time to leave, and waves were roaring…,” Candace said. “But we had a good time, going away together …”

“The weather was beautiful the first few days, but Hurricane Andrew ran us out of Florida,” Steven said.

Words of wisdom: “When we got married I joined Steven’s church [First Baptist Church Graymont in Birmingham] and the pastor told us that we should pray together and keep Christ first in our marriage,” Candace said. “I think consideration and compromise is important in a marriage. We’re coming up on 30 years and you grow into that. I use one of my favorite scriptures, Ephesians 4:32, where it talks about “being kind, forgiving, pleasant, and tenderhearted to one another as Christ does”. . .  and we live by that now.”

“Since the pandemic, both Candace and I work from home, so for the last two years we’ve been together 24/7. Both of our daughters are still in school and prospering in their field of study [Brooklyn is a first-year medical student and Albany is a junior chemical engineer major]. Candace and I continuing to live healthily and remain in love with where we are,” Steven said.

Happily ever after: The Hornbuckle’s have two daughters, Brooklyn, 25, and Albany, 20.

Candace, 56, is a West End native and West End High School grad. She attended Huntingdon College in Montgomery, where she earned a bachelor of science degree in psychology, and a minor in sociology. She is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc., works as a manager with the social security administration, and has served the government for 33 years.

Steven, 56, is a South Goldwire [Birmingham] native, Homewood High School grad, and attended Tuskegee University where he earned a bachelor of science degree in construction science and management. He is a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc., and works as a senior project manager for CBRE (a commercial real estate company) in Birmingham. The Hornbuckles are members of Greater Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church in West End.

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