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‘As a Married Couple, We Ate Ravioli Out of the Can…I Was Humble’

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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.

THEODORE ‘TED’ AND MARILYN PATE

Live: Center Point

Married: March 5, 1976

Met: At Woodhill Park in Cleveland, Ohio, in May 1973. Marilyn, age 16 at the time, was on spring break [from Hewitt Trussville High School] and visiting her older sister, Glenda Formby, who lived in Cleveland when she met Ted, who was also 16.

Marilyn’s best friend, Lisa, was also visiting family in Cleveland and she and Marilyn met up to hang out at the park when they crossed paths with Ted, who lived in Cleveland.

“Ted was like a lion picking out his prey,” Marilyn laughed, “he spotted me from across the park . . .”

“I asked her name and what she was doing in Cleveland … and after a while I asked for her number which she did not know because she didn’t know her sister’s telephone number, so I had to give her my home number,” Ted said.

“I called him as soon as I got home to my sister, I came right in and told her I needed the phone number [to her house] because I met somebody at the park, and I want to talk with him and called him that night. [He must’ve been] waiting by the phone to see if I was going to call because he answered [the phone],” Marilyn laughed.

There was never a dull moment during that phone conversation. “We discussed where she’s from here in Birmingham and I was telling her about myself, where I go to school at [John Adams High School, Cleveland, Ohio]… We talked about a lot of different subjects, it was jumping back and forth. Our home was close to the park we met at, and I told her I go back and forth to that park quite regularly,” Ted said.

“He asked me if I had a boyfriend back home (in Birmingham), and I asked him if he had a girlfriend. We both had different people we were talking with but nothing serious. We were only 16, I was going into my senior year, and he was going into his junior year,” Marilyn said.

First date: The next day at the same park where Ted and his family were back to watch the fastpitch softball tournament his dad was participating in and Marilyn went back to see Ted, this time with her brothers in tow.

“He got me a hot dog from the famous Mama Jean food truck, and we walked and talked,” Marilyn recalled.

“We sat in the bleachers and she got a chance to meet my mom,” Ted added.

“I think I kinda fit right in with his family from the first visit. I felt comfortable talking with his mom and being in the environment with them watching the baseball game and sitting in the bleachers together,” Marilyn said. “It was a good feeling. There was no pressure, no nervousness, I felt like I was welcomed.”

Following that meeting, Ted and Marilyn continued their conversations on long-distance phone calls for a year while Marilyn finished high school.

“During that time you had to pay for long-distance, and she was making calls and got in trouble for them,” Ted said.

“Yes, because we would talk for hours, sometimes until five in the morning,” Marilyn added.

The turn: In 1974, when Marilyn graduated from Hewitt Trussville High School and moved to Cleveland to live with her sister to be closer to Ted. She got a job, and moved into her own upstairs apartment right next door to Ted’s parent’s house.

“My dad looked and treated Marilyn as a daughter, my family loved her,” Ted said. “We had a fully furnished basement and he gave all of it to Marilyn to set up her own place. My parents took Marilyn in just like she was one of theirs, and if you look at her, she looks just like my sisters and me,” Ted laughed.

Ted graduated in 1975 from John Adams High School, Cleveland, Ohio, he began working and they talked about making a life together. The following year they discussed moving back to Birmingham.

“Her mother was a supervisor on her job, and had a job lined up for me to take a position there if I were to move here,” Ted said.

The proposal: February 1976. There was no formal proposal. A discussion was had, and plans were made. “I had thought about that [job opportunity at Jones Manufacturing, in the Lovick, AL, as an order/part puller] for a day and told Marilyn ‘ok, I’ll take it and move to Birmingham’, and she said ‘you can’t come down to Birmingham with me if we’re not married, my parents won’t allow that’. And I said ‘ok, we’ll get married then. And that was the way it went,’” Ted said.

“No, Ted did not get down on his knee and propose. He only had to pay five dollars for me,” Marilyn laughed. “A marriage certificate only cost five dollars and he got himself a bride.”

The wedding: Cleveland, Ohio, at a courthouse. “We didn’t dress up, it was cold, the weather was ugly so we wore jeans, sweaters, and heavy coats,” Ted said. “Marilyn’s uncle and my mother witnessed the marriage… we were 19 years old.”

“We were married and moved to Birmingham within three weeks,” Marilyn said.

“We had gotten married in the middle of the week and we had our reception on the weekend,” Ted said.

“Ted’s mother and her cousin, Marge, gave us a reception in Ted’s family’s basement, and we had a good time,” Marilyn added.

There was a good time until Ted went outside and saw somebody had hit his car, Ted said. “Marilyn’s brother, George [was in town for the reception] and he was able to fix my car for me. I also had a sprained my right ankle and it was in a cast, so George had to drive us to Birmingham in my car.”

Most memorable for the bride: “In high school, I would always try to write down my full name and scribble [random last names] that I thought would be my married name. And I never thought my last name would be Pate, so after we said ‘I do’, I wrote my name, ‘Marilyn Pate’, and had an epiphany, I’m Mrs. Pate.” Marilyn said.

Most memorable for the groom: “Once we got back to the apartment we realized we are married now, and that there’s no more ‘my’, it’s ‘ours’. Once I got married it didn’t bother me to [let go of my independence] and say this is ‘ours’. I was able to see what type of woman Marilyn was, she was a hardworking lady, she didn’t mind walking in knee-deep snow to get to the bus stop to go to work, and I felt good about the woman that I chose and married and I felt like I did the right thing,” Ted said.

Marilyn added: “I chose to walk to the bus stop or walk to work, I had a choice, I could’ve gotten rides to work, but I chose to walk instead.”

Honeymoon: “Our honeymoon was our drive from Cleveland to Birmingham,” Marilyn said, “With her brother as the chaperone,” Ted laughed, “With McDonald’s as the event center,” Merilyn added.

Words of wisdom: “Be understanding. Some people always want to have the last word and I don’t believe in that. Even if I disagree with my wife, I listen to her side, and she listens to mine, but we just have to have good communication between us,” Ted said. “Trust is a big thing. When we take our vows, it says for better or worse… we were able to work together through [our hard times]… You have to be willing to work together to achieve what [the two of you] want in life. Especially as a young Black couple. We’ve done it for over 46 years.”

Marilyn said: “I thought about the times when we were coming up as a married couple, we ate spaghetti and ravioli out of the can, we didn’t have any furniture, we had a tv and a bed on the floor, and it didn’t bother me. I never said I want or need more. I was humble to the point where it didn’t bother me that we didn’t have a full house of furniture when we moved back here.”

Happily ever after: The Pates have twin sons, Derick and DeVon Pate, 41.

Marilyn, 65, is a Lola City (Trussville) native, and a Hewitt Trussville High School grad. She works as an underwriter assistant for Sheffield Fund in Hoover, AL.

Ted, 65, is a Cleveland, Ohio native, and attended John Adams High School [Cleveland, Ohio]. He is retired as operations manager at Southeast Unloading /Associated Grocers in Tarrant.

The Pates attend First Baptist Lola City, where Marilyn served as the church secretary and retired from her position after 27 years.

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