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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Include the couple’s name, contact number(s) and what makes their love story unique.
LARRY AND ANTANEECA ‘KAY’ SIMMONS
Married: April 23, 2015
Met: Late November 2014 at Young Stars Academy, a youth center in Woodlawn. Larry was training and mentoring at the Academy, and Antaneeca’s son, Byron, who was 12 at the time, was a part of the mentoring program.
“My son [Byron] was talking to me about dating again and he asked me had I ever thought about dating Coach Breeze [Larry], and I said ‘no.’ Not long after that, maybe a couple of weeks later I was sitting in the gym [at the youth center] and Larry walked up to me and introduced himself.”
Three months later Larry decided to take another step. “She walked in grace, how she presented and carried herself… I saw how she dedicated herself to her son and all those things were really attractive,” he said.
At the time, Antaneeca was on a two-week fast and said she wasn’t looking to date anyone. “I was upfront with a lot of my standards,” she said which only made her more intriguing to Larry.
“We both were on isolated spiritual retreats and that’s why gravity pulled us together. She was being a servant and was dedicated to serving and I was dedicated to serving…we were on the same path. The first time I talked to her and looked her in the eyes, I knew then,” Larry said.
First date: February 2015, at Railroad Park in downtown Birmingham. The pair met up for a brief impromptu date, and Larry brought along a cup of coffee for Antaneeca.
“I was on my way to work [at Church of The Reconciler, downtown Birmingham, where she served as the director of women’s missions],” Antaneeca said, “and Larry was headed to get coffee so he asked me what kind of coffee I like (decaf, iced caramel macchiato with almond milk) … and I was by Railroad Park, so I pulled over [to wait for him]. I was a little embarrassed because I had just taken my hair down and looked a little tomboyish,” she laughed. “We talked for a little bit, I thanked him for my coffee, and that was it, I left and went to work.”
The brief meetup was worth the effort, Larry said. “I just had to let her know I was for real about the previous conversations we had, so whenever I could see her I had to seize the opportunity,” he said. “When she stepped out of the vehicle, that assertiveness, that glow, she just walked in grace… She was everything I prayed for and dreamed of, and as I learned more about her there was even more confirmation.”
The turn: March 2015, after a brunch at Antaneeca’s apartment in Roebuck.
“For me, it was a month after we met. I invited him over, and I cooked, we had a brunch out on my patio and we talked a lot about what we wanted in a partner, our beliefs, we don’t really celebrate holidays. We were really in sync and it was such a spiritual connection that I felt this is what God truly had for me… After that we danced in the rain, we painted a beautiful portrait together, there were so many things that solidified it for me,” Antaneeca said.
“It was the fish and grits [at the brunch] for me,” Larry laughed. “She’s a writer, she published a book, she wrote a lot of poetry and that same night she recited her poem ‘Evolving’, and it really blew me away. We shared some of our poetry with one another, and her poetry was her story…,” Larry said.
The proposal: On April 14, 2015, at Antaneeca’s home in Roebuck. Both of their parents and families were there for a cookout. “We were bringing our families together so that everybody could meet each other. It was to acknowledge that he was my person, and I was his,” Antaneeca said.
Unknown to Kay, Larry had planned to propose.
“She was eating, and I got down on one knee and pulled out the ring and told her how I felt about her and she was sitting there in amazement and I asked her to be my wife, and there wasn’t a pause, she said ‘yes’ pretty quick,” Larry said. “I remember looking at everybody’s faces, and everybody in her family and mine were happy.”
“I was surprised. I felt like how did he get this past me? and how did he pull it off because we were together as a family most of the time? … I was in disbelief. The ring was beautiful, the moment was beautiful, having both of our families there it just really felt good, and I was so happy that I found my person,” Antaneeca said.
“I felt like I had arrived as a man, and as a man of God,” Larry said. “I was affirmed and I had been obedient and God had given me what I asked for. It was a defining moment for me,” Larry said.
The wedding: The Simmons renewed their vows on July 18, 2015 before their family and friends on a ranch in Eastaboga, Alabama, officiated by Reverend Matt Lacey. Their colors were purple and pink.
Most memorable for the bride was “when Larry said his vows, I remember the connection that we had, the tears, and how emotional it was,” Antaneeca said.
Most memorable for the groom was “when I saw Kay [Antaneeca] walk down the aisle. How she was looking at me, and her taking those steps towards me and being solidified under God. As a Black man, I understood the mission. Ultimately when Matt said you may kiss the bride, I was like ‘dang, I’m a married man’,” Larry laughed.
Words of wisdom: “Make sure that [the two of you] have a prayer life together. It’s also important to give each other room to grow, we’re always evolving as individuals and it’s important to allow your partner to grow and love them through each phase of their evolvement. Communicate with one another. We try to forgive quick, love hard, and give each other space to learn and grow, and continue to do nice things and little surprises for one another,” Antaneeca said.
“I agree with my wife, but I would add to learn how to calibrate the gravity because gravity is a very powerful force, and it pulls you together if you’re married because you are one…,” Larry said.
Happily ever after: The Simmons are a blended family with four children, Byron, 19, Ayden, 9, Legend, 5, Ulysses, 2.
Kay, 40, is a Wenonah native, and Wenonah High School grad. She attended Santa Monica College, in Santa Monica, CA where he studied journalism. She works as a domestic violence advocate at Glove Ministries in Birmingham and a regional district manager for Alabama Goodwill.
Larry, 42, is an Ashland [Clay County, Ala.] native, and Fort Campbell High School grad [Fort Campbell, Kentucky]. He attended Jefferson State Community College where he earned a certification in physical therapy, and American Baptist College in Nashville, Tenn., where he studied theology. Larry is Vice President of Promotions and City Look and Decor at The World Games 2022.