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“He Said He ‘Was Gonna Love Me for Life’ and He Meant That’

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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.

LUKE AND KAWANNA JOHNSON

Live: West End

 Married: July 9, 2010

Met: In 2002, at Arrington Middle School in West End. Luke was in the 8th grade and on the boys basketball team, and Kawanna was in the 7th grade and on the girls basketball team. They met while playing a scrimmage game against each other.

“Her coach was upset with her because she couldn’t guard me in the paint,” Luke said, “I thought she was a pretty girl but I had to play the game, I couldn’t let ‘cute’ stop me,” he laughed. “I remember her coach putting her on the bench after I kept shooting on her, and that made me feel bad.”

“I remember him from middle school, but I don’t remember getting benched because he shot on me,” Kawanna laughed.

However, it wasn’t until November 2004, during their junior and sophomore years at West End High School that they “caught eyes in the lunchroom,” Luke recalled.

“…but what really set it off was [that we had a mutual friend and she and I] used to talk on the phone all the time, and [Kawanna and the mutual friend] used to always call me on three-way,” Luke said.

“I thought he was cute, but I was too shy to call him myself so that was my opportunity to talk to him,” said Kawanna.

“One night Kawanna spent the night at [the mutual friend’s] house and they called me, but when [the mutual friend] fell asleep, Kawanna got on the phone and it was on from there,” Luke said.

“And then Luke finally gave me his number and we started talking every day,” Kawanna remembered.

“And then we started sneaking off to certain spots in the school between classes to kiss, and she used to come to my classes and wait for me,” Luke laughed.

First date: At the Wildwood Movie Theater on Lakeshore Dr. They saw a horror movie they can’t recall.

“I [suggested the movie] intentionally because I knew that would be a way to get close to her. She’s shy, but I’m not shy at all, I’m aggressive, I go for what I want,” Luke said.

“I remember holding hands and hiding my face in his shoulder during certain parts,” Kawanna said.

The turn: May 2005, when Kawanna became pregnant with their first child, Lu’Keiyiah. “All three of us grew up together,” Kawanna said.

“At first I was nervous, but at the same time I was happy I was going to be a dad, and it made me feel like it was time for me to grow up and be a man,” Luke said.

“He said he ‘was gonna love me for life’, and he meant that. Here we are 17 years later and four kids deep,” Kawanna laughed.

“And hopefully we get another baby, I like to bond over babies, I love it,” Luke. said.

“If that’s what he wants, I’m willing,” Kawanna said.

The proposal: Summer 2009, in Five Points West, outside of a jewelry store while sitting in Luke’s Chevy pick-up truck.

“There was no proposal, I remember one night Luke drove us to a jewelry store in Five Points West, and he told me to stay in the car and he’ll be right back, and when he got back in the truck he gave me the ring and said ‘we getting married’, and I said ‘ok’,” Kawanna laughed.

“I told you I was aggressive,” Luke laughed, “I was only 21, we were already two kids in, and living together…and I knew she was the one for me; I felt it in my heart.”

The wedding: At Linn Park, in Birmingham officiated by Pastor John Killian Sr. of Fayette County Baptist Church. Their colors were green and white.

“It was small, we had close family and friends there, and it was the best decision ever [foregoing the big wedding], and if I had to go back and do it all over I would do it the same way,” Kawanna said.

Most memorable for the bride was that “Luke was an hour late to the wedding,” Kawanna said. “I was already there and waiting while he was still getting ready, but once I saw him, I wasn’t even mad anymore.”

“I remember her brother calling me and asking me where the hell I was at,” Luke added. “I was nervous, my stomach had turned upside down and I couldn’t get it together…”

Most memorable for the groom was saluting his bride. “After we said ‘I do’ and the man said you may kiss the bride, I picked her up and put my tongue down her throat and everybody started laughing and hollering,” Luke said.

They honeymooned in Atlanta, GA. “We had a ball. We just drive to GA and did a bunch of different stuff,” Luke said.

Words of wisdom: “Marriage is about compromise. You have to give to receive,” Kawanna said.

“Trust [each other], treat her like you wanna be treated, and keep other people out of your business. Whether you’re mad at each other or not, never let anybody else know it,’ Luke said.

Happily ever after: The Johnsons have four children: a daughter, Lu’Keiyah, 17, and sons, Luke IV, 14, Romeo, 9, and Kolby, 7.

Kawanna, 34, is a West End native, West End High school grad, and attended Virginia College in Homewood, where she earned an associate’s degree in nursing. She works as a medical assistant at Brocks Gap Health Center in Hoover.

Luke, 35, is a West End native, and West End High School grad. He works as a warehouse lead for Costco Wholesale in Hoover and is the head coach and commissioner of little league football and baseball at West End Park.

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