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.
DARYL AND DEBBIE FOX
Married: Dec. 20, 1980
Met: Fall 1978, at Charles B. Glenn High School which is now Bush Hills STEAM Academy in the ROTC room. Daryl was a sophomore and already a student there, and Debbie was a junior and new transfer student from A.H. Parker High School.
Daryl said Debbie’s transfer “and walking into my class was a divine intervention, and God showing me my wife,” he said. “I was immediately floored. Some call it ‘love at first sight’ because I actually felt something physically and internally within me…my heart fluttered, or some might say skipped a beat… She made me nervous, I was so shy I didn’t talk to her myself, I had one of my buddies go up to her and ask her name and tell her I wanted her phone number, and she gave it to him and he passed it to me.”
“I thought he was the most gorgeous guy ever, but I was recently coming off of a breakup with another fella, and to be honest I was very shocked that he wanted to talk to me because there were so many other girls he could’ve talked to. He was one of the most gorgeous guys in school and a lot of them liked him,” Debbie recalled. “But I, too, was one of the shy ones.”
Despite the instant attraction, Debbie and Daryl saw others and it wasn’t until their senior year in the fall of 1979 that they fully connected. Debbie’s younger sister was in Daryl’s ROTC class and he asked her to ask Debbie if it was still okay for him to call and he did that night. “I was still a little in shock that he wanted to talk to me, but sometimes we would fall asleep on the phone,” Debbie said.
“Deb’s father was a Baptist minister and she wasn’t allowed to date freely,” Daryl recalled. “When I went over to her house I would try to impress upon her parents that I was a good stand-up guy and a [disciplined] athlete.”
After a few months of “sofa sitting” at Debbie’s house and attending her father’s church, Daryl was allowed to take her on a date.
First date: Fall 1979. They had dinner at Pasquale’s Pizza in 5 Points West before continuing their evening at the drive-in theater. They saw the black-and-white film, ‘Frankenstein’, and went in Daryl’s car, a 1960 Ford LTD.
“…we also had our first kiss, and I didn’t want to turn him loose,” Debbie laughed.
“I was excited, I was a pretty serious guy back in those days even though I was young, people always thought I was much older than I was,” Daryl remembered. “I was a junior dating a senior… The date made me feel excited, I wanted to be there with her and I wanted it to continue. I looked at it as the start of something that I really wanted.”
The turn: A week after the first date. “We started sharing a locker together, and we would meet up at the locker to get our different books out and I would walk her to class, and I remember one particular time, I kissed her at the locker and I got in trouble,” Daryl said. “I never said ‘hey, I want you to be my girlfriend’ it was automatically implied through my actions. And with that, the response that I got from her indicated that was what she wanted as well, so we never had to say, ‘hey let’s go together and be boyfriend and girlfriend.”
“I remember the smile my dad had on his face when he first shook Daryl’s hand,” Debbie recalled. “My parents knew it had gotten serious because every time the phone rang it was Daryl. And one time we were arguing on the phone and my mom came in there and said just hang the phone up because y’all ain’t doing nothing but arguing, and I want you to know that’s the one you’re going to marry,” she laughed.
The proposal: On Christmas day, 1979, at Daryl’s and his grandparent’s home in Acipco. Daryl was 17, a senior, and entering his last semester at Charles B. Glenn High School, and Debbie was 18 and had just graduated earlier that year.
“We were sitting in the living room, and my grandmother had a white Christmas tree and Debbie was sitting in a chair right by the tree and I came up behind her and put my arms around her, and I was holding the ring case. My grandmother snapped a picture of Debbie’s reaction looking down at the ring, and I asked [Debbie] to marry me,” Daryl said. “I was young, but I was not young-minded, and I knew what I wanted and I wanted to marry Deb, so I made arrangements to get her a ring [for Christmas] and propose.”
“I was blown away, I had tears in my eyes, I couldn’t believe it. I remember going home and telling my brothers and sisters, but I did not tell my parents right away. About a week later I told my mom that he had asked me to marry him, and my father was pleased because not only was I at the age to be married, but he was pleased with Daryl and very happy he was going to be able to officiate it because he was not only my father, he was also my pastor,” Debbie said.
“The ultimate surprise was that we were not planning to get married until the following year, that’s what was most surprising to her parents,” Daryl said. “We got engaged without any plans on when we were going to get married, all we knew was we were in love.”
The wedding: In the living room at Debbie’s parents’ home in East Lake, officiated by her father, the late Reverend Morris Perry, of St. John Missionary Baptist Church in West End.
Debbie was 19, working, and living at home, and Daryl was 18, a freshman at Mississippi Valley State University, and home for Christmas break. Daryl wore his burgundy “senior class day” suit, and Debbie wore a Sunday dress, with a burgundy and cream shawl.
Most memorable for the bride was kissing her groom in front of her father. “My dad would never say ‘kiss the bride’, he would always say ‘salute your bride’, and for a moment I considered actually saluting Daryl, but I didn’t,” she laughed, “and when my dad said you may now ‘salute your bride’, he (her dad) looked down, but he had a slight smile on his face,” Debbie said.
Most memorable for the groom was also the kiss. “My grandmother took a photograph of that kiss… There was a little bit of embarrassment for me during that kiss [because] her parents had never seen us kiss before, and my grandmother had never seen me kiss I knew at that moment when I kissed [Debbie] that I loved her deeply and I was so glad that she was my wife at that point,” Daryl said.
They didn’t have a honeymoon “but we did have a reception at a place in downtown Birmingham called the Vanguard Van Club,” Daryl said.
Words of wisdom: “There have been challenges in our life and we learned to seek God for his help to raise our family and to love one another. Like every couple, we’ve had very difficult times, but God brought us through it. In today’s society, you’re going to need some outside help, you’re going to need a force in your life because the conditions in the world are not going to be conducive for that marriage to last,” Daryl said.
“What he said is ditto to me, God first,” said Debbie. “From what I’ve learned and been through all these years, ‘no Christ, no life.’ You must become each other’s best friend. Best buddies are there to help and lean on one another no matter what,” Debbie said.
Happily ever after: The couple has have five daughters, Adreian, 41, Arial, 40, April, 36, Ashia, 34 and Abralyn, 33 in ages 41-33 and seven grandchildren.
Debbie, 62, is a North Birmingham native, a Charles B. Glenn High School grad, and a retired lab technician from Golden Flakes Snack Foods, after 23 ½ years.
Daryl, 61, is an Acipco [North Birmingham] native and Charles B. Glenn High School grad. He attended college on a full football scholarship at Mississippi Valley State University, before transferring to Alabama State University where he also played football. He owned a general contracting and homebuilding company for 29 years before becoming a building contractor for the City of Birmingham.