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“I Was Supposed to be With Him … I Can’t Even Describe the Feeling’ of Love

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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.

 

CHERENITA AND RONALD REESE

Live: Hoover

Married: July 10, 2004

Met:  In September 2002, in Destin, Florida on their church’s singles retreat. Both attended Faith Chapel Christian Center in Wylam but had never met prior to the trip.

Cherenita said she had “a really strong urge to get to Destin, Florida” for the retreat but the singles had already left and she couldn’t afford to go. However, a church member heard about her desire to go and gifted her accommodations, all she had to do was get there.

“My first cousin, Dwight Ladd Jr., he’s like a brother to me, drove me down there…,” Cherenita said.

She and Ronald met while sitting poolside at the resort and had a casual conversation. However, it was a moment on the bus ride back to Birmingham that grabbed Ronald’s attention.

“She and her friend Tia were sitting in the seats in front of me, and when Cherenita got up to get something out of the overhead bin, those white jeans got my attention, and I wasn’t thinking ‘bout Jesus,” Ronald laughed. “After we got off the bus in Birmingham, I got her number.”

First date: October 2002, at a pre-season NBA game at the Birmingham Jefferson Convention Complex [the coliseum now known as the Legacy Arena] followed by dinner at Outback Steakhouse on Lakeshore Drive.

“He almost didn’t get a second date,” Cherenita said. “He asked me at the dinner table if Christianity was a monarchy or theocracy, and I was thinking what?! I did not pay that type of attention in school… he was trying to be deep and I had checked out.”

Ronald said he was enthralled by her. “I kept staring at her because of her beauty and physique.”

The turn: Spring 2003, over the phone. Cherenita was in Mobile for a few months caring for her sister following [her sister’s] major surgery. Ronald was still in Birmingham and he and Cherenita were dating long-distance.

At that time, “I was in a leadership development class and one of the lessons our pastor had taught was on commitment, and I took that lesson and read it to Cherenita over the phone. I told her we had reached a point in this relationship, and she was going to have to make a decision to be exclusive, committed, or remain friends,” Ronald said.

After Ronald defined what exclusive, commitment, and friendship meant to him, Cherenita responded, “No I don’t want to do that … does that mean I have to give up all my other lunch dates?” Cherenita laughed. “But it was really fear because in my experience, commitment meant that it would eventually come to an end and I was enjoying what we had and I didn’t want us to mess it up. And a few days later he and I were on the phone [while he was hanging out with friends] and they had asked him if he was with anybody and Ronald said ‘no.’”

Cherenita said she got off the phone and burst into tears because she knew she needed to be with Ronald. “So I called him back and said we could move ahead.

“After she got out her feelings and called me back I told her that in order for us to put some action behind the commitment we needed to start pre-marital counseling,” Ronald said.

“And I was sitting there thinking you taking way too fast, boss,” Cherenita laughed.

“We used pre-marital counseling as a way of discovery. Discovering our compatibility to see if this relationship was going toward marriage,” Ronald said. “There were six sessions, and I knew by the third session she was it … I started looking for a ring and paying for it.”

“… I was never one of those women that fantasized about their spouse…, but I loved him, and I respected him and he was so wise and he taught me so much in our dating relationship and it was because of him that I was able to grow closer to Christ. So I trusted his wisdom,” Cherenita said.

The proposal: Fall 2003 at Ronald’s home in Forestdale. “We were watching a football game and we were having a heated debate because we always have strong opinions about things, and in the middle of the disagreement, I turned the TV down, got down on one knee, and asked her to marry me.

“Just completely unromantic,” Cherenita joked, “Ron, you owe me a redo next July for our 20th [anniversary].”

“I had the ring and that night I felt like I had been carrying it around for too long, so I had planned to ask her, but I didn’t know we were going to get into a debate,” Ronald laughed. “I didn’t want her to leave on that note, I wanted to get it done that night, and I did.”

As unromantic as it was, Cherenita said it “felt so natural. I knew he was the person I was supposed to be with [and] I can’t even describe the feeling, but it was like ‘yes, of course, who else am I going to be with, you’re my person?’,” she said. “…and it was like finally, we’re getting past this part so we can move on to the next step.”

The wedding: At Faith Chapel Christian Center in Wylam, officiated by Minister Connie Blaylock, Pastors Byron, and Meriam Franklin, and the late Minister Ruby Russell. Their colors were black and white.

Most memorable for the bride was having dual escorts down the aisle.

“I got a chance to be escorted down the aisle by the man who raised me, my uncle Dwight Ladd Sr., and my biological father. It meant a lot because [my uncle] was the village, he mentored me, he was the father figure in my life and I always wanted a husband like him. And when I think about it, [my uncle] really handed me over into good hands because I have a great husband. My uncle passed away in February of the following year, so being able to have that moment with him meant a lot,” Cherenita said.

Most memorable for the groom was the attendance at their wedding. “Seeing the amount of people that came out and supported was most memorable, our union brought a lot of people together,” Ronald said.

They honeymooned in Atlanta Georgia, and went to the theme park, Six Flags Over Georgia.

Cherenita hardly considers that outing a honeymoon, saying “If that’s what you want to call it because we were broke. Ronald loves theme parks and he loves roller coasters, and I hate roller coasters and didn’t realize how much I hated them until that day. He had me riding every ride in the theme park, but we were newlyweds and I was trying to be a good wife…”

Words of wisdom: “Marry someone who has your values and beliefs because that is what they are going to teach and model for your kids,” Ronald said. “Marriage is about understanding that everyone has issues and it comes down to making a choice as to what issues you are willing to deal with or tolerate for a lifetime. That way you don’t have these unrealistic expectations. Marriage is a great character builder, if you allow it to build your character.”

“Communication is the lifeblood of any relationship. I think that when you cut off communication, it allows negative stuff to creep in so keep talking,” Cherenita said. “[Make room for] quality time [because] you will desire what you give your attention to. A lot of folks get married and put the marriage on autopilot and give attention to everything and everyone else. So be intentional about being consistent in giving attention to your marriage.”

Happily ever after: The Reeses attend Faith Chapel Christian Center in Wylam, where Ronald serves as a small group leader in the student’s ministry, and teacher for the spiritual growth classes, and Cherenita serves in multiple capacities. They have two children, daughter Nia Mya, and son Ronald Michael Reese.

Cherenita, 51, is a Mobile native, Vigor High School [Mobile. Ala] grad, and attended the University of Alabama, where she majored in healthcare management and minored in law and public policy. She works as the Senior Director of Care and Connections at Faith Chapel Christian Center in Wylam and participates in several community service initiatives, such as the Parent Equity Committee for Hoover City Schools, the Hoover Library Board, where she was the [former] first Black President, vice president for the non-profit, Hoover-AHEAD [Ambassadors for Hoover Equity and Diversity], Alumna of Leadership Hoover, class of 2020, and has been the ‘momager’ of her 14-year-old daughter Nia Mya Reese’s author career.

Ronald, 52 is a Birmingham native, and Jones Valley High School grad. He attended Alabama A&M University, where he completed his general studies before transferring to the University of Alabama at Birmingham [UAB] where he earned a Bachelor’s degree in psychology, and minored in philosophy. He is a member of Alpha Phi Alpa Fraternity Incorporated, works/owns RP Realty, and is a real estate broker with Keller Williams in Vestavia Hills.

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