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‘She Opened Her Eyes, I Was on One Knee With The Princess Cut Solitaire Diamond Ring’

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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.

CHRISTIE AND LOU HILL

Live: Helena

Married: August 25, 2003

Met: April 20, 1997, at a Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity house on Mississippi State University’s campus. Lou attended the University of West Alabama and was on Christie’s campus for his frat brother’s party. Lou and Christie recall meeting on the stairs in front of the Kappa house.

“We were both outside because we were ready to go and were [waiting on our respective] friends to come out so we could leave. I spoke to Christie, and we started talking, it started to rain and I asked her if she wanted to go sit in my car and talk and she said ‘no’, but we could sit in my friend’s car.  We sat in that car and had a great conversation until both of our friends came out of the party,” Lou remembered.

With Christie and Lou attending different colleges in different states, they could not see one another daily “so our relationship was built on substance from the start,” Lou recalled, “that night forward we spoke on the phone until we talked each other to sleep, and two weeks later we met up in Meridian [MS] at the mall for a quick chat.”

“Meridian was the halfway point between both of our schools, and I was there to pick up my nieces because they were coming to stay with me for the weekend, and Lou met me at the mall so we could see each other,” Christie said. “It was just a quick conversation, but I do remember he was late and he had on some tired sandals,” she laughed.

First date: The following weekend in Starkville, MS, at Applebee’s.

“Lou always had me laughing, I felt like I could talk to him about anything,” Christie said.

“We always had a great conversation, we’d talk about family and everything under the sun. We had that warm fuzzy feeling you get when you really like somebody and want to get to know them,” Lou remembered.

The turn:  August 1997. Due to the distance between them both Lou and Christie were seeing other people. “I prayed to the Lord and said ‘Lord, whoever is supposed to be in my life let them be, and whoever is not, let them go’. And right after that my then-girlfriend, who also went to another college, called me and said she didn’t want to be in the relationship anymore,” Lou remembered. “She said she had moved on and found somebody else. And then 10 minutes later, Christie called me and said I have never been number two and I [don’t think this is working out],” Lou laughed. “And I told her you’re not number two, my girlfriend just broke up with me…”

Because of the sequence of the prayer and phone calls, Lou said, “I knew Christie was the one. She was the one person who could stop the freight train that was Lou Hill from being Lou Hill.”

Over the course of their five-year courtship Christie had moved to Jackson, MS in 1999 to pursue her master’s degree at Jackson State University and Lou had graduated college and moved to Nashville, TN to work as a chemist. In 2001, Christie relocated to Birmingham to pursue her doctorate at UAB, and Lou continued in Nashville.

“We had never stopped talking. There would be a couple of months where we didn’t see each other, but her time in Jackson really put a test to our relationship and we decided it was time to move on. Then in 2001, she came to Nashville for a visit, and we reconnected and then we said, ‘what are we doing?’ We re-established our relationship while she was working on her doctorate and then our beautiful baby boy popped up in 2002 [as a result] of the 2001 visit,” Lou laughed. “After [she became pregnant], I moved to Birmingham and got a job as a chemist.”

The proposal: On Lou’s birthday, Jan. 25, 2003 at his parents’ home in Tuscaloosa. Christie thought she was throwing Lou a surprise birthday party with the help of his sister, DaWilla, but in actuality she was assisting in the planning of her own engagement party.

“I had her family park down the road and hide their cars and when Christie brought me in the house everybody said ‘surprise’ and I played along and said ‘wow, all this is for me’. [The night continued] and we were all having a good time, and I said, ‘I want to pray over the food’, and I said, ‘Lord, thank you for this beautiful occasion, thank you for bringing everybody together, and as I get down on my knee, Lord please let this beautiful woman agree to marry me’. And when she opened her eyes I was down on one knee with the princess cut solitaire diamond ring — I worked hard for that ring — and when everybody opened their eyes they were surprised because they thought they came for a birthday party, but were really there for an engagement party,” Lou said.

“I was shocked because I thought I was surprising him and he was surprising me,” Christie said. “I was happy, the ring was nice, and I was excited about our future.”

Their son, Caleb, then six months old, was also in attendance.

The wedding: At Lou’s parents’ home in Tuscaloosa, officiated by his mother, Pastor Mary Hill. One month later, they had a wedding ceremony before their families and friends in Mount Olive, Mississippi, at St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church. That service was also officiated by his mother and their colors were mint green and ivory.

Memorable for the bride was her entrance. “It was Lou’s reaction to seeing me walk down the aisle. He was crying and that made me feel loved and excited about our future,” Christie said.

Memorable for the groom was holding it together. “My best man told me it was going to be alright and then our ring bearer started rolling our son Caleb in a red wagon down the aisle, and seeing the smile on my baby boy’s face really brought the love and emotions in the building. And then the doors opened. I was fine until Christie hit the aisle, and if my best man wasn’t there I probably would’ve passed out because he had to hold me up,” Lou laughed. “I lost it, she was so beautiful and bright and all I saw was my bright future.”

They honeymooned on a cruise to Cancun, Mexico. “The highlight was sleeping because we were tired and had an infant son. So we got to sleep in and just relax and be on our own time,” Christie said.

Words of wisdom: “Stay the course, don’t give up, and keep the lines of communication open. And don’t forget to enjoy each other,” Christie said.

“Help each other. Love on each other even when you’ve had an argument. Make sure you tell each other you love them before you go to sleep and when you wake up, and make sure you remember what your relationship was built of,” Lou said.

Happily ever after: The Hills just celebrated their 20th wedding anniversary in August, attend Lou’s mother’s church, Eternal Love Ministries in Tuscaloosa, and have three sons, Caleb, 21, Joshua, 18, and Jordon, 16.

Christie, 48, is a Mount Olive, Mississippi native, and Oak Grove High School (Hattiesburg MS) grad. She attended Mississippi State University where she earned a Bachelor of Science degree in microbiology, Jackson State University [Jackson MS], where she obtained a master’s degree in public health, and the University of Alabama at Birmingham [UAB], where she received a doctorate of public health. Christie is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. and works as a researcher at UAB.

Lou, 47, is a Tuscaloosa native, and a Tuscaloosa County High School grad. He attended the University of West Alabama, where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in environmental science, with a minor in chemistry. Lou is a member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc. and broker-owner of EPI Real Estate in Hoover.

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