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`He Worked 2 And 3 Jobs to Pay for My Tuition … I Got My Degree With Him, 3 kids, And Working Full-Time’



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.


Live: Center Point

Married: Jan. 28, 1999

Met: In June 1998, through a mutual friend, Marlene’s church member, who told her he had the perfect match and connected her with Errick. They met for the first time at Alley’s Drugstore in West End.

“I gave Errick my phone number through my friend from church, and we talked a little bit and set up a face-to-face meeting… I wanted it to be in a public place. There’s a big age difference, I was only 28, and he was [over] 40, so I was a bit nervous,” said Marlene. “I was walking around the store when I saw him walk in and he was looking around like he was looking for somebody, which made me know I was the one he was looking for. I was peeping through the shelves to get a good look at him, and when I saw what he looked like I came out of hiding,” she laughed. “I was like, ‘ok, he got me’.”

“She was what I was looking for, she was a nice looking lady and I really liked her and wanted to get to know her better so we decided we would go to the movies…,” Errick said.

First date: A week later, at the Regal Movie Theater in East Lake. They saw the action movie, “Enemy of The State” starring Will Smith.

“At first I was a bit nervous because I was wondering [if people] were going to think I was there with my father because he’s a bit older but that wore off. He was very accommodating, he bought me all the snacks. He was a great gentleman. We hit it off laughing and talking and it was like we were the only two in there,” Marlene recalled.

“I enjoyed making her laugh and learning that she was a wonderful person. I got to know what she wanted in life and everything I wanted in a woman, she was. A man always knows what he wants in a woman, and by the end of the movie, I knew she fit the criteria. We ended up having a lot of fun,” Errick said.

The turn: For Marlene, it was July of 1998. “I met Errick right around the time my father passed, and right before he [died] I called my dad and said, ‘Daddy I met somebody, but he’s 11 years older than me’, and my father said, ‘That’s good, maybe you found somebody that’ll know how to treat you’,” Marlene remembered. “And a week later, my father passed and I couldn’t believe he didn’t get to meet him. …Errick became my comfort during that time, and the first time my car broke down I called him crying and said ‘my car is down and I can’t call my daddy’ and Errick [took care of it] … He was a really good friend in my time of need and we grew together.”

“…Marlene really grew on me and after her dad passed I knew she was it, we spent more time learning each other and getting to know each other better. I didn’t have to ask her to be my girlfriend, there wasn’t anybody else. All I did was work and I was looking for a good woman and God just gave her to me,” Errick said.

“He never did ask me to be his girlfriend, but he would always tell me he was ‘holding it on the road’ as in keeping the car straight on the road, and that’s what we were doing. Then on Labor Day [1998], he gave me a key to his house, and I knew then that he was serious about me. He was going out of town [to Thomasville with his brother] and he gave me the keys and said I could come over if I just wanted to get away,” Marlene said.

The proposal: Christmas Eve 1998 in the living room at Errick’s house in Central Park. “I had cooked for her and she came over for dinner (I can’t remember what I cooked), but I always cooked for her and I still do … We ate and were in the living room watching TV, and I got up and got down on one knee and I asked Marlene would she marry me, and she said ‘yes,’” Errick said.

“I was totally surprised because I didn’t think he would propose so soon, so when he pulled the ring out I was blown away and excited,” Marlene said. “It hadn’t even been a year since my father died so I told him I didn’t want a big wedding because I didn’t have anybody to give me away, so I just wanted to go to the courthouse. And that’s what we did, we decided on January 28, 1999.”

The wedding: At the courthouse in downtown Birmingham, officiated by a courthouse clergyman. Marlene’s sister, Marilyn attended as a witness.

Most memorable for the bride was a moment of reflection before heading to the courthouse. “…I was really close to my father and not having him there while everything was happening, I was kind of scared, I was missing my dad. But Errick was very supportive and sweet and made sure I was all right with the decision we were making. He told me that we could always have a wedding whenever I was ready for it. That’s why we’re having a vow renewal in January to celebrate our Silver [25-year] anniversary. I am going to get to wear a [wedding] dress,” Marlene said.

Most memorable for the groom was a moment of gratitude to God. “Just knowing that Marlene was really heaven sent. She is very rare, and I was glad to be able to marry her because she was everything I ever wanted in a woman and I really appreciate her,” Errick said. “I was mostly thanking God for sending her to me because I had never met a woman like Marlene, and she made me the happiest man on earth.”

Words of wisdom: “Communication is key. Since Errick was older and more mature than me [when we got married] he would always tell me nobody else comes into this house but you and I. We can get advice from other people, but, we have to deal with the decisions we make … Always keep God at the center of that foundation and always be considerate of each other. I consider him in everything I do, and I feel that he does the same when it comes to me,” Marlene said.

“Always keep God first. You will have ups and downs but always remember to hold hands even closer in the downtime. Talk to each other about any, and everything and work it out. Between husband and wife, whatever goes down, always be together. Keep people out of your business because at the end of the day, you and your wife are going to have the final say so. Have no secrets. Handle the money together, and just talk and communicate about everything,” Errick said.

As the Griggs approach their 25th wedding anniversary, Marlene reflected on the early years of their marriage when Errick made a commitment to put Marlene through school “and he worked two and three jobs to pay for my tuition, he was determined to send me back to school. I got my degree with him, three kids, and working full time,” Marlene said.

Errick has reached retirement and Marlene said she considers her husband’s commitment to her education a highlight of their marriage. “He’s older and retired now, and I want him to enjoy his retirement. I’m working and I’m glad he’s able to [relax],” she said.

Happily ever after: The Griggs attend Greater Emmanuel Temple Holiness Church in Birmingham, where they both serve in the choir ministry and have three sons, Errick Jr., 24, Markkus, 22, and Darrin, 18.

Marlene, 53, is a Panola (South Ala.) native, and Livingston High School grad. She attended Troy University where she earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology, and the University of West Alabama, where she earned a master’s degree in special education. She works for Midfield City Schools as a special needs education teacher.

Errick, 64, is a Titusville native, and Glenn High School grad. He retired from the City of Birmingham as a maintenance professional, after 28 years of service.

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