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‘We Looked Into Each Other’s Eyes… The Church Was Packed But We Didn’t See Anybody Else’

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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.

CEDRIC AND ARETHEA ‘RITA’ CRAWFORD

Live: Birmingham

Married: Oct. 19, 1984

Met: Rita and Cedric were both students at Jones Valley High School but did not begin dating until reconnecting after high school on Christmas Day, in 1983. They met at a mutual friend’s house in Powderly.

“I was stopping by my girlfriend [Adrienna’s] house to visit, and Cedric was there visiting the family,” Rita recalled.

“I was best friends with Adrienna’s brother, Deric, and he was away in the Army and I was stopping by to check on the family,” Cedric said. “We were downstairs in the den, and I acknowledged her and I said I haven’t seen her since high school. We started talking about her being in the band, and me playing football… and we talked about having crushes on each other in high school, but we never acted on it.”

“We were both dating other people in high school, so we were off-limits to each other. He asked me for my phone number and he gave me his, but he made the first call a couple of days after that,” Rita said.

“Yeah, I waited a couple of days to make her sweat,” Cedric laughed, “and then I asked her out to the movies.”

First date: January 1984, they saw a movie they can’t recall at the drive-in movies in Five Points West.

“We were trying to watch the movie, but the speaker [inside the theater] wouldn’t work, so most of the time we talked and reminisced on high school and the people we used to date… I was nervous because I had had a crush on her since high school,” Cedric said.

“It had been a long time since we had actually seen each other and as we sat there the nervousness went away and the conversation picked back up like it was still high school,” Rita said. “We laughed and talked about old football games and I was thinking he was more handsome than I remembered.”

The turn: March 1984. “I was working for the power company, and I had to go out of town for work [to Phoenix City, Ala.], and I was gone for two weeks, and we were just talking all the time,” Rita said. “Before work, after work when I got back to the hotel and we just talked so much over the time that I was gone that [I realized] I was missing him.”

“It never came up that ‘I’m gonna be your man, you’re gonna be my woman’, it just naturally happened,” Cedric said. “We were focused on each other.”

The proposal: June 1984, inside Cedric’s car. Their dinner date turned into a celebratory engagement.

“We were on our way to dinner at Red Lobster, and I said, ‘hey, I have a gift for you,’ and she opened it and saw the ring holder box but didn’t know there was a ring on the holder and saw the ring she screamed, and that’s when I said ‘we’ve been dating for a short while now, but I’m assured of my emotions and I’m praying that you’re assured on yours.’ I asked her would you marry me, and she said ‘yes!’.

Rita remembers like it was yesterday, “It was a Sunday, and he had picked me up from a friend’s house and he gave me the gift and when I opened it it was a glass ring holder with the ring inside and I said, ‘Oh my gosh, yes!’,” Rita said. “I told him ‘I love you and I’m very sure of my emotions.’”

The wedding: At Rita’s church, Union Bethel Christian Church [formally Union Bethel Independent Methodist Church] in Mason City, officiated by the late Dr. Reverend Albert Felder Sr. Their colors were peach and brown.

Most memorable for the bride was serenading each other during their wedding ceremony “and the song we sang was ‘The Closer I Get To You’ by Phil and Brenda Nicholas… when we were singing to each other and looking into each other’s eyes, nobody else was there. The church was packed, but we didn’t see anybody else,” Rita said. “I started out with a bunch of butterflies, I was really nervous, but the more we got into the song my heart was so full, I was filled with excitement, joy, love, all of the emotions were running through my heart and mind.”

Most memorable for the groom was a moment of reflection as his bride walked down the aisle. “In high school, I started praying to God to bring me my wife, and on my wedding day that’s what came to my mind, that I had been praying for this moment since I was 16,” Cedric said. “And my dad was my best man… I had a friend who was supposed to be, but he dropped out, and [I chose my dad] because he had been my best man my whole life. So standing there with the woman I asked God to bring me, with my dad standing next to me, that was a pretty special day.”

They honeymooned at home. “We told everybody we were going on a cruise ship, but we went back to the apartment [in Hoover, in the Bluff Park area] and just enjoyed each other away from family and friends. We just wanted to be alone for a few days,” Cedric said.

Words of wisdom: “Always keep God in the center. There is no such thing as a  50/50 marriage. It’s gonna be 70/30, 80/20…you have to recognize when your mate is on a low point and you have to be on the high point. Sometimes you both may be giving 25, but you have to keep God first and remember trouble don’t last always. You have to remember that and strive to be in a better place,” Cedric said.

“Keep God in whatever it is that you do, but understanding and recognizing your mate’s weak and strong points is important. Those areas where he’s strong, I try not to cross over into that area because those are his strengths, and he tries not to cross over into mine… complement each other’s strengths. And always have at least two tv’s in the house,” Rita laughed. “There’s no science to it [marriage], you just have to do whatever works for you and yours in your household…”

Happily ever after: The Crawfords have three children, the late Cededrea [who died of a heart condition after a failed heart transplant as an infant], son, CeDarian, 36, daughter, Cedria, 32, and three grandchildren. They attend Green Liberty Baptist Church in Titusville, where Cedric serves as a deacon and treasurer, and Rita also attends Union Bethel Christian Church in Mason City.

Rita, 61, is a Powderly native, and Jones Valley High School grad. She attended Miles College where she earned a bachelor’s degree in business management, and Faulkner University [Montgomery Campus], where she earned a Master of Science in management. She is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. and retired from as a claims automation specialist after 30 years and now works as a realtor for Keller Williams in Hoover.

Cedric, 62, is a Titusville native, and Jones Valley High School grad. He attended Tennessee State University on a football scholarship where she studied industrial technology and criminal justice. Cedric retired from US Steel where he worked as a slab slitter for 18 years.

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