BY KEISA SHARPE-JEFFERSON
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 email@example.com. Include the couple’s name, contact number(s) and what makes their love story unique.
WILLIE AND CHARISSE RUPERT
Married: July 29, 2023
Met: Sept. 2022. Willie Rupert, 54, was in a cocaine drug detox program in Birmingham in August 2022 and attended classes as part of the Discipling Men and Women for Christ Life Transformation Ministry. Charisse taught classes weekly after she, too, had gone through those classes. When he heard her speak, Willie said he knew she was the one. “I was amazed, and it blew me off my feet how intelligent and godly this woman was. And I was more amazed that she was single. She was my dream girl.”
From there, he observed and studied her, he said.
His plans were to come to Birmingham for only a short while and go back to New Orleans, Louisiana, which is where he had been working in ministry before relapsing. But “I couldn’t leave,” he said. “I didn’t like Birmingham, but I liked her.”
“We have a lot of people come and go in that ministry,” said Charisse. “I had even been through that ministry (after drug addiction), so I really was not mindful of him. I was not paying him any attention.”
But Willie was intentional and focused.
“He accidentally sent me a Facebook friend request (after we met) and I saw that he did Facebook reels, and I like reels, and that’s how we really got connected.” (Both insist it was really an accident. Willie was emphatic he didn’t mean to send the request and sent her a friend request by mistake.)
First date: Nov. 6, 2022 at Mizu Japanese Steakhouse in Trussville. Charisse described it as nice, but also “funny because it was his first hibachi experience.”
Charisse recalls another date that really stuck with her. She asked Willie to take her to Chuck E. Cheese and he did. That left a major impression on her because Chuck E. Cheese is one of her favorites — she loves the playful atmosphere and food.
While some might have questioned her choice, her then future husband never did. “He just accepted me,” said Charisse, which was part of what drew her to him.
Willie has shown Charisse how much he’s appreciated her ever since, they say. “A dozen red roses … candy that I like … purses. He started doing those things and I was like, this guy is serious about me.”
The turn: Their road to marriage was paved with anything but tulips and roses, both said.
But Charisse said she knew they’d be together “after we had a disagreement during the last few weeks in December 2022, I realized I was in love with him and that I didn’t want to live without him.”
It forced her to look deep within and deal with some harsh truths. “I realized the majority of our problems stemmed from my experiences in past relationships that left me scarred. Willie never harmed me in any way, and even to this day, he has shown me nothing but consistent and pure love, devotion, care and concern,” she said.
Once she recognized the error in her thinking, she was able to accept the love Willie had for her, she said
Willie agreed. At the point in which they made up, he too realized he didn’t want to be without Charisse.
The proposal: At True Vine Evangelical Church Ministries, Jan. 1, 2023. New Year’s Day worship service. According to Charisse: “Everyone had the opportunity to share their testimonies of what God had done for them over the past year and vision for 2023. Willow took this opportunity to propose.”
Willie had never introduced any women to his family, but with Charisse, it was different. Not only was she introduced to them, but his mother and sister told him, ‘she’s the one.’ My mother made it real clear to me.”
His mother and two of his sisters came up from Montgomery (Willie’s hometown) and it was New Year’s Day. So on the day he proposed, Charisse wasn’t surprised.
“I pretty much knew he would propose that day,” said Charisse. “Even though he told me he planned to propose, even though his family traveled to be there, I was still surprised. It was very surreal. It was beautiful and he spoke from his heart.”
He had it “etched in his heart and his spirit” how he wanted to ask for her hand in marriage. And after 9 minutes and 38 seconds of pouring out his heart to Charisse (multiple people recorded it on their phones) in the New Year’s Day testimony service – with no notes whatsoever – he got on one knee and asked her to marry him. He said he had waited on that moment all his life.
The wedding: True Vine Evangelical Church Ministries, July 29, 2023. Their colors: were blush pink, gold and gray.
“Before my wedding day, so many people were at my house so I called him up and asked him to take me to McDonald’s to get me a vanilla soft serve cone and he did,” said Charisse. “That just speaks to how safe I feel with him.”
And even to this day, Charisse said Willie still takes her for ice cream after work.
The wedding was at 1 p.m. but a few minutes before the ceremony, Charisse was starting to grow impatient. She was ready for the ceremony to start and ready to be Mrs. Rupert.
“I was running – I was trying to get to my baby (Willie) at the altar. I had an attitude waiting for the music and such – even though I had planned every detail of the ceremony,” said Charisse.
But her mood instantly lightened “when I heard my 4-year-old grandson Aiden say, ‘Here comes the bride.’ ”
Her sons – three of her four sons (one son was stationed in Germany) – walked her down the aisle and when Willie and Charisse first met up at the altar, “we were flirting and talking and didn’t hear a thing the pastor said at first. It was really cute.”
She laughed, saying the pastor raised his voice a little more and then they began to focus back on their ceremony.
After the ceremony was over, she presented him with a special gift.
“He honors me all the time, I’m number one in his life. I really wanted to honor my husband with the cake – it was red velvet with chocolate icing and his business logo – Kingdom Kuts on it.”
Words of Wisdom: “The fact is that we allowed God to guide us, and we did everything God’s way. We had pre-marital counseling for about six months starting in February 2023. In the midst of it, the counselor even said there’s no way I can tell your Bishop that you’re ready to marry.
But their love prevailed, and they were willing to make necessary changes.
“We learned in pre-marital counseling that as long as we both looked to God, that is how we’d be able to come together to reason with one another,” said Charisse.
“With me, the big thing was making the adjustments,” Willie said. “Where our conflict came in, is when I was her boyfriend, I was trying to be her fiancé. When I was (her) fiancé, I was trying to be her husband. I was trying to move too fast.”
“When a guy is single, he doesn’t know who he is or what it is. She completed me, and she made me whole. And that gave me new purpose, new visions, new ideas and bigger outlooks on life.”
“I’ve been waiting 54 years for this woman. Before I married her, I was a selfish fool. But everything I do now, I do for her. I didn’t think she was the right one. I knew she was”
“I believe it was God ordained – God’s perfect will for me. She was the missing link to the puzzle. God had prepared me for her and had prepared her for me. She’s my hobby and my job. Everything I do, I do for her.”
Happily Ever After: Charisse, 46, from Jackson, Alabama. She oversees the Young Adult Ministry at True Vine Evangelical with her husband and she serves as Acting Executive Director for Wings Across Alabama, which bills itself as “the largest mental health consumer-ran organization in Alabama” through a network of peer support. Peers help those recover from crisis by sharing their experience or professional training.
Charisse has five children – four boys ranging in age from 17 – 28; one 23-year-old daughter; and two grandsons by her oldest son – Wyatt (6) and Aiden, “whose 4 going on 40,” said Charisse.
Willie works as a barber at Etheridge Barber and Style and is also the owner of Kingdom Kuts, the mobile barber service. Willie says Kingdom Kuts was born when Covid hit in 2020 while he was in ministry in New Orleans.