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‘I Had a Ring a Couple of Weeks Beforehand … I Just Felt Like Today is the Day’



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.

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Live: Calera

Married: July 14, 2001

Met: Summer 1993, at Woodlawn High School in the band room. “We marched in the band together and we started talking and dating in the 9th grade,” George recalled, “and then we broke up for some reason…”

“We didn’t officially break up, he just started dating other people,” Tonya laughed. “I looked up and he was with another girl, but we got back together during the summer leading up to our 12th grade year,” she said.

“After we ‘unofficially broke up’ in the 9th grade, I told my boy that summer that I was gonna try to get back with Katonia, and he went behind my back and started talking to her himself. And it [his relationship with his friend] went awry for a while, but I was like as long as she’s happy I’m good. [However] when I saw that she was getting unhappy toward the end of 11th grade, I made my move,” George said.

George and Tonya shared a secret moment one day on the school bus while the band was headed to a football game. “She was sitting in the back of the bus with [George’s friend who became her boyfriend] and Joe’s “I Wanna Know” came on, and we caught eyes, and I started mouthing the lyrics to her and she smiled at me and gave me that lil smirk like, ‘I can’t believe he doing this’, and I said to myself ‘I got her. This summer I’m gonna make her mine’,” George recalled.

First date: August 1996, at Red Lobster in Eastwood. “I wanted to show her I was a man now I wasn’t a little boy no more. And I remember really seeing her eat for the first time,” George laughed.

“I ain’t never been one of them girls who just order a salad. I ordered the all-you-can-eat shrimp and I ate all I could,” Tonya laughed.

The turn: The couple went steady their senior year and won ‘Best Couple’ in the yearbook, and said the relationship took a more serious turn when Tonya became pregnant during the fall of 1997. Both were freshmen in college, George was attending Alabama State University, and Tonya was at the University of Alabama. The couple hit some rocky patches but attribute the off-and-on nature of their relationship to their youth and they became steadier once George proposed.

The proposal: Summer 2000, in the Winn-Dixie parking lot in Roebuck. Tonya had just gotten off work when George picked her up and popped the question.

“I had a ring a couple of weeks beforehand and that day when I got off work from my job at UPS I just felt like today is the day. So, when she came out I got out of the car and opened up the car door, and after she sat down I got down on one knee and said ‘Ms. Katonia Shaw, will you please marry me?’ And she was like ‘You know I will’ and I was like ‘bet’,” George laughed.

“I wasn’t expecting it at that time, but I knew that ultimately we would be married because we had already had a son and created a family so it was a natural progression. In my heart, he was always my husband,” Tonya said.

The wedding: Grants Chapel AME Church in Birmingham, officiated by Pastor James Rumph. Their colors were lilac and cream.

Most memorable for the bride was being serenaded by her husband as she walked down the aisle, and her brother passing out at the altar.

George sang “‘For You’ by Kenny Latimore, and his uncle Bobby was next to him boohooing. I wasn’t even crying as much as his uncle was. And then my brother, Justin, passed out during the ceremony. George’s aunt Amelia was singing when he passed out and he fell out right as she hit a high note, it was like it was on key,” Tonya laughed. “My mom ran over to check on him, but we kept it moving. He was out for a few minutes.”

Most memorable for the groom was “seeing her facial expression as she was coming down the aisle and watching her trying to keep it together,” George said. “She had asked me [during the wedding prep] if I wanted to sing or if I wanted somebody else to sing [and to surprise her] I told her I didn’t want to do it… and when she was coming down the aisle I could see in her eyes that she was full [of emotions] and that was exactly what I wanted — her to be overwhelmed with emotions because she was surprised.

They honeymooned in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

“We were only 21 years old and on our first more than 2 hours long road trip together,” George said. “It was our first time at the beach together, and I still remember that all-you-can-eat seafood buffet,” George laughed.

Words of wisdom: “Always keep the lines of communication open. Always be honest and keep God first in the relationship. Have conversations with your [spouse] and be open about your feelings. Keep chasing her like she’s your girlfriend. I keep doing the things I did to get her. Constantly date her,” George said.

“Remember to be friends. At the end of the day, that friendship and communication will take you a long way. You have to enjoy each other’s company because tough times will come and when they do you have to rely on that love and your friendship to see you through. Be committed. So many people fall in love with the idea of love, but marriage is truly a covenant relationship where you will be tried on your vows, ‘good times and bad’, ‘sickness and in health’ and you will need a foundation to stand on,” Tonya said.

Happily ever after: The Fosters attend Regeneration Church in Alabaster where George serves in the worship ministry. They have two sons, Khalil, 25, and Jordan, 17.

Tonya, 44, is a Woodlawn native, and Woodlawn High School grad. She attended the University of Alabama, where she studied criminal justice, and Virginia College [Homewood campus] where she earned an associate degree in paralegal studies. She graduated from the University of Alabama at Birmingham where she earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting and works as an insurance broker for her and her husband’s company Legacy Insurance Group in Birmingham.

George, 44, is a Woodlawn native, and Woodlawn High School grad. He attended Alabama State University where he studied mechanical engineering. He works as an insurance broker for their company Legacy Insurance Group in Birmingham.

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