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‘We Were Falling in Love Without Realizing It. We Went From Being Friends … To Husband And Wife’

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BY JE’DON HOLLOWAY-TALLEY | Special to the Birmingham Times

WILLIE AND ANITA TAYLOR

Live: Irondale

Married: June 13, 1992

Met: Summer 1990, in Ensley at WIllie’s apartment. They shared a friend who dropped by for a visit with Anita in tow. Willie was 34, and Anita was 30.

“There was no goal to make a connection… She was cute, there was a slight interest, but I didn’t act on it at that time,” Willie said. “I had a roommate and we were known for entertaining with music, so people stopped by to listen to music and hang out. We loved rock and roll, and it was different for two Black guys to listen to rock, we had a different kind of vibe,” he laughed.

“I’ll never forget pulling up outside and hearing loud rock music and I was like ‘Oh my goodness, where are we going?’ But we got in and they were nice,” Anita recalled of Willie and his roommate. “When I met him, I said to myself ‘I like everything about him, he likes music, and he listened to a different type of music than me.’ I felt an immediate attraction. I could also see his heart that day. I said, ‘I’d like to spend some time with him, but nobody was matchmaking that day. It was just an encounter and it turned into something else.”

First date: Fall 1990. Willie wanted their first date to be one she wouldn’t forget and took Anita to her first rock concert at the Birmingham Jefferson Convention Complex [BJCC] to see ZZ Top.

“I wanted to show her who I was. She got a taste of my musical style when she stopped by the house. Instead of going to a movie or out to dinner, I said, ‘let me take her to a rock concert. And once she got out of her head and let her hair down, she had a good time,” Willie said.

“I would have never gone to a rock concert on my own, but because I liked him so much, I was willing to try it. Everybody was jumping up and down, there was a full light show, and they [the rock band] had these long fancy guitars and long beards down to their chests, and were on stage wearing dark glasses,” Anita said. “And yes, once I let my hair down, I started doing what everyone else was doing, I was jumping up and down and screaming. It was like taking a kid to Disneyland for the first time, the first time they see Mickey Mouse in person and the light show, it’s a whole new world, and that’s how it was for me. It was the best experience of my life, and to this day I still think of that, and I fell in love with him that night. It was magical… he bought me a band T-shirt, it was gold to me.”

That began a tradition of the couple going to rock and roll concerts every chance they got.

The turn: Fall 1991. “When she moved into an apartment in Pratt City I would go over frequently for dinner, and we became an item. Once she moved out on her own that’s when I started considering pursuing her seriously. We never had a conversation about being a couple, we were falling in love with each other without realizing it. We had so much fun together… We went from being friends, to good friends, to best friends to husband and wife. It wasn’t a long courtship,” Willie said.

Anita said she had been praying to God for a new mate. “I had said to myself that I was tired of being by myself and I wanted a relationship with someone and was ready to spend my life with somebody that not only loved me but also loved my girls because we were a package. And I started praying and I said, ‘Lord send me someone and I’m going to wait for him to pursue me…’ I liked Willie a lot because he introduced me to a new part of life and made things so much fun,” Anita said.

The proposal: During the Christmas holiday season of 1991. Willie was planning his proposal and asked Anita to name three of her favorite restaurants,

“…I took her to Olive Garden because I wanted to take her someplace kind of romantic where they had low light because I wanted to tell her how I felt about her,” Willie said. “I still remember what she was wearing, she had on a beautiful red dress and her hair was fixed in a nice style that I was crazy about… After we had our meal, we sat there sipping a glass of wine, and I asked her if she had thought about us living a life together and she said she thought about it all the time. So, I went in my pocket and pulled out the ring and asked her if she would be my wife, and she said ‘yes’.

“I said, ‘yes in a heartbeat because he was a person, I could enjoy life with… and when he proposed I put some things on the table. I said, ‘it’s not only me you have to love my girls too,’ and he made it known that he loved them and that was it for me because I knew he cared about my girls. He came around on birthdays, took them out to eat, helped with their homework… It was a special night, almost as magical as the night at the concert,” she said.

Both Willie and Anita were divorcees. The girls were from Anita’s previous marriage and were 12 and 8 at the time.

The wedding: At the Birmingham Botanical Gardens, officiated by Pastor Cleo Clark of Mount Pleasant Baptist Church in Leeds, Anita’s home church. Their colors were dusty rose and mint green.

Most memorable for the bride was being serenaded by her groom. “He wrote a song for me [called ‘Here We Are’] and he sang it to me at the wedding. As he was singing, we could hear the little birds singing in the background, it was beautiful,” Anita said.

Most memorable for the groom was wondering where his bride was. “It’s kinda funny, she was 30 minutes late getting to the venue and I’m sitting there saying ‘Oh Lord, has she had a change of heart, what’s going on?’ And when they finally said the wedding was about to start, I was [relieved]. And when she walked out of that door and I saw her, I’ll never forget it, it was like she was glowing. She had this big smile … that was one of the happiest days of my life,” Willie said.

Anita said she was late because she went shopping for last-minute items before the wedding, “and when I got to the venue [the photographer] took a picture of me running across the parking lot with my hands full of bags,” she laughed.

They honeymooned on a cruise to the Bahamas. “We went walking along the beach and Anita picked up a seashell that she wanted to take home as a souvenir, and when we got back on the ship, a lizard came out and she freaked out,” Willie laughed. “They had to take our luggage out and give us another room because they couldn’t find the lizard and she said she couldn’t stay in there with the lizard,” Willie said.

“The way he took care of me and cared about making me comfortable that night made me fall more in love with him,” Anita said. In the new room, Anita was now at peace, “I said this lizard is not about to mess up the happiest day of my life and ruin our ‘fun time’,” Anita laughed.

Words of wisdom: “Trust, love, and communication. Be able to meet each other halfway on issues. You have to be able to come together and meet in the middle. I watched my grandmother and grandfather and they did everything together,” Anita said.

“We’re also photographers, we do a lot of weddings, and I always tell the groom towards the end of the night to get them an imaginary bottle and bottle the emotion and feelings [they are experiencing that night], and years down the line, when you need it, pull it out and take a sip and remember why you fell in love with her,” Willie said. “My bottle is still full after 31 years.”

Happily ever after: The Taylors attend The Guiding Light Church, in Birmingham, where Anita serves in the youth ministry, and Willie in the media ministry. They have two adult daughters, April and Cheryl, and six grandchildren.

Anita, 64, is a Los Angeles, California native who relocated to Birmingham in 1975 and graduated from Wenonah High School. She attended Jefferson State Community College [Birmingham campus], where she studied early childhood education and business administration. She owns and operates Glorious Kid’s Youth Center in Irondale with her husband.

Willie, 67, is an Ensley native and Ensley High School grad. He attended the University of North Alabama [in Florence, Ala.] and Alcorn State University [Lorman, MS], where he studied health and physical education on a football scholarship. He retired from UAB Hospital where he worked in guest services and now assists his wife with their day care, Glorious Kid’s Youth Center.

“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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