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‘I Told Her … She Was My Partner for Life, and Asked Her to Marry Me’

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

CHERYL AND MICHAEL LONG Sr.

Live: Pleasant Grove, AL

Married: Dec. 21, 1979

Met: April 1977 in Cheryl’s dormitory on campus at Alabama State University in Montgomery, Ala.  Michael was a year ahead of Cheryl’s graduating class.

“We met through a mutual friend. Mike came [to my dormitory] to visit my friend and I came down to tell him that she wasn’t there, and he struck up a conversation with me,” Cheryl said. “I had seen him around on campus and I knew who he was because when you go off to college you find out who your home boys and girls [fellow students from your hometown] are, and he was in the band and I was a fan of the band and would watch then practice and my girlfriend [their mutual friend] had pointed him out to me…”

However, Cheryl recalls a brief meeting between her and Michael while in high school in Birmingham at Ramsay High School, and Wenonah High School, respectively. Mike did not recall the encounter, but once they crossed paths at Alabama State University, “Cheryl caught my eye. She was beautiful and I wanted to take her out,” he said.

First date: May 1977, Mike asked Cheryl to accompany him to the Alpha Ball held in downtown Montgomery. Mike wore a black suit and a gold tie, and Cheryl wore a gold gown.

“It went well, we had fun,” Mike said.

Cheryl recalled more details. “After the dance, we went to eat at a fast food restaurant because after you’ve danced the night away you want to hang out some more,” she said. “We sat and talked for hours and then he took me back to my dorm and he asked me to go out again the following weekend, and we went on a picnic at a park near campus. …we spent the evening walking and talking and the following weekend, for our third date, we went on a riverboat ride for a dinner cruise. It was very romantic. We were in college, so I was very impressed because most college guys didn’t think along those lines, and [dates with Mike] were different than dates with other guys.”

The turn: No real turn. Cheryl and Mike continued courting during their summer break in Birmingham and their feelings progressed and decided to return to school in the fall as a couple. “We got to know each other well during that summer,” said Cheryl.

Cheryl and Michael Long Sr. met in 1977 at Alabama State University. The couple married two years later. (Provided Photos)

The proposal: Spring 1978, at Mike’s college apartment near Alabama State University. The pair were in a heated argument when Mike popped the question out of the blue and diffused the disagreement entirely.

“I think we were arguing about lack of time together, and a little jealousy because [the band had gone co-ed] and he was spending a lot of time with his bandmates, and some of them were females,” Cheryl said.

“She was threatening to leave, and as she was getting ready to walk out of my apartment, I stopped her… I [had started] playing some nice music trying to mellow her out and after we started talking without the tension, I proposed. I told her I thought she was my partner for life, and asked her to marry me,” Mike said.

While the gesture calmed her down, Cheryl said she didn’t take him seriously at first.

“But then he got down on one knee and repeated it and I accepted. My husband is a hopeless romantic, and it was very moving to me because it was a flip in emotion going from one extreme to another. I wanted to be with him exclusively and permanently so of course, I said ‘yes,’” Cheryl said. “But I told him we had to get permission from my parents, and the following weekend we went home to Birmingham) and he asked them for my hand in marriage.”

The wedding: Cheryl’s home church, First Missionary Baptist Church in Pratt City, officiated by two of its ministers, Reverend Collins Pettaway, and Reverend Frank Jackson. Their colors were pink and cranberry. The bride wore white and the groom wore black, their wedding colors were pink and cranberry.

Most memorable for the bride was “seeing the gathering of both families and friends come together; the church was actually full and it made me very happy to see that union,” Cheryl said.

Most memorable for the groom was watching Cheryl walk down the aisle. “She was the most beautiful woman in the entire world. That was the most exciting part of the wedding for me,” said Mike.

The couple did not honeymoon right away but spent their wedding night in the presidential suite at the downtown Birmingham Hyatt, which is where their reception was held.

“We got married right before Christmas, so we postponed our vacation until the [upcoming] summer, and we went to Tunica, Mississippi,” Cheryl said.

Words of wisdom: “Learn to be patient, learn to compromise, and always keep an open line of communication,” Cheryl said. “That’s the key, once you have open communication you can talk through anything.”

“Prayer and Jesus. You gotta keep praying and communicating. I pray and ask the Lord to give me strength,” Mike said.

Happily ever after: The Longs attend First Missionary Baptist Church in Pratt City, where Micheal serves as a deacon, treasurer, and trustee, and Cheryl as a deaconess. They have two adult children, Micheal II, and Tiffany, and two grandchildren, Micheal III, and Cameron.

Cheryl, 66, is from the west side of Birmingham [South Goldwire Estates], and a Ramsay High School grad. She attended Alabama State University where she earned a BS in computer information systems and is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. Cheryl retired from the Social Security Administration where she worked as a claims rep for 34 years.

Michael, 67, is a Birmingham native [Hillman Gardens area], and a Wenonah High School grad. He attended Alabama State University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in music, and is a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc. Michael retired from the United States Postal Service after 36 years.

“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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