40 years is a long time for two people to stay together. Ralph and I started our journey together in a non-traditional way. We were married on my parent’s front porch on a beautiful sunny day Apr. 27, 1974. The reception was a great party in my oldest brother’s apartment. We moved immediately into a house. We both had lived in apartments for a long time and decided to purchase our first house in Wylam. 5 years later (1979) we were blessed with our 1st child a son, Ralph Jr.
Then in 1983 we were blessed with our 2nd son, Justin.
With our family growing larger we decided to purchase a larger home. So July 4th 1983 we moved into our 2nd home in Forestdale. With each move we broadened our circle of friends, and maintained connections with those friends. Just as we did in 1993 when we moved to our current location in Center point.
The night of the celebration of our 40th Anniversary, was a total, total surprise. Ralph and I, truly had no clue. We were told so many things to get us there and we believed all of it. As we walked up to the door to the ballroom, I saw a banner across the top stating Anniversary Celebration, but I thought, well maybe Ralph Jr. was incorrect, maybe Dre’s parents were celebrating an anniversary instead of a birthday. Even as the door opened and the 1st person I saw was my sister – law Barbara (all the way from Maryland). I remembered thinking, why is Barbara here, she didn’t know Dre’s parents…. Then everyone yelled, “SURPRISE HAPPY ANNIVERSARY” and that’s when it became evident we had been had.
They got us good!!!! Everyone greeted us with hugs and kisses. Eventually, we made our way to our seats and the program began. Barbara sang the song “Memories”. I usually never cry, but there was a flood of emotions and I found myself crying. I looked over and Ralph was crying as well.
We just could not hold it in. I believe it was a combination of so many things, all the people in the room, friends and family from everywhere. All of my brothers and sisters, all of Ralph’s brothers and sister. Family and friends from Bowie, Maryland; Cincinnati, Ohio; Houston, Texas; Auburn, Al; Opelika, Al; Huntsville, AL; Uniontown, Al; and of course Birmingham, Al.
The song Barbara sang, was perfect. The words were a perfect reflection of the past 40 yrs. I have never had a surprise party and I always wondered how I would react. Now I know the element of surprise is extremely exciting. During the night I reflected over all the entire weekend. I remembered telling someone at work on the Friday before, how all of our family would be together for the weekend for the first time in a long time, and that Sunday was our 40th anniversary, so it was a good time for all of us to be together, our sons, our daughter – in – law and the grandkids. Little did I know that was the great plan all along? I still can’t get over how well they pulled it off.
There were family and friends from all walks of our lives that traveled near and far, to share in our event. Other family members that could not attend sent love and well wishes from Ohio, California and Tennessee. We have been blessed in so many wonderful ways for the past 40 years.
Special, special, thanks to our kids and my sister Louvonia Tarrant for their participation in helping to set us up for the best night of our lives. They got us good!!!
Shirley Whitely Ward JJ