Cover Story

Love in the Fast Lane

Do you believe in love at first sight? These happy couples make a case for whirlwind romance.

Editor’s Note: Due to space constraints, we were unable to publish all of the love stories our readers shared. To those of you whose stories were not featured here, please accept our heartfelt thanks for taking the time to send them. Our staff has spent many enjoyable hours reading each and every one!

February, "The Month of Love," brings us heart candies, teddy bears with red bow ties, Valentine cards with every inscription imaginable, roses, soft romantic songs, diamond rings, lace and satin, chocolate delicacies galore, and, of course, good old-fashioned love stories.

With such beloved fairy tales as Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty and the dreamy notion of love at first sight and being swept off your feet, relationships that are characterized by a whirlwind of romantic bliss that quickly results in an enduring marriage are the most intriguing of all love stories.

The following personal love stories, submitted by Cooperative Living readers, highlight real whirlwind romances that have survived the test of time.

The Bryans
The Bryans

Bob & Lona Bryan
Bumpass, Virginia

The year was 1957. That was the year that our whirlwind romance started. I was a young teller at the Elkton Banking & Trust Co. in Elkton, Maryland. I began to notice that every Friday night a cute young fella would always stand in my line waiting for me to take his Southern States deposit for the week. Whenever a co-worker tried to get him to step over to her line, he would refuse and say, "I’ll just wait here!"

After several weeks, he asked me for a date. At first, I played hard to get, as we girls did back in those days, and refused his offer. After three refusals (I was all booked up, I told him), I accepted.

By 1958, we were steady and February 14 rolled around. At work, I received a beautiful bouquet of red roses! On the card I read: "These 11 and you make one dozen American beauties!" Sure enough, I counted and there were only 11 roses!

On March 1, 1958, I became Mrs. Robert Bryan. As we joined hands, we promised to walk down Life’s road together. Sometimes it was smooth walking, sometimes the road got rocky, and there were many happy times and some sad times, but we have stood the test of time — almost 43 years. We thank God for His many blessings and for walking with us through life. I’ve received many bouquets over the years, always 11 roses. The card always reads the same. If I ever get 12, I’ll know I’ve had it!

— Lona Bryan

The Atwoods
The Atwoods

Wayne & Donna Atwood
Bumpass, Virginia

In October of 1960, I was in the Air Force and newly assigned to ENT AFB in Colorado Springs, CO. My first Sunday on base my girlfriend and I were walking back to the barracks when this car with two cute airmen drove by. One looked at the other and said, "I’m going to marry that girl."

The next Sunday we were in the mess hall and this same cute airman came over to sit at our table. My girlfriend was asking about Catholic churches in the area, and he said he could show us where one was located in the city. We drove around looking for that church until my friend said she had to get back to the base. We were both expecting calls from our boyfriends. He drove us back to the barracks and stopped long enough for her to get out. Then he drove off with me still in the car. We had a pleasant afternoon and about two weeks later, after a few dates, he asked me if I could make biscuits and gravy. When I told him yes, he said, "Will you marry me?" People don’t believe him when he tells them how he proposed to me.

We were each making $78 a month and we borrowed $250 from the credit union to get us started in our married life: a month’s rent, groceries, pots and pans, dishes, silverware, etc. Money went a lot further in those days.

We were married on Thanksgiving Day, November 24, 1960, six weeks after we met, and have just celebrated our 40th anniversary. We moved to Lake Anna in August of 1993. Wayne, that cute airman, is a former state trooper. He retired from Virginia Power in June of 1994, and is now a deputy sheriff with Louisa County.

— Donna D. Atwood

The Zimmermans
The Zimmermans

Elwyn & May Zimmerman
Concord, Virginia

In December 1951, as a high school senior, I was working part-time during the Christmas season as a sales clerk at the G.C. Murphy Co. (5 & 10) store. One Saturday evening, a very nice looking young man approached me and asked to see another female clerk, a person he knew. I informed him that she was out for dinner. We continued in conversation. He knew my older sister who also worked at that store. This was his hometown, but he was working out of state and was home for the holidays. Over the next few days, we got acquainted and dated. Then he left for his job. We wrote letters to each other every day. (By the way, a postage stamp cost 3 cents!) In May 1952, the night of my graduation, I accepted an engagement ring. On July 13, 1952, we were married. In those seven months of courtship, mostly by mail, we saw each other a grand total of seven times. We have three children and five grandchildren. On July 13, 2001, we will celebrate our 49th anniversary. We have had a wonderful life together and God has blessed us greatly!

— May Zimmerman

The Burkheads
The Burkheads

Rhett & Sev Burkhead
Hallwood, Virginia

I went from Miss Widerberg to Mrs. Burkhead in seven weeks!

I was alone and divorced for three years, trying to keep busy with my small commercial and residential cleaning service that I established in 1990. At home, I have a "prayer window." For two years I had been praying regularly for a "good man" to walk into my life. My first marriage was abusive and I wanted someone who would make me laugh, make me smile, and just accept me as I am.

Christmastime in 1997, I passed out some coupons for a free residential three-hour cleaning. My future husband’s daughter, Dana, had received one of the coupons. One day, when he was visiting her, he mentioned that he could use someone to clean his "Bachelor Pad." So, she gave her dad, Rhett, the coupon!

In May 1998, I get a message from my answering service saying that he has a coupon for a free cleaning. I call back and he explains how he came across it, questions its validity, and just happens to mention he’s divorced! Mmmmm, nice rugged voice. So, I nervously set up an appointment and drive to Hallwood. I ring the bell and a big, tall, handsome man with a great smile greets me. Seven weeks later, on June 24, 1998, we were married by Reverend Godwin in the Greenbackville Methodist Church. The Lord does answer your prayers! And we are blessed!

— Sev Burkhead

The Rolands
The Rolands

Chester & Marcine Roland
Manassas, Virginia

In the year 1951, I was employed with the Alexandria Fire Department. Being single, I loved to attend the Annual Fireman’s Convention held each summer in August. In 1951, the convention was held in the town of Luray.

During the convention, a fellow volunteer fireman asked me if I needed a date for the Fireman’s Ball. I did and so he fixed me up with his date’s girlfriend. I was with my date for that evening and the next day after the parade. I then returned to Alexandria after saying farewell.

Driving back to Alexandria, I realized that this encounter was not just a date. I wrote to her within two days and she responded. I followed up with a visit to her farm home to meet the family and have dinner.

We met on August 9, I proposed to her on August 25, and we planned to wed in June 1952. It didn’t take long to know that my 1946 Plymouth would never last making those 90-mile trips so frequently. We changed our plans to marry on November 3, 1951.

On August 9, 1952, we had our first child, a son. On September 19, 1957, our first daughter was born, and our youngest daughter on November 28, 1966. On a fireman’s pay in those days, you plan your family very carefully.

Members of both families did not think this whirlwind marriage would last. We will celebrate our 50th anniversary on November 3, 2001.

— Chester C. Roland

Maurice & Jonette Talbott
Alton, Virginia

In August of 1974, I met my future husband when he came to my neighborhood to work on his uncle’s farm. We met each other on the front porch of the post office in Nathalie. I had a special feeling about him the first time I ever saw him, and was delighted a few days later when he asked me to go out with him. From then on, we saw each other on a daily basis. I felt like I had finally met my soul mate. We dated for a grand total of two months before we decided to get married. We have had 26 wonderful years together and our love for each other grows stronger each year. Over the years, we have lived in different areas of the county and have been fortunate to have Mecklenburg Electric provide our electricity for all 26 years that we have been married.

— Jonette Talbott

The Banks
The Banks

Daniel & Betty Banks
Locust Grove, Virginia

February is indeed the month of love. In 1947, I was a young ensign in the Navy. My ship was ordered to Bremerton, WA, for inactivation. When we arrived, I looked up a good friend with whom I had attended a Navy V12 program. He had elected to leave the program and served the Navy well in an enlisted status. When I arrived in Bremerton, I called his home and learned that "Wayne" was attending college on the east side of Washington. However, his mother called him to let him know I was trying to contact him. He took a few days off from college and came back to Bremerton on February 6. He suggested that he contact some lady friends of his and that we go out on the town the next night. As luck would have it, he only reached one lady, so we both escorted her to the house party that we were attending.

Have you ever been touched by a live wire? That was my first reaction to my first meeting with Betty! As luck would have it, my good friend was more interested in a card game that was underway than he was in feminine companionship. There was a stack of 78s on the record machine, and the last record was "I Love You for Sentimental Reasons." It played on and on. By the time we had reached this point, we two were the only ones left on the dance floor.

The next day, Wayne had to return to college and I asked him if he would be upset if I continued to see Betty. He didn’t mind, and from that point on, we were inseparable! Just a few days later, I was detached from my ship and ordered to Seattle for further orders. Betty, feeling about me as I felt about her, left her job in Bremerton and moved in with her grandmother in Seattle.

We continued our dating and I met her grandmother. I passed her inspection and became a frequent and welcome visitor at her home. At some point in time after the move to Seattle, we started talking seriously about our future. On February 24, we caught a bus into downtown Seattle for the purpose of getting a marriage license. We were determined that we would be married on February 27. We proceeded to the courthouse and applied for the marriage license. We filled out the papers, and then the clerk asked us who would be our witness! Who, indeed? We hadn’t brought anyone with us (no one knew we were planning to get married). The clerk suggested we go out on the street and find a sailor who would swear to the color of our eyes and to the fact that we were sincere in our wish to get married. We went to the street and watched many sailors walk by. However, this was not the way we had envisioned things.

Disheartened, we left the courthouse and rode the bus back to the outskirts of Seattle, where Betty’s grandmother lived. This was discouraging, and we felt as though we had cold water thrown on our plans. Three days later, the 27th, my orders to a ship in San Diego were in hand. We knew we had to do something quickly! We went to the bus stop again, determined to stop the first sailor we saw in downtown Seattle to be our witness!

But, before the bus came, Betty said that she didn’t really want to have our marriage start off this way. She suggested we ask her grandmother if she would be our witness. With great trepidation I agreed, and we walked back to her grandmother’s house where she was working in her garden. We approached, and Betty asked if she would stand up with us. "Will I?" she exclaimed, "Just wait until I change my hat!" Instead of riding into town in a bus, we were driven there in a car. When we arrived at the courthouse, Grandma told us to get the paperwork started and she would be with us in a few minutes. She had an old friend she wanted to speak with.

On our way to town, we explained about our previous try for a license and our hope to marry on February 27. It turned out that Grandma knew one of the judges and had left us to talk with him. When she arrived at the licensing office, she signed as our witness. The judge informed us that he had two sons in the Army, and if either of them were in our same position he would want some judge to work things out for him. Therefore, because we had wanted very much to be married on February 27, he was granting us a three-day waiver!

Such excitement! By 8 o’clock that evening, everything was organized, and several of Betty’s aunts and cousins were present at the ceremony. A whirlwind courtship and a wonderful wedding on the day we had set our sights for! And, now, 531/2 years later, with four wonderful children, nine grandchildren and one great grandchild, we are still very much in love with each other and with life! By the way, our favorite song remains, "I Love You for Sentimental Reasons."

— Daniel Banks

The Parkins
The Parkins

Chip & Debbie Parkins
Mount Crawford, Virginia

We were married on July 31, 1985. We were introduced by a mutual friend. Our first date was on Father’s Day, June 15, 1985. On July 12, I proposed and promptly got a yes.

We planned our wedding on the Outer Banks of NC. After finding a preacher, we drew up our wedding plans at a small Shell gas station in Manteo.

Pre-sunrise, my wife and her family walked south on the beach and me and my family walked north. We met in front of the Hatteras Light House (old location). As we faced the ocean, the Reverend Calvin Moore performed the 6:09 a.m. sunrise ceremony. It was a beautiful sunrise with family and friends. The date was July 31, 1985. (Also a blue moon.)

Now living in the Shenandoah Valley, we have been happily married and blessed with twin boys who are now 10 years old. I promised my wife she would never be bored and I have kept my word — she is the best thing that has ever happened to me. It was a quick romance and still worth it today.

P.S. I got "Husband From Heaven" Award 15 years straight! Ha! Ha! Ha! (Sure.)

— Charles C. Parkins, Jr.

The Nilssons
The Nilssons

Bill & Carolyn R. Nilsson
Red Oak, Virginia

"Let’s just be friends!" I have thought of those words so many times during the past 25 years. In January 1975, while attending a church social, I met a divorced father who had three teenage sons who attended the high school where I was a faculty member. He was the father of two pre-teen daughters, too. I knew that just being friends was the only relationship for us. Events quickly changed with a March engagement and a June church wedding.

When I shared my happy engagement news with my father, he asked me, "Are you on drugs?" Since I was an only child, my father had concern that I was marrying someone who was 14 years older and had five children. My friends had their doubts, too.

Since Bill and I had prayed so many times about the upcoming marriage, we did not have any doubt. Things just fell into place so we knew that it was going to work. I wanted a mate that could drive a tractor, repair and build things, change the tire on a car, and liked cats. I did have a three-year-old cat, Czar Nicholas, to add to our new family. Bill’s children would call him the bionic rat.

On June 21, 2000, we celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary. Whenever former students see me, they always say that I look the same. I always say: "I have the same husband; I am still a high school library media specialist; but I have a different cat."

We live on an old tobacco farm, Jessie’s Hollow, in rural Charlotte County. We have four grandchildren and five children.

— Carolyn Nilsson

The Chemis
The Chemis

Fred & Betty Chemi
Culpeper, Virginia

In the spring of 1966, I gave an automotive timing light that I no longer had use for, to a friend at work. He wanted to reciprocate, but I told him he shouldn’t feel obligated. At the end of June, he insisted that I drop over one evening for dinner. I successfully evaded the invitation as I had heard him tell a fellow employee that his sister-in-law, Betty, was visiting from California. She had come to visit for two weeks as a graduation present from her father. At 26 years of age and still single, I knew I would have no interest in a recent high school graduate. As luck (or, more correctly, fate) would have it, there was a major airline strike at the end of June and she was unable to return to California.

My friend finally wore me down in August and I agreed to come over for a cookout one evening after work. Call it chemistry, call it fate, or whatever, but the two of us immediately saw something in each other that has carried us through 34 happy years of marriage.

Two weeks after that cookout, I proposed and we were married on February 4, 1967. Today, Betty and I are the proud parents of three children — Ann Marie, Louis and Phillip — and we reside in Culpeper.

The same timing light, mounted on a plaque, was given to us as a 32nd anniversary present by my brother-in-law and sister-in-law. Like our marriage, the timing light is still in fine working order.

We have three rules for a happy marriage and they have worked well for us:

Don’t ever go to sleep on an argument.

Whoever said marriage is a 50-50 arrangement was never married. If it were 50-50, then nothing would ever happen. Think of it as 90-10 and always expect to only get the 10. That way, you will never be disappointed.

Remember that your spouse is your best friend. There is nothing you hide from each other.

Tell your spouse you love her (or him) at least four times each day and mean it.

Remember, our creator only puts us here for a short time, so make every moment count together.

Hey, I said there were three rules, but she convinced me there were a lot more.

— Fred Chemi

The Lambs
The Lambs

Linwood & Doris Lamb
Ruckersville, Virginia

We started corresponding in January, met in person in March, were engaged in June, and then married in October. We celebrated 38 years of wedded bliss this past October.

Linwood’s dad roomed and boarded at our home in Washington, DC, before Linwood was born. My dad and mom stayed in touch with the Lambs over the years, but never met their children. Thanksgiving of 1961, my mom and I visited the Lambs in Stanardsville, Greene City. Mrs. Lamb asked if I would correspond with her son in New Jersey because he was working away from home and was a little lonely. After the holidays, I wrote and we corresponded for a couple of months. He flew into DC on March 17, 1962. It was love at first sight on both our parts. He visited in June and popped the question and gave me a ring. We married in October of 1962. We have had 38 wonderful years and are now retired in Ruckersville, Greene City. We are thankful for each day together and are enjoying our home, our children (two stepchildren, his previous marriage) and grandchildren. We look forward to many more loving years.

— Doris Lamb

Mr. & Mrs. F. J. Leaming, Jr.
Ruther Glen, Virginia

I was invited by my attorney boss to a Rat River Rally Race, sponsored by the American Cancer Society and the Williamsburg Jaycees, in June 1979. He invited me to go so that I could help with the timing of contestants at a particular stop in their race.

While I was there, I met a nice young man named Frank, who had recently been transferred from Philadelphia to Williamsburg by the U.S. Defense Department. We started talking and later danced for a while. His friend, who invited him to go to the event, got injured and had to go to the hospital. So, Frank asked me if I could drive him home. Since we had talked and danced all day, I felt like I knew him. I took him home, but on the way stopped at my house to introduce him to my son, Erik, and daughter, Liz. Frank was a little over 11 years younger than I. We started dating two days later. We dated for 10 months and got married on April 26, 1980, at Bruton Parish Church in Williamsburg.

We have been married since then and have one adopted daughter, Dawn. She is now a junior at St. Gertrude High School in Richmond. We have had about 26 foster children through Commonwealth Catholic Charities in Richmond. We live by the water at Lake Caroline, and we are very much in love and deeply devoted to each other. We are also very active in our church, Saint Mary of the Annunciation in Ladysmith.

— Mrs. F. J. Leaming, Jr.


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