Valentine's contest winners: Elizabeth and Rick Franklin
Feb 10, 2013 (Menafn - Tulsa World - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --His nickname is "Rotten." Hers is "Trouble."
Their friends, though, know them best as Rick and Elizabeth Franklin.
But they almost weren't a couple at all.
"I didn't like him that much," Elizabeth confessed with a smile the afternoon we visited their Broken Arrow home.
Apparently, Rick was a bit of a pest when they first met -- part of the charm behind the love story they submitted for our Valentine's Day contest.
We received more than 70 submissions from folks in their 20s to their 90s. Some were funny, others sweet. A few were sad.
Young lovers wrote us, as did widows and widowers, plus loves who reunited after decades apart. We even had someone write us from jail, biding his time until he can be with his true love.
But there was something that resonated with us about the Franklins, who met on a warm July day in 1964.
Elizabeth was sitting on the edge of a public swimming pool, she wrote us, feet dangling in the deep end of the water while she watched her sister swimming with friends.
"Suddenly, a cute boy popped his head out of the water, grabbed my feet and yanked me in," she said in the letter.
It was Rick -- who didn't realize the girl who caught his eye couldn't swim.
"He became my rescuer, but I was not impressed at the time, nor was I amused," Elizabeth wrote.
That same night, as she sat in a movie theater with friends, popcorn started falling on her head. Guess who?
"I looked up to see the same cute boy grinning down at me from the balcony," Elizabeth said. "I still was not amused."
A few weeks passed, and school started back up at Central High School. On the first day of her sophomore year, when coach Oglesby started calling roll, Elizabeth heard a familiar voice yell out "present" behind her.
She turned around, and there he was, "the same cute and highly obnoxious boy grinning at me," she wrote. "Again, I was not amused."
They had a cappella choir and U.S. history together.
"I liked to watch her wiggle," he said about spying on her at school. She laughed.
Just a few weeks later, his persistence paid off, and they began dating.
Two years later, he proposed -- "after I decided I liked him," Elizabeth said, smiling at her husband as they sat close on the couch.
Rick gave her the option of being married on Leap Day or Valentine's Day, as it would be less likely he'd forget those dates. At least, in the case of Leap Year, he'd remember one-fourth of the time.
They chose 8 p.m. Feb. 14, 1968, the year after they graduated from Central.
"We will be celebrating our 45th wedding anniversary," Elizabeth said at the end of her letter, "and I thank God for having sent that cute, grinning, obnoxious 15-year-old boy to pull me into the water that July day back in 1964."
"We've had fun," Rick said, talking about the places they had lived while he was in the military, plus adventures they've had since -- and their son, daughter and five awesome grandchildren.
So what's their secret?
"You can't love somebody unless you really like them," he said.
"And it takes 100 percent from both parties," she added. "Always put the other one first."
Sure, they have their disagreements, Elizabeth said.
"Oh, yes," he replied with a big smile.
"But don't go to bed without saying 'I love you,' " she said.
It began in Bible class ...
Eddie and Jeanne Wilson were teenagers when they met at church camp. Courtesy
Eddie and Jeanne Wilson came in a close second to the Franklins when we read the love letters.
"The first time I saw Jeanne, she was 15 years old and the most beautiful girl I have ever seen. I was 16.
"We were at a church camp, and I had agreed to do a skit for a Bible class. After the skit I remained seated facing the other kids. When I saw her, my heart skipped a beat.
"The class finished early, and the teacher started having kids stand up and tell their names and where they were from. Just before they got to her row, the bell rang. Without thinking, I jumped up and yelled, "Wait! I have to know who that girl in the pink and white dress is!" Her friends encouraged her to stand up even though she was embarrassed.
"Camp lasted six days, and we spent every possible second we could together. By the second day, we were in love. The last night, we sat by a creek, held each other and cried, sure we would never see each other again.
"I love her," says Eddie Wilson of his wife, Jeanne, joking, "almost as much as she love me." Courtesy
"We both arrived home talking about being in love, but no one paid any attention to us. We lived 160 miles apart, and I could only drive to school and the Dairy Queen. Our love seemed doomed of failure.
"For three years, we wrote each other almost daily. A bundle of 1,047 letters. When I got older, I was allowed to drive down once every month. We never doubted our love or that our life was to be together. We were married right out of high school at 18 and 19.
"Three kids and 13 grandchildren later, we are celebrating our 50th wedding anniversary Jan. 30.
"Jeanne is still my best friend, and there is no one I would rather do things with. I love her," he concluded -- but not before joking, "almost as much as she loves me."
'Our love is forever'
Steve Nichols of Tulsa submitted this love story, which began in an apartment parking lot in The Woodlands, Texas.
"Kay and I ended up in the same apartment complex, each trying to deal with our own personal grief and loss. Our paths would cross from time to time as our daily activities would always end up in the parking lot.
"It started with the exchange of a small pleasantry, a simple hello, but graduated to much lengthier conversations. Neither one of us was looking for any kind of a relationship in light of what each of us had been through. But there was something there that kept pulling us together.
"Soon after Kay had to go through breast cancer treatment. Fortunately, the treatment was successful, and she is cancer-free. In September of 2009, I was transferred to Tulsa. I think we both had the thought that that would be the end of it because she had a job in The Woodlands. However, I called every day, and we visited each other back and forth.
"On Super Bowl Sunday 2010, I asked her to marry me and join me in Tulsa. She said yes, and we were married on May 14, 2010. Two months later, I was diagnosed with vocal cord cancer. After radiation treatments, I am cancer-free, as well.
"Even though I am still dealing with some side effects of the radiation, we are committed to the happiness we have found. Adversity is easier to handle when you have love in your life. Our love helped overcome ours. We have our two-year anniversary coming up in May, and we are both looking forward to a wonderful future together. We are an older couple, but our spirit is young and strong. And our love is forever."
The funeral dress
Leslie Cormack of Fort Gibson shared her story.
"My sweetheart and I knew he was dying of cancer. We, over the years, tried to cross all the T's and dot the I's. Time was getting close, and one day he said we were going to town (Tulsa) and buy me a dress. We took another relative along and planned his trip.
"You see, everything my husband wanted, I made sure he received. We had lunch and arrived at the department store women's wear, and said, 'We are here.' He wanted to purchase my funeral dress.
"We did this together, as we did everything for 28 years together. The sales lady and relative would describe the fit, etc. The relative pushed the wheelchair, and the descriptions had to be exact, as he was blind (macular degeneration). I tried to be strong, but when it came to pay the cashier, we all lost it. The sales lady stated what is the purchase for, I said and pointed to himself and said for his funeral. While writing the check I lost it, the relative wheeled him off and she lost it, as did the cashier.
"The love he gave me through the years is beyond any I ever have or had experienced. This man had character and made sure I did not want for anything.
"Oh, he has been gone for almost four years now and still is a part of my life. Every day decision-making he is on my shoulders, just like God is."
"It must be love when, after 54 years, if we are in separate cars and I see her drive by in town, my heart skips a beat, and I say, 'There goes my girl,' " Ray Darnell says of his wife, Carole. Courtesy
Ray Darnell of Claremore shared this sweet love story.
"It was the 1950s. I was fresh out of high school and working for Froug's department store, dating around, cruising the Hub, etc. My sister told me about this really cute girl that was running a summer watermelon stand on Highway 66 west of Tulsa. I asked how old she was, and my sister added a year or two and said I should go buy a watermelon from her.
"I did. Right away, something clicked between us. It was the way she looked straight into my eyes. She was beautiful. Thanks, Sis!
"I kept going back for more watermelons. The first time we kissed was on her back steps with her big, scary dad just inside. Carole told me her age, but it was too late. We were seriously in love.
"Her family moved to Ripley, but we continued to date. I put a lot of weekend miles on my 1941 Ford. I bought rings from Zales, and she said yes. The next year we were married, and a year later our first of three sons was born. We moved, following my advertising career, and eventually came back to Tulsa. Except for dabbling in Avon and real estate, Carole preferred to be a stay-at-home mom. We waited nine years then had two daughters. Meantime, we were having fun. Camping, vacation trips, but Saturday nights were hers and mine. We dressed up in full square dance attire and enjoyed our adult friends.
"Many grandchildren and great-grandchildren later, we still like being together. It must be love when, after 54 years, if we are in separate cars and I see her drive by in town, my heart skips a beat, and I say, 'There goes my girl.' "
'Everything would work out'
Donna Griffin of Tulsa submitted this love story about her parents.
"My mother, Jeanette, went to the movies and fell in love. The object of her affection was a tall, handsome older man. He was an usher at the local movie theater, and he was nine years older than my Mom. But she didn't care.
"She told me, 'I knew he was the one for me.'
"He told me, 'I thought she was too young for me.'
"She tried all kinds of crazy schemes to catch his attention. Once she even bought a child's price ticket (she was 18). He calmly and politely said, 'Young lady, there has been a mistake at the box office.' As she sheepishly made her way back to exchange the ticket, she vowed that this wasn't over.
"Mom said, 'I knew everything would work out.'
While all these antics were playing out, her married friend, Grace, was trying desperately to fix her up with a 'great guy.' But Mom wanted no part of a blind date. She knew who she wanted, so she put poor Grace off for months. But, finally, feeling lonely and having no luck wooing the usher, she agreed to meet the great guy. They were set to meet at the local Valentine's Day dance.
"Mom dressed in her finest and when she walked into the room, who was sitting at the table with Grace? The usher she'd been pining for all along.
"Poor Harold, he never knew what hit him.
"Fast forward 60 years. Three daughters all happily married to great guys of their own. My parents had a wonderful marriage. I guess everything worked out just like my Mom said it would."
Rebecca Bacon of Pryor shared this love story.
"I had been married nine years when my first husband took us on a vacation. On the drive to Florida, he started telling me a story about "the kind of guy you should have married. He is romantic the way you are. He flew the Texas flag out of his C-47 and played the 'Yellow Rose of Texas' over the plane's loudspeaker every time he took off and landed in Vietnam. That is the kind of guy you should have married.'
"As I sat there, I prayed, 'Dear God, if this man is telling me who I should have married, this marriage is obviously not going to last. If this romantic pilot loses his Yellow Rose, could he find me?'
"Six years went by. We divorced. My heart was healing. I went to a church-sponsored singles group. A handsome man ran to open the door for me. Later, he asked if he could call me.
"He called the next afternoon. On our third date, I said, 'I've told you enough about me. Tell me about you.'
"He started with, 'I was born in Waco, Texas, and adopted when I was 24 hours old. We moved to India when I was 13. After college, I went in the Air Force. I flew C-47s in Vietnam. I flew a Texas Flag and played the 'Yellow Rose of Texas' every time I took off and landed.
"We have been married almost 25 years, and I still get goose bumps when my handsome husband buys yellow roses. He is so romantic, like I am."
Jolene Gafford of Tulsa, who's about to celebrate her 58th anniversary with her husband, shared this funny love story.
"It was 1955. We were married a couple of months and poor as Job's turkey. The only thing we had was his ages-old red pick-up that the doors would sometime swing wide open while going down the road. But he could always manage to work on it and keep it going somehow. Gas was very affordable then and mostly he would drive us around or park out at the airport to watch the planes take off and land.
"On this night we were just riding around when our argument started. I was losing, so I am hopping mad about the time we came around the hairpin curve at Admiral and Mingo. That's when my door flew open and, before I know, I'm flailing and grasping for thin air. The tall grass in the field rushed past my head as I'm stretched half in and half out of the cab seat. I'm aware that the only reason I'm still half inside was the vice-like grip he had on one of my ankles.
"It seemed to take forever to brake so slowly as to keep the door from swinging closed upon me, but finally we stopped. He pulled me back inside, sat me upright and, blinking in the seat, saw that I was all right before he suddenly burst out laughing. I became even more outraged than before.
"I shouted, 'I refuse to ride around in some old rattle trap that someone has to hold me in.'
"He paused his laughing only for the short time to exclaim, 'Holding? I was pushing!' "
Casie Icks hired Ryan Icks as a personal trainer, and now he is her husband. Courtesy
Casie Icks of Tulsa submitted this love story.
"As my second semester of college at OSU was approaching, I knew I wanted to hire a personal trainer to learn some great techniques and lose weight. The OSU Colvin Recreational Center set me up with a personal trainer who was also a student at OSU.
"As I arrived for my session, I was greeted by this very handsome guy who said that he was going to be my trainer. Throughout the session, I could tell we had some chemistry. A week later, I emailed him to give him an update on my diet plan and before I knew it we were exchanging several emails. A few days later he asked me on a date and the rest is history. My personal trainer Ryan is now my amazing husband and best friend."
Connie and Paul Brown hold hands as they participate together in the Tulsa Komen Race. The couple, who celebrated their 52nd anniversary in January, has been fighting breast cancer together for 12 years, beginning with Paul's diagnosis and more recently with Connie's. Courtesy
'Love like no other'
Teresa Smith of Broken Arrow submitted a love story about her parents, Paul and Connie Brown, who celebrated their 52nd anniversary Jan. 27.
"My mother first asked my father out in the 10th grade. She asked him to a Sadie Hawkins dance at John Marshall High School in Oklahoma City.
"Fast forward 56 years, and I see a love that is never ending. The vows that say in sickness and in health, well, they firmly believe and live these words daily. You see, both of my parents are fighting breast cancer together.
"My father was first diagnosed 12 years ago and had to endure a radical mastectomy, followed by months of radiation and chemo. My mom never left his side for a minute. He has several spots that are inoperable, so he will remain on chemo for the rest of his life.
"Nine years later my mother found out she had an aggressive form of breast cancer. The sad news came on their 49th wedding anniversary. Mom was preparing for a nice anniversary dinner when she got the call. She became violently ill during her months of chemo and had a double mastectomy. This time dad was the caregiver, never leaving my mother's side.
"I have witnessed firsthand the most committed and everlasting kind of love anyone could possibly ever imagine or dream of. I am so proud and in awe of my parents.
"If you happen to participate in the Tulsa Komen Race, look for the couple dressed in pink, holding hands, with survivor shirts on. You will see for yourself a love like no other."
A surprise for Mom
Glenda Lovelace-Baker of Tulsa shared the following memorable Valentine's moment.
"I was a single parent for over 20 years, and many times I didn't know how we were going to make ends meet.
"One time in particular always comes to mind each Valentine's Day.
"We had gone to bed pretty early, and I thought both kids were asleep when I heard a noise. As I started down the hall to investigate, I heard whispering, and Debbie was saying to Steve, 'With my money, I'll buy milk, potatoes and cookies, and you can buy bread and cereal with your money, and maybe some meat.'
"'Hamburger meat would be best 'cause Mom can do a lot of things with that.'
"Then she added, 'Maybe we'll have enough left over to buy her a card.'
"My heart just about burst. It was a couple of days before Valentine's Day, and they had each received 5 from their grandmother. Debbie was 8 years old, and Steve was 4.
"Debbie is now 54 years old, and Steve is 50. They are still as thoughtful and sweet as they were back then. Each phone call I receive from them always ends with, 'I love you, Mom.'
"If I could make a wish for every mother in the world, it would be that they could know the same job I've known with my children."
Joy Wilson has a trunk of love letters from her husband, Keith, in her attic. Courtesy
'It goes much deeper'
Last March, Joy Wilson of Tulsa remembered some old love letters in a trunk in her attic. In that trunk was a stack of love letters from her husband, Keith, whom she married Sept. 18, 1945.
She shared one of those letters he had written to her Dec. 17, 1945.
"My darling wife,
"Three months ago, I was but another person, perhaps worth less than the average. Three months ago, less one day, I was your husband, which made me worth a lot more. Since then, my worth has been on the increase through your efforts. Perhaps at the end of a lifetime, I might be worthy of such a wonderful person as you.
"When you married me, you made me the happiest any man could ever want to be. Not only when you married me but since you married me. Your every action and move pleases me. Nowhere, at no time, have I had such happiness. My only hope and want in life is to have you share it with me always. If ever I am able to make you feel as you have made me feel, my life will have been worth living.
"When I say, 'I love you,' I'm not really expressing my love for you -- it goes much deeper than that. It is merely the closest phrase I've heard, but it's still a long way from the true feeling. I don't believe there ever will be words to express myself, for words can't express a feeling that deeply rooted.
"When I say, 'I love you,' I want to say, 'I love the shine in your eyes, your funny little nose, the color of your hair, the way you look at me, and on and on. There isn't anything I don't love about you, Joy."
Jason Ashley Wright 918-581-8483
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