Monday, February 19, 2018

That special girl ~ my column from Sunday's paper

It was in October 1966 when I first saw her sitting near the stage of the Sumiton Middle School. She was in an antique dress and bonnet playing gospel songs on a pump organ that looked as if it came over on the Mayflower. Her teacher was a history buff and persuaded her to play for the fall history fair. She was thin as a reed and sat straight on the organ bench, pumping the air pedals with all the strength her small frame could muster. Her cousin introduced us. Her name was Jilda. We talked after her set, and I could tell there was something special about her.

Jilda and I met again two years later during my senior year. She was a friend of the girl I’d been dating.

My girlfriend decided we needed to break up. She had a lot on her plate, and maybe she thought things were getting too serious.

The bottom line, I was dateless, and graduation was only days away. Since I didn’t want to go alone, I called Jilda and asked if she’d like to be my date. She said she would like that. I smiled when I hung up the phone. That was our first date.

The dates continued. She wore my class ring on a chain around her neck.

The following year, I was her date at her junior prom. I wasn’t much of a dancer but who goes to a prom to dance?

A few years later, I got the letter that all young men dread. That was in 1971. It was from Uncle Sam. My draft lottery number came up. I had to report for duty in April. Vietnam was raging, and she had college before her.

We decided that it might be a good idea to put things on hold. The future was uncertain. She said if it’s meant to be, it will work out. Even as we “broke up” I knew she was special.

After my stint at a post in the Panama Canal Zone, I wasn’t sure what I would do. My old friend Dale Short offered me an internship at The Community News. The VA supplemented my pay for two years while I learned the ropes. I wasn’t much of a writer, and my picture-taking skills weren’t much better, but Dale had patience, and I got better.

Jilda had introduced me to Dale before I left for the Army. One day during lunch as we talked, he said, “There’s something special about Jilda.” That night I gave her a call. A few days later, we went out and talked late into the night. It took some time, but we got back together. Her oldest sister Nell had told her when we broke up that it was only temporary. “He’s the one for you,” Nell advised. She laughed as she told me what her sister had said.

Before long we were dating solid again. I took her candy and flowers on that Valentine’s Day. Then on Cinco de Mayo of that year, we drove to the home of a preacher friend in Brewton, Ala. We got married on the porch of his house trailer as curious neighbors watched from a distance.

The preacher pulled me aside and said, “You should know that girl is special.” I nodded my head in agreement.

It turns out the preacher was right. There is something special about her.

I hope you all had a great Valentine’s Day with someone special.


  1. Yes I did. I spent it with the love of my life for the past 61 years. Yep, she was and is SPECIAL in CAPS, just like JILDA!

  2. A nice romantic story for Valentine Day and I bet she is still special.
    Hugs, Julia

  3. Happy Anniversary! What a special Valentines Day you had !

  4. Yes Sir I did also. This is a great story of a love and life meant to be, Thank you for sharing it with us.

  5. Just from seeing pictures of Jilda I see a serenity that is not there in most people. I believe all those people were right. She is special.

  6. This is the sweetest and I love reading and hearing how people met and how their love blossomed. How many saw just how special Jilda is but you were the one she wanted which means you must be pretty special yourself. I'm glad you didn't go to Vietnam

  7. What a nice story, hope you have many more years together

  8. A lovely story, Rick, one with which I closely identify. Uncertain times --never sure we'd make it to the next chapter-- but we found love.


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