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In 1960, Florida Law stated that a female was not allowed to be married and remain in school.
The reasoning was that they did not think it would be appropriate for a married, possibly pregnant student, to be in contact with younger students, and in our small town there was only one school, 1st–12th grades in adjoining buildings. So the powers that be, felt it would be a bad influence — they would rather a female quit school, than be married and finish her education. Well that did not seem fair to me since my objective was to continue my education and graduate with honors.
Bob and I were in love and did not want to wait another year to be married, since we had been dating for nearly three years, sex free, and marriage was inevitable. We opted to forfeit our church wedding, leave the state to marry secretly, and vowed not to get pregnant until after graduation. We discussed our dilemma and decision with our parents and they all agreed to a secret wedding.
Since Bob was born and raised in Georgia, his family knew several ministers. We contacted one and he agreed to perform the ceremony at the church parsonage in Thomasville. The date was set for Saturday, Nov. 19, 1960. So preparations were made. I found fabric left over from the church draperies and set out to make my three-piece wedding suit. Bob bought my shoes, all of which I still have today.
The day had arrived. I was nervous and jittery when getting ready for our wedding and the two hour trip to Georgia. I was being rushed so much that I put both feet into one leg hole of my girdle. When Bob came back to hurry us along, he ran out and told everyone I left a blue haze in the room putting on my girdle so fast. To which everyone got a much needed chuckle.
At the wedding, the immediate family gathered to witness the unrehearsed ceremony. As we stood in front of the decorative fireplace we were both nervous. The minister made his opening statement, then turned to Bob and began reading, the simple no repeating vows: “Bob do you take Rheunnell to be your lawfully wedded wife?” To which Bob replied “I Do.” The minister just looked at him and continued with the next line, once again a pause, and once again Bob replied “I Do.” At that, the minister smiling told him not to be so anxious, wait until I finish and say “I Do.” Everyone laughed hysterically. After the laughter ceased we finally completed the ceremony and we were pronounced Husband and Wife. Success.
Our secret was kept for seven months of my senior year. I graduated as Valedictorian of my class June 1961. Our first child was born in July 1962, and we were blessed with two more children — one boy and another girl. The marriage lasted, by the grace of God 45 years and ten months, until Sept. 11, 2006 when “death did us part.”
In Memory of Bob and the good years!