One is the 69 years marking the marriage of a young soldier from Macon, Ga., to a young Anniston girl. Boot camp at Ft. McClellan on his way to World War II ignited that one.
His name is Lee Griff Perry Jr., her name is Martha Hinds Perry, and romance bloomed in a stroll up old Quintard, a mere third of a block.
The second love affair is the one between Mr. and Mrs. Lee Griff Perry Jr. and Parker Memorial Baptist Church.
Martha is 98, has been a Parker “light” since her birth in October of 1914. Griff has been “Parker” since he came home from the war, home to Anniston, home to Martha … and back to his music.
In case you missed it, Parker is celebrating its 125th birthday this week and the Perrys have been around for more than a small chunk of its history.
Wednesday, sitting side-by-side at a table, memories were dusted off and replayed. For Martha, there was that first meeting …
“It was the first time he was off McClellan. He came to Parker, I was in the choir there. We entertained the soldiers after services, be 50 or 60 there … playing the piano, games, having refreshments, having a good time.
“He wanted to walk me home that night. Evidently he was drawn to me. I thought ‘Oh my.’ I didn’t know if my daddy would approve.”
Thing is, Martha must have been attracted to the young soldier, too, because she “walked.”
“The three Fincher sisters lived a half block from me, so he walked all four of us home. Then he walked the last half block with me, alone. Yes, he held my hand.”
Well, was there a kiss?
“Oh, no. He was a perfect gentleman.”
The kisses would come soon, but she doesn’t remember the first one, saying only “There’ve been millions since. We’ve been sweethearts, we’re still sweethearts.”
But when it comes to the proposal, the memory is just fine …
“The agreement was that I’d never work a day after we got married. He asked me if I agreed with that? I said ‘yep.’”
“Then he said ‘If I make a dollar a day we’ll live on that, if I make 10 dollars a day, we’ll live on that. If I make more, we’ll live on that, too. Do you agree with that?’ I said ‘yep.’”
The music came before Martha, came from his mother, a piano teacher in Macon. He was on his first bench along about four years, has never left it. That he can still play — and superbly — came from the keys of a halfway-tuned piano at NHC rehab Wednesday.
His mother taught at a private school for boys, the same school where his grandfather had taught, a grandfather who was also the organist at Vineville Methodist Church in Macon.
The beginning …
“There were three of us boys, no girls, and I guess I had more of my mother’s genes than my brothers. Neither of them was inclined, and I seemed to be the one who wanted that kind of life.
“I have a love for the music, a satisfaction of life from music. And it’s been a privilege sharing with others.”
And has he ever shared.
There was the 35 years at Parker, 14-plus years at St. Simon Episcopal in Pell City. In there, he also handled the organ at Temple Beth El, the Jewish Synagogue next door to Parker.
Martha, as a child, was also exposed to the music, but it just didn’t take.
“I love music. Momma and Daddy tried their best, bought a piano, and I learned to play pretty well, but I wouldn’t practice. Finally, Mom said one day that there’d be a ‘frigidaire’ in the kitchen and no piano in the living room if I didn’t practice.
“I thought ‘Glory be, I won’t have to empty that pan under the ice box now.’”
(For you unwashed, old iceboxes — before ‘frigidaires’ — had a pan underneath to catch the ice melt.)
Her love was and still is Parker Memorial.
“When I joined Parker, the stone on the church fascinated me. When we left services, I’d stop and feel the stone. I thought it was the most beautiful place I’d ever seen.
“I love every bit of it. I remember the old Baraca Class prayer meetings and that it had an old pot-bellied stove in there. That’s where we went. Mom and Dad never missed and they always took me with them.
“The church has been the most important part of my life. That’s where I gave my life to Jesus. I gave my heart to Jesus in that church and it’s my church.”
And a few years later, on a short walk she gave her heart away again, this time to that young soldier from Macon, Ga., who was on his way to World War II.
The two were married within a year of that first stroll … on which they did hold hands, if not kiss.
And they’re still holding hands.
“I remember being provoked only once and I can’t remember what that was about. We’ve always been sweethearts.”
Reaching for Griff’s hand, there was …
“He calls me baby, I call him sweetheart and darling …”
Thanks for visiting …
George Smith can be reached at 256-239-5286 or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org