Wayne and Elaine Walker celebrate ‘a great love story’

Wayne and Elaine Walker celebrated the 75th wedding anniversary Saturday. Elaine said she wasn’t sure about getting married, but Wayne won her over. “He’s the only man I’ve ever loved. He prays for me 17 times a day,” she said.

Wayne and Elaine Walker celebrated the 75th wedding anniversary Saturday. Elaine said she wasn’t sure about getting married, but Wayne won her over. “He’s the only man I’ve ever loved. He prays for me 17 times a day,” she said. (HEATHER LEIPHART | The News Herald)

 

Wayne Walker grinned like a Cheshire cat Saturday afternoon as his granddaughter pinned a white rose boutonniere on his crisp royal blue shirt.

His wife, Elaine, chattered with a visitor across the living room as the couple prepared to receive guests for a very special celebration.

“She’s just beautiful inside and out,” Wayne said. “I’ve lived with her 75 years, and she’s the most perfect person I know.”

Love was certainly in the air at the Walker residence. A silver-trimmed cake, spread of hors d’oeuvres and a full punch bowl awaited guests to couple’s 75th wedding anniversary celebration.

The Walkers were married in a courthouse ceremony on Sept. 12, 1939 in Oxford, Miss.

“It’s just a great love story, and I thought it might be an inspiration to young people today that it’s possible to live together that long,” Elaine said.

Wayne remembers a January day in 1938 when Stella Elaine Nelson took a vacant seat beside him on the first day of an economic history course at the University of Mississippi. The pair made an instant connection and started courting.

Wayne, from Laurel, Miss., started spending time with Elaine by taking her to church, studying in the university’s library and to the occasional movie.

They ddn’t have a car, so they walked all over Oxford to do things. One colorful afternoon, they decided to cut across the lawn of famous writer William Faulkner when they stumbled upon the author seated outdoors with his family.

Wayne and Elaine introduced themselves, and they were invited to stay for tea when Faulkner realized he knew Elaine’s father.

The couple dated over the next few semesters. At the start of his senior year, Wayne proposed to Elaine at her home.

“I knew I liked him, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to get married yet,” Elaine said.

When she couldn’t give an answer, Wayne left the house and a confused Elaine behind.

Elaine is grateful her mother knew best.

“She said to me, ‘This is just what you’re looking for, and this is just who you need to marry’,” Elaine said.

Her mother was unconcerned with what Elaine thought she liked in a man. She knew marriage material when she saw it, and reassured her daughter that she would eventually find herself in love with Wayne.

“I did fall for him,” she said. “I couldn’t help it.”

In movie style, Elaine ran after Wayne, embraced him and told him she’d be his wife. They went to the Oxford Courthouse the next day, where Elaine’s great-uncle was a judge and officiated their ceremony.

From that day on, the newlyweds lived in a makeshift bedroom in her parents’ basement as they continued school. In June 1940, Wayne graduated and followed his first job with Tennessee Coal, Iron, and Railroad Co. to Birmingham, Ala.

Life continued to fall into place. When Elaine graduated, she joined Wayne in Birmingham in their first home — a white, two-story Dutch colonial house. They started a family in 1945 when they welcomed their first daughter, Diane. A few years later, they had a son, David, who died as a baby. In 1954, they had a second daughter, Linda.

Linda Berry wiped away tears Saturday during an interview before her parents’ party began.

“Hearing him talk about how perfect she is to him just got to us,” she said.

Berry, who’s been married for 37 years, said her parents were excellent role models for demonstrating what a happy marriage is.

“They were very compatible and both very smart,” she said.

Berry said her parents’ faith gave their marriage a lot of staying power, as well as the little things they did for each other.

“She really wanted to make it special for him on weekends away from work, so we’d just pack up the car and go,” Berry said. “And you could just look at them and tell they enjoyed being together.”

Wayne agreed that compatibility was an important ingredient.

“She’s easy to get along with. I can’t remember a serious disagreement. I remember some minor ones, but we solved them before bedtime,” he said.

When they did argue, Wayne said he’d start with, “I love you and I’m going to love you no matter what, you hear?”

“It’s worked so far,” he laughed.

Elaine said her husband had an air about him that the ladies loved. She recalled several instances of other women chasing after Wayne, but she never worried.

“He is amazing,” she said. “I can’t think of another man like him on earth.”

The Walkers moved to Panama City in 1987 to be near their daughter, Diane Houser.

Elaine said their marriage has weathered it all, from putting their children through college to retirement and navigating health problems as they’ve aged.

It was easy to see on Saturday why they felt so blessed with four generations of family and caretakers at their party.

At 96 and 95, Wayne and Elaine still share a rare, giddy chemistry that’s lasted three-quarters of a century.

“They’ve had a wonder life and a wonderful relationship,” Berry said.

 

http://www.newsherald.com/news/75-years-together-wayne-and-elaine-walker-celebrate-a-great-love-story-1.372978?

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