With one out of two marriages ending in divorce these days, it’s rare to find a couple whose love has withstood the tests of time. What do they know that others don’t? Do they have a secret to marital success?
“Don’t base your marriage or relationship on one argument or disagreement,” said Evans Washington, who this month will celebrate 58 years of marriage to his wife Rose.
“Put trust in one another and don’t talk to other people about hard times,” Rose added. “Try to work it out with one another.”
Rose was just 15 years old when she met Evans for the first time. She was sitting on the front porch of his family’s house in Mobile, Ala., playing fiddlesticks with his sister — her best friend Verline — when Evans came home on leave from the Army. With just a passing hello, and noticing a “cute little girl,” Evans continued into the house without so much as a second glance toward Rose. Without missing a beat, Rose and Verline continued their game.
“I grew up in a traditional Christian family and I wasn’t even thinking about boys at that time,” said Rose, one of eight siblings.
Evans, who grew up in a family of nine siblings, already had a girlfriend and “wasn’t at the point to be looking for a girlfriend at that time,” he said.
Not much happened between the two teenagers after that first meeting. However, one warm Alabama night fate intervened. While Evans was home on leave there was a local football game. Rose, Evans and Verline all piled into the same car, like teenagers do, and rode together to the game. That night Evans and Rose went from being acquaintances to becoming friends.
“He was splitting up with his girlfriend and I was counseling him on how to get back with her,” Rose recalled.
From that night forward, Rose and Evans became friends and pen pals. When he came home for his next leave, they began talking to each other, “like we were interested,” Evans recalled. There was a noticeable air of chemistry between them and Evans asked her to the movies for their first date — a date that turned out to be the first test of their relationship.
“When it came time to pay for the date I realized I had forgotten my wallet,” Evans said, smiling at the memory but still with a touch of remorse in his voice.
“At first I thought he was joking,” a smiling Rose remembered. “Then I saw he was serious.”
“She had to pay for our first date,” he said.
When asked how he made up for that mistake, he said, “You apologize, you try to make it up, make sure from that day forward it doesn’t happen again.”
What did happen was a more serious correspondence between the two and intermittent visits when he came home on leave. The deeper correspondence drew the couple closer together and one year after their first date, while Rose was in high school, Evans asked for her hand in marriage.
On June 10, 1956, Rose Walker, a senior in high school, and Evans Washington, a soldier in the U.S. Army, exchanged vows.
Making it work
Rose, 75, and Evans, 80, sat close to each other on the sofa in the their Harker Heights home they have shared for the past 35 years. Mementos of a life well lived line the shelves of curio cabinets — photos of their extended families, their children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren, and collectibles acquired from their journeys as an Army family.
“We’ve been in the military all our married life,” Evans said. “We were separated one year when I was in Vietnam, the rest of the time we were together. We were never apart after that for more than 30-40 days.”
During Evans’ Army career, they lived in Fort Benning, Ga., El Paso, Jefferson, Tenn., Killeen and Germany.
“We lived in three different places in Germany and loved every one of them,” Rose said.
The children started to arrive three years after they married. Eventually the family grew from a couple to a family of five with the birth of their three daughters Tchelinda, Cassandra and Zawanda.
But everything was not perfect in their long marriage. The biggest challenge, Rose said, was moving the children from school to school.
“The logistics...” she recalls. “Different schools meant the whole parameter changed.”
They also admitted there were times when they felt disconnected, although those moments were exceptions. Evans advised other couples who feel disconnected from each other to “communicate what you are feeling.”
“If you can’t figure it out, have someone else to talk to,” Evans said. “Go to your parents, if you have a good relationship, a minister or a good friend you can talk to who won’t take your business and spread it everywhere.”
Rose offered her own words of wisdom to future brides and grooms.
“Go in knowing this is your life partner,” she said.