Forty-Nine Years Ago


HeartIt was a cold January 29th in central Texas. The temperature in Austin that night reached 12 degrees. Thankfully, Terry and I were able to spend the night at the Stage Coach Inn in Salado and not in a tent or on the parking lot!

The weekend of our wedding began Friday evening with the rehearsal at St. Paul Lutheran Church in Austin, the congregation of Terry’s birth, baptism and confirmation. It was the obvious venue for our matrimonial vows.

St. Paul also operated the school at which I had taught 30 fourth graders the year before. I had been hired for that position August 15, 1964, fresh out of Texas A&M with a degree in Animal Science, for the princely sum of $200 per month. For a few days I thought I must have really impressed Pastor Jesse, who hired me on the spot. Then it occurred to me that school would be starting only two weeks later and he desperately needed a teacher in that classroom!

After the rehearsal dinner I kissed Terry goodnight Friday at midnight, drove the 100 miles back to College Station and got to bed shortly after 2:00 a.m. Saturday. My last graduate school final for that semester was Biochemistry at 7:00 a.m. You can probably guess my score on that exam! Not all that great, mostly because my mind and heart were focused elsewhere.

The grad school idea came after one year of fourth grade teaching. I was persuaded that church work would be my vocational ambition but most likely the elementary classroom would not be my final destination. A Master’s degree in biology would open additional opportunities. That plan was never completed, replaced with a decision to go to the seminary instead.

After the final was finished I got in my ’57 Chevy with all my worldly goods and drove back to Austin. The short afternoon was spent “hanging out” with Mom, Dad and my three sisters. Wedding participants had been instructed by Pastor Albert Jesse to be at St. Paul shortly after 3:00 p.m. That was a good thing, since my best man had forgotten to pick up Terry’s rings.

The worship/wedding service was wonderful, meaningful and memorable. Pastor Jesse’s sermon was based on John 2, the first miracle of Jesus at the wedding at Cana in Galilee. The title: “They Invited Jesus to the Wedding!”

After the service and photo session we went to the reception at the Villa Capri Hotel in Austin, which no longer exists. It was picture perfect. Not extravagant, just very nice. On the way to our two-night honeymoon stay in Salado Terry asked what I thought of the groom’s cake. My reply: “What groom’s cake?” I hadn’t even seen it or known it was there.

We spent Saturday and Sunday nights at the Stage Coach Inn, which at $20 per night pretty much blew our meager budget. Monday morning we drove back to Austin, picked up Terry’s belongings and our wedding gifts, and drove to our first apartment in Houston, a clean but not at all fancy one bedroom apartment that rented for $75 per month. We paid half every two weeks.

The next morning I was in another fourth grade classroom, teaching one semester at Pilgrim Lutheran School in Houston for a teacher who was on maternity leave that semester. Four months later we moved to Springfield, Ill., then the home of Concordia Theological Seminary. It might just as well have been the end of the world as far as our parents were concerned.

All that and everything that followed had its official beginning 49 years ago today. Lots of water has gone under our bridge since then, most of it joyful, some of it stressful. Through it all we have relied on our love for one another and God’s grace. We will continue to do so, as we pledged that January night in cold central Texas, “… until death parts us, according to God’s holy will.”

Happy Anniversary, dear Terry! I love you with all my heart!

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