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Be my Valentine

As Feb. 14 approaches, it puts one in mind of those three words every guy and gal wants to hear.

Be my Valentine.

Who can predict the ways of love, or the precise moment Cupid’s arrow will pierce a heart and the world will change forever?

There are countless love stories in the world. This is one of them.

Helen and Tommy Tucker met in the late 1940s after the end of World War II, during which Tommy served in the Army. After a fouryear courtship they were married in 1952 and on Sept. 13, God willing, they’ll celebrate their 68th anniversary.

In today’s world where more than 50 percent of marriages end in divorce, they are a testament to the institution of matrimony and the enduring quality of love.

Tommy and Helen told the story of how they met and his courtship of her, chuckling often as they related the tale.

She was working at an ice cream bar in a drug store, and he would stop by every afternoon with a buddy on their way to work.

“As we went out of town with our lunches for the evening and worked for a period for eight hours, we went by this drug store,” Tommy recalled. “That drug store had three or four young girls that were in about the 12th grade, I think, that were working at the ice cream bar.

“Me and my buddy would go by there and get us an ice cream or a cold drink every evening when we went to work. So, she was working there when she got off from school at 4 o’clock in the afternoon. We had to be on the job about 5 or 6. So, we’d stop by there for ice cream. That’s how I met her.”

Tommy knew he was looking at his future bride.

“Something told me when I met her that she was the one for me,” he said. “So, I twisted her arm for four years until she gave up,” he added with a laugh. “She finally said yes.”

Tommy made an impression on Helen, as well. Especially when he bought a new car, a Kaiser.

“It was brand new, solid red. Man, it was a loud color,” Tommy said.

Helen was impressed with the car, but not so much that she was going to jump in it right away.

“We (her family) didn’t even have a car,” Helen said. “We walked everywhere we went. So, that car did make an impression. He would come in the drug store.”

On a cold evening in February, Tommy decided he would give Helen a ride home from work. So, he went into the drug store and told her, “Get your coat, I’m taking you home.”

Helen didn’t take kindly to that remark. She thought it was a little bit too forward of him to tell her he was going to take her home.

“I thought that was kind of ugly,” Helen remembered. “Because he could have said, ‘Can I take you home?’ And he didn’t.”

So, when work was done, Helen put on her coat and walked all the way home. Tommy drove the car slowly next to her. But no matter how cold it was, she wouldn’t get in the car.

“I walked home and he drove right beside me all the way,” Helen said. “Don’t you know, I was thinking, ‘I sure wish I got in that car of his.’ I wasn’t going to start something like that.”

Ironically, Tommy never formally asked Helen to marry him, she said.

“We just passed by the courthouse one night and he said, ‘Well, we’re going to have to show up there sometime,’” Helen said. “I said, ‘Oh yeah?’ And he said, ‘Yeah.’ And that was all that was said about it.”

Tommy was working on oil rigs in Texas and Louisiana, so he wasn’t around town often. He and Helen kept in touch through letters and telephone calls.

Helen went to Houston to train to be a nurse.

“They went to a dormitory, and they worked there in the hospital for their room and board,” Tommy said. “So, she went to school during the day and worked at night for her room and board. She finally got her degree from Austin to be a registered nurse. So, that’s when we got married.”

Tommy took Helen’s “daddy,” his future father-in-law, to the courthouse to get the license. In fact, “daddy” wound up paying for the marriage license.

“When we went to get the license, he took my daddy with him,” Helen said. “And when my daddy got back, he said, ‘I know why he wanted me to go. I had to pay for the license. He had the money, but they couldn’t make change at the courthouse.’”

Tommy had tried to pay for the marriage license with a $100 bill.

“I pulled $100 bill on them and they didn’t have change for it. I had made an impression on her daddy,” Tommy said with a chuckle.

Helen laughed as she remembered a story from the early days of their marriage.

“When we were going together and I was in school, he kept telling me, no wife of mine is ever going to have to work. I’m not going to let my wife work,” she said. “We got married and six weeks later he came in from work and he said, you need to go find you a job. So I went the next day and found me a job.”

And now, more than 67 years later, Helen and Tommy are still enjoying their life together. They raised two daughters, one of whom lives next door to them between Groesbeck and Point Enterprise. They have had a good life together and continue to talk and laugh with each other.

“I kept fishing all along, maybe it would finally happen,” Tommy said of his courtship of Helen. “She encouraged me a little bit. She might say yes. So, I kept trying. It lasted pretty good. It paid off.”

Who can predict when Cupid will cast his wondrous spell and ignite the embers of love?

Be my Valentine.

Tommy Tucker and his wife, Helen, are all smiles in their home recently. Tommy turned 100 years old on Dec. 16. The couple has been married for nearly 68 years, and are still holding hands. Photo by Skip Leon/Groesbeck Journal


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