Gifts of guns, roses fuel a 57-year romance

Jerrie Whiteley
Herald Democrat
Don and Carolyn Parks have been married for 57 years and will celebrate this Valentine's Day at home at the Renaissance in Sherman.

For  more than a year now, Don Parks, 78, and Carolyn Parks, 79, have called the Renaissance in Sherman home. But really, she said during a recent interview, anywhere they were together over the last 57 years has been their home.

The couple has celebrated Valentine's Day all over the state of Texas as they followed his 35-year career with Texas Instruments. 

Carolyn Parks said it was never just a huge holiday for them, but they generally did get each other cards and maybe go out to dinner. Though they might not have been competing for Valentine's couple of the year awards, over the decades, they managed to make romance their own.

"He would surprise me with flowers, sometimes at work — big beautiful bouquets of red roses," she said. Sometimes those came on anniversaries or other significant days and sometimes, they were just because. 

"What I appreciated most about all the times that he sent me roses was that the card that came with the bouquet was usually written in his handwriting. He usually would go to the florist himself and write a special note. I would always keep the card even after the roses faded away."

She wasn't a slacker when it came to presents either, even though they weren't flora in nature.

"It might not sound romantic to other people, but he always loved guns, hunting and shooting. I would buy him a gun to celebrate whatever occasion as a surprise," she said.

She got more than flowers over the years, she wanted to make clear.

One Christmas, she said, knowing that she loved wooden Indians, he surprised her with a six-foot antique wooden Indian.

"Another (gift), that he bought that I loved was the original print of "Boxcar Children." A friend of mine bought it and gave it to him to give to me one Christmas. I had been looking for that book for years."  

The couple was never blessed with children and that led them to have time that they think made their marriage stronger. They had time to spend together on common interests and on their own individual passions as well.

"He loved to drag race and deer hunt on the deer lease with his friends. And all of the years we were in Lubbock, I sang with the Sweet Adelines," she recalled. She also indulged her passion for crafts over the years.

Just how did such a couple meet? 

Well, she said, they really don't recall. He grew up in Leonard where he was known by the nickname "Murt" and she in Trenton. Then when she was going to college, her parents moved to Leonard 

"We knew each other just in the way that young people in a small town know each other,

 she said. Then in around late 1962 or early 1963, they started to date. She said neither of them can remember the exact details of that first date but they probably went to the movies. Then on Nov. 29, 1963, wedding bells rang.

Don and Carolyn Parks on their wedding day,  Nov. 29, 1963.

"We got married in my parents house and I do remember that the house was full," she said. Her parents were in the process of moving so all of the furniture had already been removed leaving space for the chairs for people to sit in to watch the ceremony. 

"The reception was held at my sister's house." 

The big day wasn't a huge event, but that was fine with them.

"I had never thought too much about what I wanted for a wedding, but I did know that he would want a smaller one and so I wanted him to be more comfortable with it," she recalled.

She also recalled her wedding dress.

"I really loved it and I still have it," she said of the dress her mother, who made wedding dresses professionally, sewed for her.

"I was tiny. It was white and it was Chantilly lace and satin. The sleeves were lace and they pointed down on my hand and the back was just full of buttons from the neck down past the waist," she recalled of the tea-length gown.

Though she could recall the details of the dress, she isn't really so clear on just what made her know she should marry Don. 

"I guess I just fell in love with him. I don't know, to tell you the truth, other than he was a real sweet fella."

That real sweet fella and she think always being there for each other and a strong belief in God allowed them to cling to each other all of these years.

They also enjoyed traveling together in a motor home for 30 years.

The couple returned to Grayson County in 2003 and attended Western Heights Church of Christ. 

During their marriage, she worked at Texas Instruments for nine years and then, after his two years in the Army, she would get an accounting job at a local company each time that TI moved them. 

Nowadays, Valentine's Day will be just another day they get to spend together. Don's health isn't what it once was, but she is still healthy she said.

Over the years they were happy to help each other out anytime one of them was ill. 

"If I had sickness, he was always there to take care of me and to help me. Same thing with me. He needs care right now. I love to help him and take care of him." 

Jerrie Whiteley is the Criminal Justice Editor for the Herald Democrat. She can be reached at JWhiteley@HeraldDemocrat.com.