Rick Dunn listened to Donita Johnson's mother, and that's what started it all.
Rick went to the Juneteenth celebration at Little Rock's Mosaic Templars in 2014. After a showing of the PBS documentary about the Freedom Riders, a woman stood and addressed the audience.
The first time I saw my future spouse:
He says: “I noticed her red hair and she had locks. She’s African American.”
She says: “I thought he was cute. I loved his eyes and his smile. And I just knew immediately that he was somebody I wanted to know.”
On our wedding day:
He says: “The wedding was supposed to start at 6 and I rolled in at about five minutes ’til 6. The preacher pulled up behind me but he had to go get his robe, so I beat the preacher there by about 10 or 15 minutes.”
She says: “I remember walking down the aisle and seeing the smile on his face. I wasn’t nervous.”
My advice for a happy marriage is:
He says: “Make yourself No. 2 and the other person No. 1.”
She says: “Talk to each other. And more importantly listen to each other. And learn to laugh.”
"She was this very distinguished-looking lady, with locks and African garb on. She said, 'I'm a member of this church and it doesn't matter what your color is, what you're economic status is, we welcome everybody,'" Rick says.
It was the Rufus K. Young Christian Church she spoke about, just a few blocks from where he lived, so he visited the very next day. Every Sunday for months after that, he returned, sitting in a pew behind that woman and her daughter, Donita. He thought Donita was beautiful.
Donita noticed Rick at church, too, though only because his skin tone was lighter than that of the other congregants.
"He was the only one there that looked like him," she says.
On Dec. 7, he approached Donita, simply asking if he could stop by and see her while she was working at Central Arkansas Library System's Main Library.
Donita told him that would be fine, and she enjoyed chatting with him when he did stop by, although she did have to stop the conversation at one point to ask his name.
The following week, he invited her to get ice cream.
"We got to talking there, sitting on a bench inside of Kilwins and I told her I loved music and she loves music, too. We kind of hit it off pretty good," Rick says.
That day, he stopped by the Esse Purse Museum, where he had shopped many times for gifts for his adult daughters.
"I was in there buying Christmas gifts, I guess. They had a limited edition of a Vintage Black Glamour and I bought it -- it's a real cool book with a silk cover. Eartha Kitt was on the cover," he says. "I bought it."
He wrapped it and gave it to Donita a week later, before he headed out of town to visit family in New Orleans, telling her she could wait and open it on Christmas.
"I gave it to her even before we had our first date," Rick says.
She opened his gift in front of 20 or so relatives and shrieked with delight when she saw what it was.
Their first date was a week or so later at White Water Tavern.
"I hesitated for maybe a split second when he asked me, because he is Caucasian and I am African-American. This is Arkansas. But I thought, 'Can I do this?' And I thought, 'Yes, I can. I would love to go out with this man. He's so thoughtful and kind and funny. And the way he looks at me just melts me,' and so I said, 'Yes, I'll go.'"
She hadn't been to White Water, and she didn't know the band he said would be playing.
"I knew he would never take me any place that I would feel out of place or uncomfortable," she says. "The second I walked in it felt kind of weird to me and I felt like everybody was looking at me. I smiled and I waved, though, and the ice was broken and that was it. It's one of my favorite places now."
They were married on July 5 at the Esse Purse Museum, amid the temporary exhibit, "You May Kiss the Bride," a display of wedding dresses from the 1900s through the 1980s.
"We were their first wedding there," Rick says.
Rick, a huge Beatles fan, wore a black hat with a purple ribbon, a black vest with white musical notes, black linen pants and white Converse shoes.
"He looked awesome," she says. "I loved what he was wearing."
Donita wore a long formal gown.
"When I saw him look at me I knew I had found the right dress," she says.
Donita knew early on, when they got snowed in at his apartment, that Rick was perfect for her.
"I love coffee and he doesn't like it at all. He walked across the street in the snow and got me two cups of coffee. That just brought tears to my eyes," she says. "A couple of weeks later I said, 'Now, don't get scared, but can I keep a small thing of coffee here?' And he said, 'Come here.' He opened up the drawer and it was filled with pods and he said, 'Your Keurig will be here tomorrow.' I just love that. And I never run out -- he sees to that. He sees to it that I have my coffee."
Rick, a retired certified public accountant, and Donita, a librarian, enjoy traveling. They were in New York in January and took a trip to Mexico in May, with other trips in between.
"But we stay at the house and eat popcorn, and that's fine with me," Donita says. "I tell anybody who asks that I could go with Rick around the block and have a good time."
If you have an interesting how-we-met story or if you know someone who does, please call (501) 425-7228 or email:
Rick Dunn met Donita Johnson after he listened to her mother. Her mother told him about a church where everyone was welcome; he visited and sat in the pew behind theirs. “He told me he was inspired by the preacher’s sermon to come down and talk with me,” Donita says.
High Profile on 08/26/2018
Print Headline: Her mom's invitation to church led him down aisle