Elton Taylor looked all over his college campus for the woman of his dreams, only to discover that she was in a couple of classes with him.
Elton first saw Virginia Rhodes as she stretched and practiced stunts with the other cheerleaders at Arkansas Agricultural, Mechanical and Normal College -- now the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff -- in the fall of 1971. Virginia was obviously busy then, and Elton was trying to make it to football practice on time.
The first time I saw my future spouse:
She says: “I really did not know he would be my future spouse. I had no idea. That was the farthest thing from my mind.”
He says: “I was dumbfounded. I was shocked, sort of — I was very excited, the first time I saw her.”
On our wedding day:
She says: “His fraternity serenaded me at the wedding. That kind of took me by surprise — I wasn’t expecting that. And my mother, who had never eaten gumbo before, freaked out when when they put a crab on her plate. She made a scene because she did not want that crab claw on her plate.”
He says: “My parents were there and her parents were there. It was small, but it was good. I guess that’s why we can remember pretty much everybody who was there.”
My advice for a long happy marriage is:
She says: “I believe you’ve got to keep the lines of communication open. And the utmost thing is to be a praying couple. You’ve got to keep Christ in your marriage. That’s the No.1, most important thing.”
He says: “Be compatible. Have some things in common. We both like sports. She was a coach at one time and we would go on the playground and help out. We go to church and Bible study together. We spent time together — we try to find some quiet nights for a date night or something.”
"I didn't talk to her," he says. "We didn't get a chance to talk then. It was several weeks after that I couldn't find her."
He only saw her briefly, that day, of course, so he wasn't sure where to look.
"The real truth is that I remembered her legs and I couldn't find her legs because I didn't see the face," he quips. "It was by coincidence that I saw the legs again and I put the legs with the face. Then I got a chance to talk to her."
She wore shorts to one of the classes they had together, he jokes, and that's when he realized she was the one he had been trying to find. But Virginia didn't make it easy for him.
"I was not paying any attention to him," she says.
He was a jock, after all, and the assumption was that athletes weren't interested in settling down with one girlfriend.
Elton knew by then that Virginia was smart as well as beautiful, and he leaned toward Virginia during a history exam and asked for help.
"I was trying to get her to give me an answer," he says.
His interrogation got her attention -- but she focused on ignoring him.
"I wasn't going to cheat on a test because I valued my grades," Virginia says. "That made me notice him because I did not give him any answer."
Elton made sure he was in all the places he might find Virginia after that. He hung out by the dorm and he asked her out every chance he got. None of that worked.
"One of my girlfriends, who was also a cheerleader, was a pretty good friend of his and actually she told me he was a pretty good person and I should go out with him," Virginia says. "So he had a little help on the side."
Much to Elton's surprise and delight, Virginia accepted his next invitation. They went to a little place on campus, Lovette's, and played cards in the student union.
"There weren't too many places you could go at that time unless you went to a diner or something," Elton says. "Lovette's, and it was a nice place and you could get a hot dog or a hamburger, maybe, and hang out, or you could go to the student union or hang out at the park or by the bell tower, and you could just walk around campus and make it romantic."
Virginia still wasn't willing to give him answers on any tests, but she did help him with some assignments.
"We studied together sometimes," he says. "She was a great resource. We hung out a lot, and we just did that for the remainder of our years in college."
He graduated before she did, and he found a job back home to Westwego, La., just outside New Orleans. When Virginia graduated, she moved to Illinois to teach.
He proposed to her a couple of years after she first acknowledged his presence. It was low-key, as proposals go, and that was just fine with Virginia, who describes herself as quiet and low-key as well.
"I guess I just asked her to marry me," he says. "I just told her I wanted to marry her and she said yes and that's all that matters, right?"
They exchanged their vows on Nov. 9, 1974, in a small garden ceremony in Westwego, both of them dressed in gray suits for the occasion.
His parents were there, as were hers, and some of their closest friends. Virginia had to be back at her teaching job in Illinois the following Monday morning, so she flew out on Sunday night. They met in England, her hometown, to celebrate Christmas, and she moved to New Orleans to be with him in January 1975.
They have four children -- DeVol Taylor, Elton Taylor Jr., and Brandy Taylor-Dede, all of Dallas, and Daphne Taylor-Ferguson of Fredericksburg, Va. They also have five grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
They left New Orleans for Marshall, Texas, in 1998, and in 2015, after they retired, they moved to Hot Springs Village.
"I was from Arkansas and I really hadn't intended on living in Arkansas again," she says. "But it has worked out well."
The Taylors volunteer with the Lupus Foundation of Arkansas, Kiwanis Club and are active members of Greater St. Paul Baptist Church. They also bowl, golf and swim together.
"It keeps us busy and it keeps us focused and active," Virginia says. "We especially enjoy the service-oriented work that we're getting to do now. We're just enjoying it right now, being able to help folks."
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Elton and Virginia Taylor have been married for 43 years. He looked for her all over campus for weeks after he saw her the first time, and when he found her she wasn’t sure she wanted to acknowledge his attention. These days, they spend all the time they can together.
High Profile on 01/28/2018
Print Headline: Two low-key personalities clicked as a couple