Even a car crash couldn't keep Jim Carr away from Toni Alfieri the night after their first dance.
Jim, then 22, grew up in Pittsburgh but he was working at the Philmont Scout Ranch in Cimarron, N.M., during the summer of 1968. Toni, 19, was from Dallas, vacationing with her family in Red River, N.M., before starting her freshman year at the University of Oklahoma at Norman.
The first time I saw my future spouse:
He says: “I was interested. She looked like Audrey Hepburn.”
She says: “I noticed his blue eyes.”
On our wedding day:
He says: “Her mother was in the hospital so right after the wedding ceremony we went and visited her mom in the hospital. That kind of took down the enthusiasm of the wedding but it was important.”
She says: “My dad and I were having a last father-daughter moment at the house eating fried chicken and my aunt came in and said, “You’re not even thinking about getting dressed yet? You’re getting married in like two hours!’”
My advice for a long happy marriage:
He says: “Happy wife, happy life.”
She says: “One of the fun things my mother always told me — she said it about my father, but it works for anybody — is, ‘If you really want something from him make him think it’s his idea.’”
Toni and her cousin went to a dance one night with some other college-age kids.
"This really cute young guy from Philmont walked up to me and said, 'Hey, you want to dance?' And I said, 'Yeah, why not?" Toni says of meeting Jim for the first time.
Jim had to go back to Cimarron, but he told Toni he would be back in Red River a couple of days later and they arranged for him to pick her up for a date at the cabin where her family was staying.
"Well, it was raining, and he didn't come, and didn't come, and I gave up on him," Toni says.
Toni marked Jim off as a summer romance and walked down the street to find something to do. As she strolled, she noticed a strange car stop alongside her and she was surprised to see Jim get out.
"He said, 'Well, I had a little problem. I was running late, and I was driving too fast and I took a corner and I flipped my car off the side of the road,'" Toni says.
Toni went with him to find a highway patrolman, who took them back to the scene of the wreck and helped them with paperwork.
"I wasn't hurt," Jim says. "I was wearing my seatbelt, which I always do, and I had maybe a cut or a scratch but I didn't get hurt too bad. Somebody behind me saw me wreck and they stopped and picked me up and I asked them to take me to Red River."
Jim met Toni's family -- her parents, her brother and sister-in-law and her nephew -- and then they had dinner and saw a movie. He was in town for three days, and then Toni and her family went home to Dallas and Jim went back to work at Philmont.
"When I was headed for school that semester he was going back to school," Toni says.
Jim was starting his senior year at Clarion University in Clarion, Pa.
"My mother -- I think the lady had magical powers -- told her friend that Jim was the one I'd marry. She said, 'She doesn't know that yet,'" Toni says. "And I didn't know that yet."
Her mother arranged for the family to take Toni to Norman a couple of days early, so they could see each other when Jim came through on his way to Clarion.
"That was crazy. That's not something my parents would typically do," Toni says. "They liked him, which was kind of neat."
Jim and Toni kept in close touch after school started, writing letters and making a few phone calls and Jim flew to Norman a couple of times to visit.
After graduation, Jim drove back through Norman to see Toni on his way to work at Philmont for the summer. That fall, he got a job teaching high school math and science in Norman.
They were happy to be in the same town but decided they didn't know each other well enough to date exclusively.
"We said, 'Well, we'll just date other people,'" Toni says. "That worked for about a month or two."
On a Friday night when Jim had a date, Toni went out with a bunch of friends, and they were talking with some boys they ran into.
"He came, and he got very jealous and upset and he took his date home," she says. "He came looking for me and I wasn't home."
Toni and Jim had a date the next night to a party, and he told her the agreement they had was just ridiculous.
"He said, 'You just need to marry me,'" she remembers. "I said, 'OK, I will.'"
They exchanged their vows on Dec. 29, 1971, in Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Dallas.
Toni's mother was ill and in a coma on their wedding day, and the newlyweds visited her in the hospital after the ceremony. Toni knew she could hear them when they told her they were married because tears ran down her cheeks.
Jim left teaching to become a homebuilder, and Toni started a special education early childhood program in Oklahoma. They lived in Ohio for a while and then moved to Little Rock, where Jim teaches construction management at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. Toni is executive director of Global Ties.
They have two children -- Renee Carr of Little Rock and Heather Duncan of Bentonville. They also have two grandchildren.
"We were very different people from completely different worlds," says Toni about her husband of 48 years. "We were different, a Southwestern girl and, you know, a boy from Pittsburgh, Steeltown-- real different. But it's apparently worked out OK."
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Jim Carr and Toni Alfieri were married on Dec. 29, 1971. Jim pro- posed to Toni with a plastic snake ring he won at a fair. “It was a spur of the moment thing,” he says. Toni’s brother, a jeweler, designed wedding bands for them later.
High Profile on 06/16/2019
Print Headline: Their lifetime romance started with a car wreck