Love stories: They found their valentines at MOC
By Josh Ellerbrock
Published in News on February 14, 2013 1:46 PM
Gary and Kristie Bailey discuss their 40 years of marriage as they sit in their home on Crosswinds Drive early Wednesday afternoon. The couple originally met at Mount Olive College when they were students back in the mid 1970s.
MOUNT OLIVE -- Some Mount Olive College alumni received special greetings this week -- all in the name of love.
The college's tight-knit community and hometown atmosphere have aided many in not only finding their eventual careers -- but their life mates as well.
The alumni office has more than 250 cases on file where two mailing addresses become one, and every year sends those couples a card.
Hope Fields, the alumni relations director, met her own husband on campus. She married on campus, too, in Rodgers Chapel.
Ashley Stroud works at Mount Olive College as the assistant to the dean. She met her husband, Chris, after they caroled together with the Music Club at Sunbridge Healthcare.
"We always say we met at the nursing home," she said.
Chris instigated the relationship after they met with an email exchange over the holidays. The relationship naturally took off after that.
"She just had a glow about her. You know when you see somebody and you think she's someone special," Chris said.
Ashley's boss, David Hines, who works as dean of arts and science, met his wife, Teresa, at the college.
And Dr. Burkette Raper's daughter, Kristie Bailey, met her future husband while studying in the library.
"If it had not been for Mount Olive, we would have never met," the Rev. Gary Bailey said.
As a junior in college, Gary didn't know that the young woman he was staring at in the library was Dr. Raper's daughter, and Kristie didn't know that Gary was there.
"The first time I ever saw her, I was awestruck. The second time I saw her, I didn't let her get away," he said.
That second time was during a dinner at Dr. Raper's house. Dr. Raper had invited the six ministerial students of the college, a membership that included Gary, to his house for dinner. Kristie helped serve the meal. And she still didn't know that he was there.
"Later, I got a phone call. A guy named Gary Bailey was asking about going out. I thought, 'who are you?'"
Kristie delayed before saying yes to the first date. She told him that she had to make sure that she didn't have to work at her part-time job at the Belk Department Store. It was a white lie -- she knew she didn't have to work.
She wanted to know more about her potential suitor, so she asked Dr. Raper's secretary Jean Ackiss about the young man, who gave him a positive review.
"(Kristie) played hard to get. She had me sweat for three days before she called me back," Gary said.
Their first date was at the Pizza Inn in Goldsboro. It went well until he had to pay for the check. Being a young college student, Gary had just enough cash for the meal. He started sweating when she grabbed a packet of fruit-flavored Certs (a new flavor at the time). Luckily, he had a few more cents for the extra cost.
As the two dated, Gary infiltrated the family by calling in the late afternoon and sneakily inviting himself to dinner. Sometimes, Kristie would come down for dinner, and no one had told her that Gary was joining the family. The gambit worked.
The two dated for six months until they got engaged on May 27, 1972. They waited a year and got married in 1973.
On their wedding day, Dr. Raper performed the ceremony at the Northeast Free Will Baptist Church.
"When Dr. Raper asked me to keep under Kristie for the rest of my life -- with every word he got closer to me. That vow burned within me. I knew that no way in the world would I break that vow. I don't think he blinked his eyes," Gary said.
Gary tries to emulate that role when he performs marriages himself. He currently serves as the pastor at Stoney Creek Church.
The two have been married for the last 40 years, and faith has helped serve as a basis of the success of their marriage, Kristie said. Love has helped, too.
"I'm still awestruck with her," he said.