Friends to sweethearts
By Becky Barclay
Published in News on February 14, 2014 1:46 PM
Marie and Carl Ray Grantham share kitchen duties at their home. The couple, who knew each other in high school, were married in December at the age of 81.
The Granthams on their wedding day.
Cupid took his time with Marie Womack and Carl Ray Grantham, but he finally shot his arrow of love and the couple were married two months ago -- both at the age of 81.
They were not strangers when they began dating last April. Marie and Carl went to Rosewood High School, graduating in 1950. But they were just good friends, and Carl had a sweetheart at that time who wasn't Marie.
They went their own ways after high school. Carl farmed the land that had belonged to his late father for three years, then joined the United States Army. He married his high school sweetheart, Ida, during that time, and they had four children.
For the next 25 years, Carl was stationed at Army posts in the United States and overseas. When he retired as a lieutenant colonel, he came back to his home state as deputy senior adviser for the North Carolina National Guard for two years, then as a JROTC instructor in Greenville for 13 years.
"After Ida died in 2011, I decided to come home to Wayne County," Carl said. "I still had cousins and friends here."
Marie's story was much different. A few months after graduating from high school, her mother and six of her siblings were killed in a single accident. So Marie stayed home with her three other brothers and sisters until her father remarried.
Then she went to work at the telephone office, got married, quit work to raise three children, went to work at the library and retired after 13 years, when her husband got sick. He died in 1995.
Carl and Marie renewed their friendship quite by accident.
After Carl moved back to Goldsboro, he started going to Rosewood First Baptist Church last April, not knowing that Marie had been a longtime member.
"I walked in Sunday morning and her granddaughter was going to be speaking about the women's group during the service," Carl said. "She had been to my church in Greenville filling in for the minister, and I had met her there. But I never knew her grandmother was Marie."
When Carl walked to the front of the church to speak to Marie's granddaughter, she turned to introduce him to her grandmother -- and he was definitely surprised.
He recognized Marie right away, and sat with her at church that day. They went out with another church member, where they started catching up on more than 60 years of life.
"My reaction when I first saw Carl was that I was very happy to see him," Marie said. "I had no idea I'd end up marrying him. I had been a widow for 18 years, and I had no intentions of ever getting married again -- and that's the truth."
But the two started dating and one thing led to another.
"I loved Carl pretty soon after we started dating," Marie said. "I think God brought us together."
"We weren't looking for anybody at that particular time," Carl said. "All of a sudden, it just happened."
The couple tossed the idea of marriage around a few times before Carl popped the question.
"We had talked about marriage roundabout for a while," Marie said. "Then he finally said, 'We're in love and at the age we are, why keep putting it off.'"
"If we wanted to be in the same house together and sleep together and all that stuff, we were going to be married," Carl said. "That's just the way it is."
Their Dec. 7, 2013, wedding was small, just family.
"I wasn't listening to the songs that were sung at our wedding as much as I was wanting the preaching to be over so we could start the marriage," Carl said.
They honeymooned in the new home that Carl had finished building just a month before they began dating.
Even at their age, Marie and Carl consider theirs a typical love.
"I really cannot say it's a different kind of love at our age than love at a young age," Marie said. "So far as the romantic, I look forward to my hugs and kisses."
Carl looks at Marie the same way he looked at his first wife.
"She's my wife, and I tell her I've got one job, to make her happy," he said. "We're old, but not old enough to be completely dead."
They don't worry about how much time they will have as man and wife.
"We realize at our age that we will not have many years together as an average, so we pray about it and tell God we love each other and hope He would give us many more years together," she said.
Carl and Marie's marriage has been a good one the past couple of months.
Marie said the secret is loving and trusting each other, and also being honest with each other.
And to last, it must be a Christian marriage, Carl added.
For Valentine's Day, Carl would like for Marie to make one of the cakes she's famous for. Then they may go out and have a nice meal and just enjoy each other's company. Or they may head to the beach for a romantic weekend.
"I could never be happier than I am now," Marie said.