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Ronnie Thomas

Dewey and Patricia Crump at their Trinity home. Patty is from Guatemala and met Dewey while he was doing work with Partners for the Americas in her hometown.
Daily photo by Jonathan Palmer
Dewey and Patricia Crump at their Trinity home. Patty is from Guatemala and met Dewey while he was doing work with Partners for the Americas in her hometown.

From Trinity to Guatemala with love
Latin beauty thought U.S. volunteer was handsome, hard worker, but it took a while for the sparks to fly

TRINITY — Amid the unrest of Guatemala's civil war, the beauty of Patricia "Patty" Morales was easy to detect for Trinity's Dewey Crump.

On his first trip to the country as a member of Partners for the Americas, he arrived in her hometown of Huehuetenango in January 1991 to improve the water system.

"There were lots of tanks and soldiers," recalls Crump, who retired from Solutia in 1999 after 34 years. "Sometimes you didn't know who were guerrillas and who was the army."

Unperturbed, he went on with his work. He met Morales, also a member of the agency, during a dinner the locals gave their Decatur guests. Little did he realize she would become another kind of partner — for life.

At the time, he couldn't envision it. Divorced and in his 40s, he took her name and phone number, but never called her. He thought she was a teenager.

Five months later, Crump chaperoned six exchange students to Guatemala and his future wife found homes for them.

"I didn't know if he was married," she said. "My younger sister, Claudia, and I talked about how handsome he was and that he worked hard."

The pair continued a kind of blind-date shuttle diplomacy.

Patricia Morales first came to America in 1981 as an exchange student to Reform. A decade later, she was back in Alabama. In November 1991, she flew into Birmingham with 36 exchange students who attended schools in various cities for six weeks.

Crump met them at the airport and brought some of the students to Decatur.

Mildred Keenum, who had been among those with Crump on his first trip to Guatemala, and her husband, Louis, hosted Morales.

"We had a meeting of the Partners at Mando's (restaurant) and Mildred, who knew I was single, asked me how old I was," Morales said. "I said 32. 'OK,' she said. 'I'll find a husband for you.' "

Morales rode the bus to Reform to visit her former host families, and Mildred Keenum asked Crump to meet her at the station on her return. He later took her and a friend to the Burritt Museum in Huntsville. And several days later, in early December, on her last night in Decatur, Crump asked her out for another trip to Huntsville to eat and shop.

"I drove her to Birmingham to the airport the next morning, and people already were talking about the two of us," Crump said.

Proposed over phone

"He called me every day, and we spoke for an hour at a time," she said. "He came for a visit at Christmas to meet my family and speak to my dad. He asked me to marry him, but I did not give him an answer. Later, I accepted his proposal over the telephone."

Crump returned to Huehuetenango on Valentine's Day 1992. They married there that April 22.

Dewey and Patty Crump's son, Clay, is a sixth-grader at St. Ann Catholic School. They return to Guatemala every summer to work with Partners and visit family. Dewey Crump now has made 19 trips to the country.

Patty Crump graduated from the University of Rafael Landivar in Guatemala City in 1987 with a degree in tourism. Because of the war — which raged 36 years, ending in 1996 — she never put her degree to use.

"The war was destroying the country," she said. "Most of the money was spent on arms and training the army instead of on roads and education."

The war became personal for Dewey Crump, too. On his June 1991 visit, his daughter, Robyn Locke, accompanied him as an exchange student. She had just graduated from Elkmont High School.

"I wanted her to see how people from other cultures lived," he said. "We were in a guest home for dinner the night we arrived. I stepped outside to smoke. She came out, put her arms around me and said, 'Daddy, we're a long ways from home.' "

Shortly after their visit, Guatemalans elected their host to congress. Thugs kidnapped him and held him for ransom.

"The family paid, but they wanted more," Crump said. "The family agreed to the demands, and the kidnappers were supposed to release him. A few days later, someone found him alongside a road, his throat cut."

Life today is good for the Crumps at their North Seneca Road home. Patty Crump is a teacher's aide at West Decatur Elementary School, working mostly with Hispanic students in English as a second language. She continues her studies at Calhoun Community College. Her goal is to become a Spanish teacher.

She is president of the Partners for the Americas Alabama chapter, and he is on the board of directors.

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Ronnie Thomas Ronnie Thomas
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