Daily photo by Jonathan Palmer|
William Howard and Dovie Key at their home on Memorial Drive Southwest. The two were married on Jan. 23, 1945 - 1/23/45. The couple didn't notice the number sequence until months later, but it's worked out to be a lucky number for them for more than 62 years.
Marriage by the numbers
For Decatur pair, it's easy as 1-2-3-4-5
“One, two, three, four, five.”
Echoes from the ghost of Lawrence Welk, counting the beat and waving his baton on his old television show?
No, that was “a-one and a-two ... ” And the band cranked up before he reached five digits.
How about someone calling out those timeworn numbers on a lottery ticket in hopes of fooling Fantasy 5?
Forget that, too. This is marriage by the numbers — Jan. 23, 1945 — the wedding date of William Howard Key and Dovie Tingle Key of Decatur. For them, that series of numbers rolls into something better than a seven in a crapshoot.
Dovie said they didn’t notice the number sequence until that summer, when he signed up for a job at Mare Island Naval Shipyard near Vallejo, Calif.
“He had to give our marriage date,” Dovie said, “and the man in personnel looked up and said, ‘One, two, three, four, five.’ ”
There are other key dates for the Keys, a more than 62-year-old love story that, although they took their chances like everyone else, has been anything other than chance.
“I just thought when you married, you’re supposed to live with him,” said Dovie, who drives, mows the yard, makes a garden and handles all household chores.
“I meant for it to be as long as we lived,” William said.
“We work together at it,” she replied.
They’ll observe weekend birthdays in the house on Memorial Drive Southwest, where they've lived the past 45 years. Saturday, she'll be 84. He'll be 92 on Sunday.
Both recall exact dates and circumstances with remarkable ease. Ask them about anything, then shake your head and hope your memory is nearly as sharp.
They were born in Lawrence County, she near Langtown, he across Sinking Creek from the community, which is on Alabama 33 between Moulton and Courtland.
"We went to school together at Courtland Junior High," she said. "We caught the same bus at E.B. Aycock's Grocery near Mountain Home, north of Langtown."
William enlisted in the Army in October 1940, and in early May 1943, at a California base a truck ran over him.
"We were coming off maneuvers, and I was at the grease rack, getting my tools out," he said. "The truck came up from behind me. The driver had forgot to check his brake fluid."
His injuries included a crushed pelvis and broken collarbone, and doctors told him if he lived, he wouldn't walk again. He fooled them.
Dovie recalls him coming home on his first furlough in July 1944.
"He and a boyfriend stopped by our house on Chalybeate Road. There was a revival going on that week at Chalybeate Baptist Church, and we went," she said. "From there, it was just history."
The Army gave him a medical discharge Sept. 30, 1944. Two weeks later, on Friday, Oct. 13, he fell off a truck and fractured his skull while working as a firefighter at Courtland Air Base. He amply recovered, and Dr. Jesse M. Rogers married the couple in the parsonage of First Baptist Church of Decatur.
William joined security at Redstone Arsenal in 1953 and retired in 1972.
He said he doesn't have a secret for his longevity. But he quoted Exodus 20:12:
"Honor they father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee."
He noted that the crucial word is "may."
Dovie said the answer to her long life is simple.
"Because he has taken so good care of me," she said.
He responded, "It's the other way around. I'd be dead if it hadn't been for her."
Life hasn't always been a Welk waltz, but the Keys managed a sweet ride together, raising a son and a daughter. They have two grandsons.
It will be a while — Jan. 23 and Dec. 3, 2045 — before other couples get to test the luck of one, two, three, four, five.
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