CONWAY: ‘We fell in love’

The coupled married on Dec. 27, 1953, while in college. Each of them wore a wedding band with special significance. Claudia inherited hers from her grandmother, and Milton’s had belonged to his father, who died suddenly while Milton was serving his country in Korea.

Claudia said of her grandparents, “I wanted the kind of marriage they had, and I pretty much have had. They were my ideal couple. They were always sweethearts all throughout their marriage.”

Not long before her death, Claudia’s grandmother decided to leave her the ring. Claudia, 15 at the time, was one of her youngest grandchildren and the only one named after her.

“I had always wanted just a very plain wedding band. It was really comforting because that was part of them and their history. I was most appreciative of that,” she said.

“That kind of relationship that they had, that they were so close and loving and enjoyed each other’s company, and that kind of respect and honoring each other … I never heard them fight. I’m sure they did have their disagreements, but they weren’t loud with it, and they worked it out, which is kind of nice.”

When Milton and Claudia first met, he confessed he was not interested in her. They met at church, and all the young college people visited together on Sunday nights. That same summer, Will Counts, a longtime friend of Milton’s, came to visit and was trying to persuade Milton to go to a dance.

“I only asked (Claudia) out because this friend of mine, although he already had a date, had expressed an interest in her before. On the spur of the moment, I told him I had a date with her. He told me I was lying, and of course I was,” he said.

“He would not confess he didn’t have a date,” Claudia said. ”The night came of the big dance, and Milton just started getting ready. Just to save face he asked me out for later. He called me; he said, ‘I guess you already have a date for tomorrow night.’ There’s only one answer to that. He said, ‘Well, I don’t guess you’d want to go get a Coke or something tonight.’”

Claudia said she felt sorry for Milton, so she accepted.

“My mother said, ‘You’re accepting a date at this late hour?’” she said.

Milton confessed what happened, and although Claudia was not flattered, she went out with him again.

“Something just hit me. I don’t know what it was,” he said. “About another week later we started talking about getting married. We had to get married, because I couldn’t eat or sleep. I fell in love, period. It really zapped me. I remember that very well. Three months later we were married. And Will was best man at our wedding.”

According to their children, their parent’s marriage has been a good model for them. They have three daughters – Connie Copley, Andrea Cole and Jean-Anne Davis – and a son, Granger.

Granger, the youngest, said, “I hope my wife and I are as successful as my parents have been as far as their marriage and raising their children.”

Daughter Connie said, “They never argued in front of us. I never even heard my dad speak harshly to my mom. I would like to think my marriage is like theirs.”

Claudia said of her 56 years with Milton, “We talk about how lucky we are, because we’ve seen lots of cases where it doesn’t happen that way. It’s also some hard work. You have to make sure you grow in the same direction. We’ve been very fortunate in that we’ve agreed on so many issues and we’ve always been able to talk and communicate.”

Milton said, “We fell in love. I can almost tell the moment, which is very unusual. I’ve never stopped loving her. I never did like to be away from her any period of time. We’ve had a really good marriage.”