Andy Brosig/Hobbs News-Sun
The day is approaching to shower significant others with gifts and tokens of affection, let friends and family know how important they are and generally share a loving nature.
The first Valentine’s Day messages appeared in the 1400s, and the hand-written declarations of love and affection grew in popularity. The first commercial Valentine cards date to the mid-1800s and the traditional gifts — candy and flowers with a preference for red roses — came into being.
In recent history the holiday has become increasingly commercialized. But the meaning behind St. Valentine’s Day remains — love. And three Hobbs couples shared their love stories with the News-Sun last week.
Love and dominoes
White Sands Healthcare facility in Hobbs was the last place Anthony Weatherford and Cheri Bates expected to find love.
But find it they did over a game of dominoes.
Anthony, 56, and Cheri, 60, first saw each other on his first day at the facility about two years ago. He’d never been married but thought there was something special about Cheri when he saw her sitting with a group of other residents.
“I’d never been in a place like this,” Anthony said. “I saw her sitting in the hallway. She was the last one on the end and she just caught my eye. She struck me as pretty then, and she’s just as pretty now.”
Cheri said she noticed Anthony as he made his way around the facility. But romance was the furthest thing from her mind. Cheri’s first husband died in 2015 after more than 30 years of marriage.
“I never thought I’d get married again, especially in a nursing home,” she said. “But we did. We met and liked each other.
“When I first saw him, I thought, ‘Who is that?’” Cheri recalled. “I thought he seems like a nice guy so I’ll just play it by ear.”
Laughing, Anthony said he thought Cheri “may have pursued me a little bit, but I think I pursued her a little bit more. But I could be wrong.”
Their first “date” — and, truth be told, most of their subsequent rendezvous’ — took place over games of dominoes in the activity room at White Sands Healthcare. There weren’t really any other options as the facility — like senior care centers around the country — were locked down due to the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We was in here just about every night playing dominoes,” Cheri said. “And we talked.”
“It was a unique day,” Anthony added. “They were popping popcorn that day. It was really something.”
Things simply progressed from there and, within about three months, Anthony and Cheri were announcing to staff and friends at White Sands their plans to marry.
“They were all about to cry,” Anthony said. “Cry happy tears. Everybody here was ecstatic about it, about us being married.”
Weddings — in fact almost any event — were only made more difficult by the pandemic. And Anthony and Cheri’s was no exception. But the staff and residents at White Sands rallied and threw them the best wedding they could.
“We had a beautiful wedding,” Cheri said. “It was really pretty.”
The couple chose their wedding party from the staff and fellow residents. The medical records director at White Sands, Erica Gomez, is also an ordained minister and performed the nuptials. And Alexis Garcia, the activity director, immediately jumped in and took over planning the wedding, paying for the food and decorations out of the facility’s activity fund.
Anthony’s father, Wayne Weatherford, even had a “small part” in the wedding, a resident at White Sands himself.
“He was in the wedding,” Anthony said. “I’m surprised it worked out that way.”
And, while a long-term care facility might not be the place most people expect to find love, it works for Anthony and Cheri. They’re in it for the long haul, they said.
“Our love for each other is good,” Anthony said. “We have problems from time to time, but we don’t let that separate us. We talk and we realized we have more things in common than we don’t.”
Cheri agreed: “Love is love. It’s not any different than anywhere else.”
‘It’s all we ever talked about’
Roy and Lindy Roberts met when both were clients at Leaders Industries in Hobbs. Their friendship blossomed into a dating relationship that lasted 17 years. One theme dominated their conversations during that time.
“We fell in love,” Roy said. “All we ever talked about all those years was getting married and having a place of our own.”
Eventually, in 1989, Roy and Lindy asked one of their coaches from Leaders Industries to take them to the jewelry store to look for rings. On their way back, the coach told Roy he needed to propose to Lindy.
“I got out and got down on my knees, looking in those pretty eyes of hers and that pretty face of hers,” Roy recalled. “I looked her straight in the eye and asked her to marry me.”
“I said yes,” Lindy said with a laugh.
“Now we’ve been married a good while, 33 years,” Roy added. “Our relationship keeps us together and we love each other very much.”
Roy, now 75, and Lindy, 68, had a small apartment in Hobbs until, eventually, Lindy’s health deteriorated. She required the use of a wheelchair and moved into White Sands. Later, Roy said, he was struck by a car and required surgery, eventually joining his wife at the care facility.
Today, they’re just as much in love as ever, Roy and Lindy said. They have their friends at White Sands and their televisions — Lindy enjoys the Disney Channel while Roy enjoys his shows. But there’s one offering they both agree on: “Gunsmoke,” they said in unison.
“And we are each other’s bests friends,” Roy said. “We’re pretty close to each other.”
An enduring love
Mitzi and Joe Bishop knew each other from school, growing up in Hobbs. He was a senior and she was a sophomore when their friendship grew to something more.
“I worked at Frank Smith Grocery and Mitzi’s mother traded at the store,” Joe said. “I’d give her a half-gallon of ice cream sometimes. That’s how we met.”
At the time, Joe had a 1945 Chevrolet Coupe and would give Mitzi rides home from school, stopping at the local root beer joint every afternoon before he dropped her off at home on his way to work.
“My mother thought he was a real gentleman, so that was a foot in the door,” Mitzi said, a twinkle in her eye. “My mother was real important in my life because I didn’t do anything she disliked.
“But she liked Joe,” Mitzi said. “And it just kind of evolved, didn’t it, honey?”
Once they started dating officially, Joe would drive Mitzi to school, where they’d sit in the parking lot talking until the opening bell would ring. Their relationship still developing, it was almost cut short when Joe brought Mitzi home 20 minutes late from a Halloween carnival due to a flat tire.
“The next morning, (Mitzi) started crying,” Joe recalled. “I asked her what was wrong and Mitzi said, ‘Momma said we was going to have to quit dating ‘cause you didn’t get me home on time.’
“I just said, ‘When are we going to get married?’ and she said ‘Today, tomorrow, any time,’” Joe said. “I just started that car and went and picked up two of my aunts. We drove to Loving-ton and bought the marriage license.”
Joe had $20 in his pocket. The first $5 went to buy the marriage license, with another $5 going to the preacher at the local Nazarene Church to perform the ceremony. They then went to the Zales jewelry store in Hobbs, where Joe knew the manager. Mitzi picked out the ring she wanted for $5 down.
“That left us with $5,” he said. “We found a little apartment where they charged $5 a week. That ended our money.”
Working in a grocery store, Joe new he and his new bride would be alright for groceries. They went to the store and told his coworkers they’d gotten married, only to hear, “Boy, her daddy’s looking for you already.
“So we went over and told her mother and daddy,” Joe said. “Her daddy was a big man. He got a chair, sat and straddled that chair and said, ‘Joe, let’s just talk for a minute. I’m going to tell you one thing — if you mistreat her I’m going to whip your butt.
“That’s how it happened,” he said. “So, 71-1/2 years later, here we are.”
Joe worked in the grocery business most of his life and the couple have three grown children. There’ve been ups and downs, good times and bad. But through it all, they’ve been there for each other.
“We like each other,” Mitzi said. “Does that make a difference, you think?
“We’ve had some hard times, but we’ve enjoyed life as we’ve gone along,” she said. “It’s been a good life.”
Mitzi worked a long time as a bookkeeper for a local eye doctor. She had to leave that job after she fell and broke her hip about three years ago, leading to 35 days of residential rehabilitation. But she returned home, only to fall again, breaking her right arm.
“That kind of slowed me down,” Mitzi said. “I enjoyed that job.”
Today, Joe does yard work and maintenance for a few people and cares for his own yard off North Dal Paso Street in Hobbs. Mitzi sits in her favorite spot on the patio outside the front door and keeps him company.
The secret to their long marriage is simple: They’re friends.
“That’s it,” Mitzi said. “We like one another.
“It doesn’t take a lot to make us happy,” she said. “We like to cook together, we like to do what we do. It’s doesn’t matter.”
Joe agreed: “We enjoy life. Just being with each other.