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Our Love Story

Love Story - Harold and Bette's wedding picture

Still in love after 50 years

by Harold & Bette Gillogly

Over the years, we have been asked how we met and fell in love.  So we decided we had better write it all down while our minds are still clear enough to remember the details.  It is especially appropriate we write this now, as this Sunday (June 11, 2000) will be our 34th wedding anniversary. This is our Love Story.

Bette:  As a young Christian woman, I was full of misdirected zeal.  I was zealously passionate to follow God, but as I look back on it, I’d have to say the word that best describes me was “weird.”  For instance, a few months after arriving at Bible college, I decided to sell most of my clothes to start my “missionary to Africa” fund.  Everyone knows it’s hard to get Crisco in the African bush, so I was saving the money for Teflon cookware.  And knowing that I couldn’t tote a piano through the bush, I decided I needed a guitar …and guitar lessons.  See what I mean?  Weird.

This was my state of mind when I met Harold.

Harold:  I didn’t do much dating in high school.  Late in my junior year, I met a ‘city girl’ from Zanesville, about ten miles from my country home.  We went steady my senior year and through my first year at the Naval Academy.  At the end of my harried plebe year, during June Week festivities, I gave her my Naval Academy pin.  But then my life took a fresh turn during my second year at the Academy.  I got plugged into a Bible study group and began to grow as a Christian.  My girlfriend did not share my new enthusiasm, and we grew farther and farther apart until April, when we officially broke up.  This was one month before I met Bette.

Bette:  At the end of my junior year at college, I began to experience some physical problems – nothing big, but I was allowed to go home early for medical attention.  On my first Saturday home, I attended the small Youth for Christ group in Annapolis, Maryland.  All through high school and on college vacations, my girl friends and I faithfully attended this group.  On this particular night, the Naval Academy midshipmen who regularly attended were in charge of the program.  As I walked in the door, Mr. and Mrs. Waters, the elderly couple who ran the youth group, asked me to sing a special song even though it was “Midshipmen night.”  I said, “Sure,” without the slightest suspicion that ‘this could be the start of something big.’

Harold:  I was surprised when Mr. Waters told me I was to introduce a “civilian” to sing in the midshipmen-led program.  Once a month at Youth for Christ, the midshipmen ran the whole thing, from leading the singing to bringing the devotional.  And since I was leading singing, I was given the assignment to introduce a girl named Bette Phelps, whom I had never met.  My initial thoughts were, “Who is this intruder?  Doesn’t she know it is midshipmen night?”  Mr. Waters must have sensed a little of my resistance, for he added “Whenever Bette is home, we always have her sing.”   So I introduced her.

Bette:  A cute midshipman introduced me.  I sang “So Send I You” and sat back down. Afterwards, the same midshipman came up to me and blurted, “Hi!  I’m Harold Gillogly.  And I’m from the city of the famous Y bridge.”  “Y bridge?”  I queried.  Come to find out, there really was a Y bridge that connected three river banks in Zanesville, Ohio.  I thought to myself, “Cute, but weird.”  (But then, who was I to talk.)

Harold:  After Bette sang, I stood there an embarrassingly long time, clearing my throat, unable to say anything – she had left me speech-less! Finally, I stammered, “That…that was wonderful!” and quickly went on to lead the next song.  Afterwards, when I tried to impress her with my famous city of origin line, it fell on unappreciative ears – she had never even heard of the famous Y bridge – imagine!

Bette:  I was surprised a few days later when he called and asked me for a date.  I gave him some excuse and turned him down.  After all, I didn’t have time to date.  I was preparing to be a missionary to Africa!  And neither rain, nor sleet, nor cute midshipmen could turn me from my goal.

Harold:  Yeah, the excuse she gave me was, “I don’t think I can find it with those directions, I would get lost.” (Midshipmen could not drive until their last year, so Bette would have had to drive herself to the Ice Cream social I was inviting her to.)

Bette:  I wanted to be doing missionary work with Child Evangelism Fellowship as I had the summer before, but I had to spend my time recuperating from minor surgery and catching up on the month of classes I had missed.  I still had time to have fun though.  But something strange was going on.  I’d go to a concert – there Harold would just “happen” to be.  I’d go hear a special speaker – there Harold would be.  I even went with a bunch of friends to a Christian ranch an hour away from home, and who should be there with some of his friends?  You guessed it – Harold “What’s his name.”  And if that wasn’t enough, he walked seven miles from the Academy to my church for Sunday morning service – seven miles!  Boy, was I impressed!  He wasn’t like those Bible college boys who thought they were God’s gift to women.  Here was a spiritual giant!  Yes, he had definitely caught my eye.  However, I swore to all my friends, “This is strictly a platonic relationship.”  That is…until mid-July.

Harold:  Did I plan all these “chance” encounters?  I would have if I could have.  But honestly, I did not know she was going to be there beforehand.  Even when I walked all the way out to her church the first time, I didn’t know.  Her pastor had spoken at a Youth for Christ meeting, and I was really impressed with his Bible knowledge and ability to teach.  So, one Sunday morning I walked the seven miles to hear him.  And…there was Bette!  From then on, of course, I was determined to get to that church as often as possible.

Bette:  Harold called one evening.  He called a lot that summer, but this evening was definitely different.  He asked, “Have you noticed how we’ve kept ending up in the same place all summer?  It’s like we’re being pushed together.  I…I think God is trying to tell me you are supposed to be my intended.”

I sat in stunned silence, then began to shake.  I tried to keep my voice calm.  “Well, you are just wasting your time.  I’m going to be an old maid missionary!”  There, I told him!  But what was all this shaking?  I couldn’t stop shaking.

Harold:  Had we had a real date?  NO!  Had we ever kissed? NO! What possessed me to be so bold with this woman?  Well, you know what they call those who “rush in,” don’t you?  FOOLS!  But I was a fool convinced that God was in our unique circumstances.  I was a math and science major, so I knew we had completely blown out the law of averages.  Was I disappointed with Bette’s response to my bold declaration?  Yes, but undaunted – for IF God was in this thing He would eventually convince her.

Bette:  I hung up the phone and through chattering teeth, told my friend Sue the crazy things Harold had just said.  She responded with these sage words of wisdom.  “Give it time.  If you really are meant to marry this guy, God will work it out.”

I knew in a few days Harold would be leaving for the rest of the summer.  And during that brief week, God threw us together several more times.  Finally, the day before Harold was to leave, a friend and I gave him a ride back to the Academy from a church event.  We walked together through the parking lot and sat on the sea wall on the Academy grounds.  We talked about the Lord and what each of us wanted Him to do in our lives.  Suddenly, like a hard blow, I knew I didn’t want this guy to leave.  Maybe he was right about me being his “intended.”  Maybe I wanted him to be right.

Harold:  That goodbye scene was a real “clincher” for me.  We held hands, walked and talked, and were both visibly moved by the fact these eventful two month were over.  Neither of us wanted that, and it showed.  We both promised to write as I was going home on leave to Ohio.  We would wait and see how things developed.

With many letters and phone calls between us the next month and a half, we made plans for Bette to come out to Ohio to meet my family over Labor Day weekend.  On the way to the bus station to pick her up, I went by my old girl friend’s house to reclaim my picture and Naval Academy pin.  The picture was still “warm” when I gave it to Bette on the way home.  (I kept the pin until I could have a jeweler “rub out” my old girl friend’s initials and replace them with a more fitting inscription.)

Bette:  Harold and his parents took me back to school in West Virginia in time for registration.  There were so many feelings I had to process.  I knew I loved Harold.  But was he God’s gift to me or was this all a trick of satan’s to keep me off the mission field?  I had a daily wrestling match with my emotions.  As I think back on that time, I can see that God in His infinite patience and kindness, was redirecting my misguided zeal and turning me in a wiser direction.  He sent me several wise counselors who helped me see the folly of my “old maid missionary” fantasies.  And He sent me a minor residual health problem, which would keep me from being accepted to a foreign mission field.  I began to see that Harold was no trick – he truly was God’s gift.

At the end of October, I hitched a ride with some other students who were headed east for the weekend.  I could hardly wait to see Harold and tell him in person that my doubts were gone.

Harold:  I was so excited Bette was in Annapolis for the weekend – I had gotten my pin back from the jewelers and planned to “pin” her that Saturday evening after Youth for Christ.  Walking back to the car after the meeting, we stopped right there on the sidewalk and I asked her to wear my pin.  I showed her the engraving – “Psalm 37:4,5,7a” – these were “our” verses, reminding us to “put Him first and WAIT.”  (She still didn’t know it was a “used” pin.)  I told her “pinning her” meant I would one day ask her to marry me.

Bette:  Wow!  We were engaged to be engaged – and he still hadn’t kissed me!  Sunday afternoon, we took a walk near my parent’s house located on an inlet off the South River.  We walked out on a deserted pier and watched the water lap against the pilings.  We knew we
only had a few minutes before I had to leave.  I ventured a suggestion, “You know, no one would mind if you kissed me.”

Harold:  The pier itself was deserted but I was worried that someone might be watching.  “Public Display of Affection” while in uniform was a punishable offence.  I didn’t want to be punished for our first kiss.  And beside, if I was to go down in a “blaze of glory,” I wanted to start the fire myself.  I whispered frantically, “But it’s public!”  She cooed, “But there’s nobody else here.”  I quickly looked around – I didn’t see anyone.  So, I kissed her … quickly, then we scrambled back to her house.  We found the dining room deserted and decided to finish our “first kiss” in a more unhurried and thorough manner.

Bette:  Even though we were hundreds of miles apart, we got to know each other better that year than if we had lived next door.  We corresponded through letter tapes.  (This was before cassette tapes were invented, so we had to play them on reel to reel tape recorders.) We talked about everything – hopes, dreams, likes, dislikes, beliefs, challenges – you name it.  We had the benefits of listening to each other without the distraction of being able to touch each other.

Harold:  Well, I would have liked a little more distraction than we had, but it was good for our relationship. Long distant courtship HAS to be more spiritual than physical.  That year we bonded in a way that knit our souls together.

Bette:  After graduating the following June, I returned home just in time for June Week at the Academy.  One of the most exciting festivities during June Week is the Ring Dance for the midshipmen who are finishing their junior year. Midshipmen are allowed to wear their Naval Academy rings only after the “Ring Ceremony.”  Each Midshipman and his date walk into a large ring and baptize his class ring in what is purported to be the waters of the seven seas.  After Harold put his class ring on, he reached into his pocket and pulled out another ring, slipped it on my finger, and asked simply, “Will you marry me?”  I answered by throwing my arms around his neck and giving him a big kiss right there in the middle of that colossal ring.  Finally, we were engaged!

Harold:  And this time, the public display of affection was even sanctioned by the Navy!  The ceremony was a little ritualistic maybe, but none the less meaningful. I wasn’t quite sure what the waters of the seven seas were supposed to do to my ring.  But it reminded me of Naaman, who dipped himself seven times in the Jordan River (II Kings 5).  And when he did, he was healed of leprosy.  I think of that Ring Ceremony as my healing from loneliness.  My wife has been my companion and best friend for 36 years – one year of courtship, one year of engagement and 34 years of marriage.

Bette:  I worked that year from home with Child Evangelism Fellowship so I could be near Harold as he finished his senior year.  That gave us another year to get to know each other and prepare for our wedding and our marriage.  At last, on June 11, 1966, (just three days after Harold graduated) we walked out of College Avenue Baptist Church in Annapolis, Maryland under drawn swords, as husband and wife.

The Scripture we claimed from the very beginning of our relationship is as true for you today as it has always been for us.  Psalm 37:4,5,7a  Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this:  Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him.

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