Today, 46 years after our marriage on October 5, 1964 , I still marvel that God brought such a wonderful person into my life.
She came into my life on the Sunday Morning that I was leaving to go to college. A friend introduced us, “Jack”, my friend said, “I’d like you to met Beverly Funchess”. Beverly replied, “That’s Funchess like lunches but with a ‘F’.” I was BMOC (Big Man on Campus) so I greeted her with one of my most charismatic smiles and quickly excused myself and dismissed her. Miss Beverly Funchess, like lunches but with an ‘F’, was entering the eleventh grade and I was off to college. I must admit that I was less than overwhelmed.
As I walked across the parking lot to join my family, Beverly said she called her Mother to the window, pointed me out, and said, “Mother, there goes the man I am going to marry”. Her Mother said, “Oh, Beverly”, and dismissed the whole notion. Years later Mrs. Funchess would acknowledge the truth of Beverly’s statement. I was a marked man and didn’t know it.
My first year at college was fun, there were new women to pursue, and pursue I did. I won’t be boring with the intriguing details, just let it be said I was a hot item. I think it was because I won the most attractive knees contest during initiation week.
I went home for Christmas and don’t remember seeing Miss Beverly Funchess, like lunches but with an ‘F.’ After Christmas break it was back to college and several more months of skirt chasing, nothing serious, just good times.
When the school year was over and I returned home for the summer, Miss Beverly Funchess, like lunches but with a ‘F’. had changed and boy, how she had changed. She was one more beautiful young woman. No longer a girl, she was beautiful, sophisticated, charming, and intriguing. Our first date was to see Brigadoon at Chastain Theater under the Stars. It was a chilly evening and she allowed me to put my coat around her. That simple act alone stole my heart.
I need to back up a bit. Before my first date with Beverly, I asked her Father’s permission to date her. We were at church so he could hardly say no. With his permission given, I appeared at their front door on the specified night. Bev’s dad was a captain in the Army and I was attending a Military School, so I presented myself, as a young trooper should. “Good evening, Sir”, I said. “I am Jack deJarnette and have a date with Beverly.”
He stood there resplendent in his uniform having just gotten off duty. “So what”, he said.
In the background, I could hear Bev’s Mother shouting, “Invite him in Bill, and have him take a seat”. Captain Funchess gave the order, “Come in, and sit down”. He said as he directed me to a skirted chair. Then he disappeared behind his paper.
Suddenly there was growling and nipping at my heels. It was Cindy, the family’s Chihuahua. I was sitting in the chair under which she had made her home. Cindy barked and nipped at my heels as Bill (Bev’s daddy) said repeatedly, “Sic him, Cindy, sic him”.
After an eternity of sitting at attention with my feet straight out, the most beautiful woman I had ever seen entered the room. My heart caught in my throat and I could hardly speak. After a few niceties and some small talk, we were on our way.
As we talked, I asked Bev what she wanted to be when she grew up. “A Grand Prix race car driver,” she said. That shut me up for a few minutes. I was familiar with Drag Racing and the beginnings of NASCAR (my cousin hauled moonshine all over North Georgia, Tennessee, South and North Carolina.) However, I knew absolutely nothing about Grand Prix.
The next question I asked was about her favorite music. She told me that she liked progressive jazz, especially Cal Tjader. “Yea,” I said, “I really like him too.”
The next morning I hightailed it to our record store to buy a Cal Tjader album. The owner of the store had never heard of him, nor did he know what progressive jazz was so I was stuck in my aesthetic shallowness.
Throughout that summer, Miss Beverly Funchess and I dated, soon we were committed to each other, and our romance blossomed and grew into full flower. In the fall, I returned to college. I had no financial resources. I had been granted a $1.00 per day scholarship so I needed more money, a steady income of some sort. While at Georgia Military Academy, I had worked in the student laundry as part of my work ship so I was well versed in washing and ironing clothes. Therefore, I started my own business. I washed and ironed shirts for 25 cents each. Washing only was 10 cents. My main need for money was so that I could talk to Beverly on the phone each weekend. We would talk for a while, and then the operator would announce that I had to deposit additional coins to continue. Cha-ching, the phone would eat my hard-earned cash until it was all gone; then, the whole laundry process started again.
On weekends when Beverly would sometimes come to college for a visit, we had wonderful times together. It was on one of her visits that I got her to try a green persimmon. I got no more kisses that weekend.
That is how it all began. We were deeply in love and committed to be married someday.
On September, 1964. I was in the Army stationed at Ft. Bragg, N.C. when I received news that my Father had died. He was 52 and had suffered a massive heart attack. I went home on emergency leave and there she was. Dear Beverly spent every moment with my family and me giving us comfort and sharing her abundance of love with each family member.
Upon my return to Ft. Bragg I was due to receive orders to Germany. Beverly was halfway through Nurses training. As we talked, thought, and prayed together; we decided to get married prior to my return to Ft. Bragg. Our marriage had to remain secret since student nurses were forbidden to be married during their training. Part of our reason for getting married was that when she graduated from Nursing School, we could announce our marriage and the Army would pay for her to join me and we wouldn’t have to scrounge up the money to get her there. Of course, the major reason was that we were deeply, madly, completely in love, which we are even to this day.
We found a justice of the peace who would marry us the evening that I had to return to Ft. Bragg. We met him at his home after his Rotary meeting. It was about 9:00 p.m. Three friends joined us and when he asked if anyone could show just cause why we should not be married; my best friend raised his hand. There was a moment of awkward silence then the justice of the peace continued and 10 minutes later we were husband and wife. That was the second best day of my life. The first was when I became a Christian.
For 46 years now, I have had a lover, best friend, confidant, and partner. Our life together has been filled with moments of intense passion and deep sorrow. There were times of great fear as I faced health problems of various kinds including heart attacks, bypass surgeries, a heart transplant, kidney failure, and a kidney transplant. During every moment, Beverly has been there to offer care and encouragement. I can honestly say that I would not be alive today were it not for her, nor would I want to have struggled to overcome my trials without her by my side.
One special moment stands out as a most precious one. We were at UAB and I was very near death while waiting for a heart transplant. Beverly was sitting by me holding my hand. Her head was bowed and I had no doubt that she was praying. Suddenly I had an overwhelming sense that I would fight to stay alive with every bit of energy that I could muster. Later that night the word came that a heart was available and I would be transplanted before morning. She gave me that extra measure of determination to hang on just a bit longer.
My most wonderful times with Beverly happened at the birth of our two children. We have been blessed with a daughter and son, both outstanding people in their own right, and four grandchildren—one grandson and three granddaughters.
I have no idea what tomorrow will bring but I am confident of two things. First, I am confident that Jesus is real and will always be with me and secondly, I am confident that my precious Beverly will continue to be the heart of my heart for so long as we both shall live.
Beverly, I love you with all my heart and thank God every day that he smiled on me that day when I met Miss Beverly Funchess, like lunches but with an ‘F’.