By Martie Thompson
Al and Mildred Hagans first met while they were elementary school children and Al’s family moved into a property in Jacksonville that Milred’s great aunt and great uncle owned. “Her family was our landlord,” Al said. They both graduated from Eugene Butler High School and then attended Florida Junior College (now known as Florida State College at Jacksonville.) The couple married in 1970 and are celebrating 53 years of marriage this year. Al served in both the Navy and the Army; first as an enlisted member in the Navy and then as an officer in the Army. They eventually were both members of the first graduating class of the University of North Florida in 1974 (Al has a degree in language and literature and Mildred’s degree is in business). They have three children: Kenton, who lives in Colorado; Tracy, who lives on the Westside of Jacksonville, and Jennifer, who lives in Virginia. Al and Mildred also have nine grandchildren.
Q: How did you begin dating?
Al: We started dating during the British Music Invasion. We went to see Peter and Gordon in concert.
Mildred: It was when I was too young to date, but my parents allowed me to go because they knew him and thought he was a nice guy.
Q: Where did you live while Al was in the service?
Mildred: First he was enlisted in the Navy and we lived in Portsmouth, Virginia. When we decided to come back to Jacksonville to finish our college education at UNF, Al joined ROTC in a joint program with the University of Florida. He graduated as an officer in the Army and was stationed in Fort Stewart, Georgia.
Q: What were your careers after Al left the Army?
Al: I left the Army as a First Lieutenant and we moved to Michigan, where I was in executive management at General Motors. Mildred worked at IBM. While there, I obtained my law degree from Cooley Law School. Once we returned to Jacksonville, I served as a public defender and then practiced family law.
Mildred: We spent seven years in Michigan and then decided the winter weather was too rough, so that’s when we moved back to Jacksonville. I was able to transfer with IBM and also worked at CSX and finally the UF School of Medicine. We both retired in 2016.
Q: What do you like about living in St. Johns?
Mildred: When we first moved back to Jacksonville, we lived in Mandarin, but we felt we had outgrown that house. We’ve lived in St. Johns for 11 years. We think it’s a nice area and we’ve always enjoyed living in suburban areas.
Q: What are your hobbies?
Mildred: We bought a mid-sized RV and love to travel. We did a long tour of the Midwest, through 18 states, on our way to Colorado to see our son. Now we do shorter trips and realize that even though we both grew up in Florida, we’ve taken it for granted. There’s plenty to explore here. I also love to read and run the Gate River Run about every other year.
Al: I like to do yard work. I take a lot of pride in our yard. I also consider myself a jack-of-all-trades, so I like to fix things.
Q: What would you say is your secret to a long marriage?
Al: Well, we’ve been married a long time, so I’d say we genuinely like each other.
Mildred: I think common interests and the same value system is important. And yes, we’ve gone to bed angry sometimes, but by the next morning we’ve usually forgotten what it was we were angry about.
Photo courtesy Mildred Hagans
Al and Mildred Hagans