By Martie Thompson

Rudy and Raye Williams’ marriage might have had an unconventional beginning, but 76 years later, they’re convinced it was God’s plan. They are very strong in their faith and have always been active with a church, wherever they have lived. At one point, they drove 80 miles one way to attend their favored church. Presently, they are members of Fruit Cove Baptist Church. Raye is retired from State Farm, where she worked as an underwriting specialist and Rudy is retired from Mobile Paints, where he was the general manager of the Florida division. Today, he calls himself the “chief cook and bottlewasher” as he tends to Raye’s care. They have three children (two living; the loss of their middle child due to cancer they deem the worst thing they have experienced), four grandchildren, eight great grandchildren and one great great grandchild.

Q: How did you two meet?

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A: (Raye): I lived in Lake City and Rudy lived in Jacksonville, but he had an aunt and uncle and cousin Lillian, who was a very good friend of mine, who lived in Lake City. So he would come to visit them and I had seen him before. One weekend when we were in high school, Lillian asked me to come to Jacksonville with her to do some shopping. We took the bus on Thursday afternoon and stayed with Rudy’s family. After dinner on Thursday night, we stayed up talking and Rudy asked me to go to a movie on Friday night. So we went to a drive-in on Atlantic Boulevard in Rudy’s dad’s car and then to a drive-in eatery, the kind where the servers wore roller skates, and had some food. That was our first date.

Q: How did you decide to get married?

A: On our date, Rudy said his cousin was taking his girlfriend to Georgia the next day to see her grandmother for the Easter weekend. (Sunday was Easter.) He said we should go too so we could keep his cousin company. And he said we could get married while we were there.

Q: What did you say?

A: I was in shock and I didn’t say yes or no. So on Saturday afternoon, he asked me if I was ready to go to Georgia. Before we left, we called my mother and told her what we were doing. She told me that I could have a nice church wedding like my sister if I just came home first, but she was ok with us getting married because she knew Rudy and his family. She did ask Rudy, “Is Raye making you do this?” So we went to Georgia and early on Easter Sunday morning, we found a judge and he performed the wedding. 

(Rudy): In later years, we asked ourselves, why did we do such a thing? The only conclusion we came to is it was God’s plan. We have lived a Christian life together for 76 years.

Q: What did you do when you retired?

A: (Rudy): We both retired in our early 60s. We bought a motorhome and made a five-and-a-half month trip out West. Then we made another four month trip after that. We have been to every state. 

We have a very close family since we were young parents. We had our children between 11 months and six years after we were married. We love to play games and spend time with our family.

Q: What advice would you give to people getting married today?

A: (Rudy): Communication is the best thing you can give anyone. One of the biggest problems people have is finances. Here especially, you need to communicate with your spouse. Also, we committed to each other that if there was something we didn’t want the other person to do, like smoke or drink, that we wouldn’t do it ourselves either. We are certainly not perfect.

(Raye): I wouldn’t trade him for the world.

Photo courtesy Steve Williams
Rudy and Raye Williams

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