In the late summer of 1964, I was at work at Kings' Daughters Hospital in Ashland, Kentucky, in the laboratory; and one of my coworkers said, "Mike, you gotta go see the new girl down in Pediatrics." I immediately looked for an excuse to go to pediatrics and found a requisition that needed to be delivered. As I was walking down the hall toward the pediatric desk I glanced into the pediatric kitchen and there stood the most beautiful girl I had ever seen. I said to myself, "That's the girl I'm going to marry," knowing that a girl that pretty wouldn't even date me. I did get enough courage to introduce myself to her, though. Her name was Gaye Harris; and she had just completed her training as a Nursing Assistant.
Over the next several weeks, I looked for excuses to get to see and speak to Gaye (whose name is actually "Gay" on her birth certificate; but she liked the "e" at the end and her mother couldn't convince her to spell it correctly.) After a few months, very few, I had the courage to ask her for a date with some positive signals from her in advance. We agreed to go to see a movie together at the Paramount Theater: "Goldfinger."
We became almost constant companions when we could. Our dates were mostly "free" dates like eating together in the hospital cafeteria, going to church together, but also eating at the Bluegrass Grill (Ashland's version of Arnold's from "Happy Days" but without the roller skates) and occasional movies, and just walking around in downtown Ashland, Kentucky, USA.
Toward the end of October we agreed we wanted to be married. I don't know if I ever formally asked her to marry me or vice versa. It was as though we both knew at the same time we were going to be together forever. (To his irritation, in that day when it was a custom to ask the bride's father for permission to marry his daughter, I didn't ask. He accepted it relatively soon, though.) We walked to a jewelry store where Gay's Mom knew the owner; and looked at engagement/wedding rings. All of them he was showing at first were too expensive for me/us; but he brought out a set that had been returned when they decided at the last minute not to get married. It was a beautiful half caret marquis diamond in a simple white gold setting. The two rings cost $275! I have no idea how I came up with the money; but I bought the rings by Christmas or so. We talked of being married in June. We couldn't wait that long, though; and as Spring Break at the Ashland Community College was a couple of months away we decided to get married over Spring Break.
Lots of preparation later, we scheduled the wedding for March 13th at what was then the Trinity Methodist Church in the Summit area of Ashland, asking Gaye's brother Emmett Adkins, an ordained Conservative Baptist pastor to do the wedding; and he agreed. We learned two days before the wedding that her brother could not legally perform the wedding in Kentucky, so at the last minute I asked one of the local pastors who worked with our district youth to do the wedding: the late Reverend Larry Buskirk; and he did the wedding with Emmett and a couple of hundred other folk, present.
Lots of things have happened since that wedding. We had a little baby boy two years later named James Michael Mansfield, II (Jimmy).
Gay had cervical cancer and a hysterectomy. I completed college while we both worked at the University of Kentucky Medical Center. We lived in several different locations with jobs as a medical secretary in the UKMC Radiation Therapy/Nuclear Medicine Department for Gaye while I was getting a degree in Medical Technology while working in the UKMC Lab and the Central Baptist Hospital lab.
Gay and her coworkers at Radiation Therapy/Nuclear Medicine at UKMC
In our fifty years we have lived in Kentucky, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, and Ohio; and multiple places in Ohio and Kentucky. (It's the day after the anniversary; and I decided to add this in: In no special order, wehave lived together in: Ashland, Kentucky, in two different locations downtown plus the Westwood and Summitt areas; Pontiac, Michigan; Georgetown, Kentucky, in two locations; Lexington, Kentucky, in two locations; Raceland, Kentucky; South Shore, Kentucky; Ludlow, Kentucky; Burkesville, Kentucky; Fairdale, Kentucky; "Little Dixie," Kentucky, in Henderson County; Frankfort, Kentucky (two locations, one of them really in Woodford County); Louisville, Kentucky; Miamitown, Ohio; Brookville, Ohio; Westville (not to be confused with Westerville), Ohio; and West Chester, Ohio. (I admit I may have left something out.)
Gay has worked as a nursing assistant, medical assistant, medical office receptionist, baby sitter, and medical secretary. I have worked as a drugstore delivery boy, a laboratory technician, a medical technologist (including a chief technologist at the old John Graves Ford Hospital in Georgetown, Kentucky); and finally in medical sales where I did very well.
Then, when living on the 11th fairway of the Beckett Ridge Country Club's planned community, we made the most major change in direction. We sold our home; and Mike headed for seminary after being appointed to a church as its pastor in Miamitown, Ohio.
My ordination class at Lakeside-on-Lake Erie, 1986
Gay in our cabin at Lakeside following ordination
We served in eight different locations a total of 10 congregations; and I was forced into retirement after 24 years. Meanwhile Gay had become less healthy; and, even though I had started working in the laboratory again, I ended up completely retired and with very low income.
In 2003 our granddaughter, Paige was born.
In our fifty years we've learned what it means to "love one another, comfort one another, honor one another, keep one another, and be faithful to one another IN SICKNESS and in health for as long as we both shall live."
We've had periods of anger, jealousy, worry, great joy, boredom, fun, happiness, and all of the feelings that go with spending your time working together in a church setting but also working together to rear a little boy into adulthood.
In 1965 I married the beautiful, sexy, brunette woman from pediatrics with the nearly perfect face because I loved her. (I caught "West Side Story" on TV today; and I noticed that, as beautiful as Natalie Wood was, Gay was even more beautiful then.) In the last 50 years I have learned a lot more about what love is; and I can honestly say that I had no idea I could still feel such strong desire, affection, concern, and appreciation for Gaye that I have now. Yes, I loved her in 1965. Now I LOVE her.
At a Party at South Shore (Kentucky)
First United Methodist Church
One of the things I've been saying for the last few years is, "We've been married for the last 45 (or 46 or 48, etc.) years; and we're beginning to think it might last."
It looks like it has.