Marti Garrett remembers precisely when she met her husband, down to the day. It was Jan. 17, 2011, when Billie Armstrong walked into the Banner Olive Branch Senior Center in Sun City.
“There were two of us at the front desk, and he came in to say he wanted to sign up,” Garrett said. “I asked his name, he said ‘Billie,’ and I spelled it -ly. He corrected me and my friend at the desk said, ‘Billie is a girl’s name!’”
Armstrong, a kidder all his life, went for the laugh.
“How do you know I’m not a girl,” he said.
He and Garrett went back and forth a little after that, and Armstrong said he was smitten.
“I love to kid, love to joke. She was joking, too, and beating me at my own game,” he said. “So I thought to myself I’ve got to see this woman some more, talk to her some more.”
Winter turned into spring, spring into summer, with Garrett, 73, and Armstrong, 84, growing closer. It was clear to both something was there, but neither was ready to come out and say it.
“In August, I said to myself if this man does not ask me out pretty soon I’m going to have to ask him,” Garrett said.
Armstrong mustered the courage to ask Garrett out, and it quickly became clear they had something special.
“We get along so well,” Armstrong said. “We’re on the same wavelength. We kid each other a lot. We laugh all the time.”
In the fall they took trips to visit both of their families. With the blessings of each, Armstrong and Garrett began thinking about marriage.
“We were planning to go to Las Vegas to get married,” Armstrong said. “And we thought it might be nice to have the reception here at Olive Branch. Well, they asked us, ‘Why don’t you get married here?’”
Garrett said she loved the idea and planning began in earnest. She said she could not think of a more appropriate place to tie the knot.
“I’ve been volunteering here almost four years now, and the people here are so wonderful,” she said. “We’ve had so many people congratulate us, tell us they love us, say how happy they are we’re getting married. They’re such sweethearts, we thought they should share in the wedding.”
Garrett and Armstrong were married Sunday afternoon, in front of about 125 friends and family, many of them Olive Branch staff and volunteers. Pauline Miller, a volunteer at Olive Branch who has known Garrett for more than a decade, helped out with part of the wedding preparations. She said everyone there has been happy to pitch in.
“We’re all excited about it,” she said. “We’re watching two of our own get married. Everyone feels like we played a part in their relationship.”
Armstrong said he is still amazed at how happy everyone around them has been.
“We thought we were just getting married like anyone else, but I think we’ve gotten more attention than some movie stars get.”
Jeff Dempsey may be reached at 623-876-2531 or firstname.lastname@example.org.