Thelma G. Driskell, 85, and her husband, David C. Driskell, 84, have been married for 64 years. (Matt McClain/The Washington Post)

David and Thelma Driskell celebrated their 64th wedding anniversary in January. David, 84, is a retired art professor and former chair of the art department at the University of Maryland, and Thelma, 85, is a homemaker. They live in Hyattsville.

Do you remember when you first met?

David: We were introduced to each other by my roommate, who was dating her sister at the time. This was in the early fall of 1951.

Thelma: He came to my house. He didn’t live very far from us.

Was there immediate chemistry between you?

Thelma: [Laughs.] I don’t think so. He was a student, and I wasn’t much interested.

David: She was working full time. I think we were attracted to each other, but it was kind of wait and see. About a week later I came back to visit, and we kind of struck it off after that.

Where did you go on your first date?

David: We went with her aunt to Richmond, Virginia, to a gospel concert. The Harmonizing Four, Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Madam Marie Knight at the big public auditorium called the Mosque, in Richmond.

How long was it before you thought it might be something more serious?

David: This was fall of 1951, and we got married in January of 1952.


Thelma: Yes, dating was different back then than it is now.

David: I was 20 at the time, and she was 21. But in the District in those days you had to have your parents’ consent if you weren’t 21. So I had to go home to North Carolina to get my parents’ approval. I took the bus down, and I took her picture with me to get their approval. [Laughs.]

Why do you think your marriage has worked?

David: I think for us it wasn’t just this romance. It was responsibility and dedication to each other and each other’s goals and objectives. And the notion that the family would be the central part of the marriage. And that meant sacrifices of various kinds. She wouldn’t be able to have some of the things she wanted, and I wouldn’t be able to do some of the things that I wanted to do.

Thelma: The most important thing is to trust each other. We didn’t have very much, so we worked together. And we had to sacrifice. I had to learn to do a lot of cooking, preserving, canning, sewing.

David: When the children came along, she would make the children’s clothes. We never bought any new furniture.

Thelma: We weren’t fancy.

What’s the best thing about your husband?

Thelma: Oh, that’s a question. I think it’s the way he carries himself in teaching. I think he has belief in me and what I do. I trust that. He is also good in helping out in the kitchen, especially with the meals. And he’s been good at giving me advice when I ask.

And your wife?

David: It isn’t something that’s big and looming and grand so much as that she believes in me. That she took the chance to listen to what I felt my calling was and trusted in that. She didn’t tell me what she thought I ought to be doing instead. She was right there with me.

Is there anything you’d like to change about your husband?

Thelma: Oh, no, I don’t think so.

And what about your wife, Dr. Driskell?

David: I think she has the qualities that I really desired and was looking for. We’ve been able to sustain the things that we wanted over the years.

If I don’t ask this, people will get mad. What’s the best advice you can give to newlyweds?

Thelma: I would say, first of all, you have to trust each other. If you don’t have trust, I don’t think you’re going to make it. And love grows. It doesn’t just all come at one moment. You have to study each other. And the longer you’re with each other, the more love you have for each other.

David: And love has so many facets. But respect and responsibility are two of the most important. You have to have the respect of your partner and responsibility to that person. Regardless of what happens, those two things are pivotal.

I can see why this has lasted 64 years.

David: There’s a lot of give and take, not this notion that it’s perfect every day.

Thelma: We don’t seem to have any problems. We can explain to each other what we want to do, what we’re trying to do. We communicate first. We don’t just jump out and do things.

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