When Bertha Lacks stood in a pastor’s parsonage on Feb. 14, 1946, and told her husband, William Randolph Womack, that she takes him to be her husband till death do they part, she meant it.
They have faced the test of time, trials and tribulations of life, death and sorrow, and still their love remains strong 74 years later.
It was just a coincidence that the couple wed on Valentine’s Day.
“It just kind of fell on that day,” said Bertha.
The two had been dating for three years ever since the two met while walking the streets of South Boston.
Bertha had already met his two sisters, and one day, they were walking down the street when William stopped by with a package for his siblings.
Later Bertha found out that he told his sister, “I like that girl. I’m going to marry her.”
The feeling was mutual.
“I liked him too. I thought he was sweet to be bringing his sisters their clothes, and it turned out he was,” said Bertha.
The two spent the next three years enjoying each other’s company the way most teenagers do – going to the movies, going bowling, riding the countryside and often stopping at Thomas’ in Riverdale.
“I wanted to make sure I knew him. I think everyone needs to really get to know the person more than the first appearance,” said Bertha.
“I was just a shy, country girl… but we hit it off.”
They learned what each other was like, and she said he was good to her, “a real gentlemen.”
Over time, they discussed the topic of marriage, and one evening Bertha kept noticing William fumbling around in his pocket.
She knew what was coming Eventually he pulled out a little box and said, “We’re going to get married.”
I said, “Oh yeah… well, put it on my finger.”
His aunt helped them arrange their big day in Danville.
Bertha stood in front of William in a two-piece pants suit as they said their “I dos.”
After she became his bride, his aunt served them a big dinner, and decorated their car with cans before parading them around town.
The two went on to live with his parents while they immediately began to build their home in Vernon Hill.
“We did it all by ourselves,” said Bertha.
Over the years, the two farmed, and Bertha worked on and off at different factories.
But she was always a mother, wife and homemaker first and foremost with William and their four children, Gale, Brenda, Bill and Allen.
William eventually became sick and bedridden, but Bertha has stood by him.
“I’m still holding his hand at night,” said Bertha.
Even though William isn’t able to tell her he loves her every day, Bertha knows he does.
“I can see it in his eyes,” said Bertha. “Be honest with your partner, and trust each other. You have to tell your partner you love him every day. Even if they don’t tell you, we all want to feel love. The way he looks at me with those pretty blue eyes, I know he loves me too.”