A perfect Valentine’s Day to some might mean a box of chocolates and a card to express love and admiration, but a perfect day for Don and Cathy Selph of Franklin just means saying “I love you.”
The one time Don sent flowers to Cathy’s place of work, she ended up writing a check to pay for them.
“Ever since we’ve been married, we’ve had a joint bank account, and she does the books,” Don said.
She saw how much the flowers cost and put a stop to that tradition.
“When I had to write the check for the flowers, I told him, ‘Don’t buy me roses,’” Cathy said.
Cathy said she and Don don’t like expensive things.
“I’ll tell him, ‘I do not want you to spend the money to get me a valentine. All you have to do is tell me you love me,’” she said.
The Selphs met while they were living in Florida, where they both grew up.
“We met while we were both showing cattle. He was in FFA in Hamilton County, and I was in 4-H in Suwannee County. They were neighboring counties, so when we had our fair, it was a tri-county fair,” Cathy said.
Cathy saw Don at the fair after he had been in a fight.
“I had a fat lip and a black eye,” Don said.
In spite of that, Cathy said she thought Don was attractive.
“He was so good looking and tall and thin,” she said.
Cathy wasn’t allowed to date until she was 16, and Don was the first guy who asked her out.
“My dad was the chairman of the youth part of the county fair, so he knew all of the kids,” she said. “We were at the fair [the year I turned 16]. Don asked me out, and I went and told my dad who asked me out, and he said, ‘You’re not going out with him until he gets a haircut.’”
Don had long hair then, and when he showed up on Friday night to pick up Cathy, he had short hair.
On their first date, the couple went to a drive-in movie and stopped at an A&W restaurant for a drink. That date sparked a romance that is still going strong 42 years later.
“It seems like the first time we met, we started talking about getting married,” Don said. “I gave her a pre-engagement ring on Oct. 31, two years before we got married.”
After Don and Cathy met, he dated other girls but kept going back to his future wife.
“She was just right. I had dated other girls, but it just felt like I loved her from the first time I saw her,” Don said.
Cathy said she and Don both had an 11 o’clock curfew while they were dating, and things were “just different” back then.
“If I called him, it was a long-distance telephone call, so we were only allowed to call each other once a week,” she said. “I could go out on Friday or Saturday night, but not both; then we could go out on Sunday evening.”
Don and Cathy would spend time together on Sunday afternoons and usually go on a date that evening.
“If we went to church, we could go out afterward,” she said.
After a little more that two years of dating, it was time for Don to pop the question, but Cathy’s mother told her she had to graduate from high school before she could get married.
“I was scared to death of her daddy,” Don said. “I did not want to ask him permission to marry her. There wasn’t a mean bone in his body, but I just couldn’t ask him, so I asked her momma.”
Don got the approval he needed, and the Selphs were married on July 9, 1971. The family moved to Arkansas in 1985 and built a log cabin. The couple have four children.
The key to staying together for 42 years? Communication and Christ.
“Keep God first in your life; that’s the main thing,” Don said. “Don’t keep any secrets because they’ll find out if you [have them]. You better share what you know with one another.”
Both Don’s and Cathy’s parents had longtime marriages, and they served as role models for Don and Cathy.
“A lot of it is also picking the right partner,” Don said. “You have to be dedicated to one another, and you have to want to make it work. That’s what causes so many break-ups. Couples want to go in a different direction rather than making it work.”