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Double date breaks the ice for 50-year marriage

by Kimberly Dishongh | September 26, 2021 at 2:44 a.m.

John Rees realized soon after he met Debbie Brasher that if he wanted to see her he had to get his bid in early.

John and Debbie were set up on a blind date by John's roommate, who was dating a friend of Debbie's from Bible study while they were all students at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville in 1970.

John remembers the moment he first saw Debbie as she came down the stairs of her dorm to pick her up at Fulbright Hall, then the freshman dorm on the campus.

Debbie remembers it, too.

"I just remember walking down the stairs in the main foyer and he was just standing down there. I can remember exactly how he was standing," Debbie says. "I hadn't met him yet -- it was a blind date. I thought he was the cutest thing ever."

John, who was a receiver for the Arkansas Razorbacks, hadn't been on many blind dates.

"We didn't have a lot of time, playing football, to socialize," he says. "We would see girls in class and things, but this was a setup and he thought she would be a really great girl for me to meet."

Debbie wore a short brown and white dress, he says. She's tall, he says, and she had a really nice tan and hair that fell below her shoulders.

"I just loved everything about the way she looked, and I knew she was a Christian, so that made a lot of difference because I was wanting to start dating someone who was more like me," he says.

As they walked out to the parking lot together, Debbie noticed a car she hoped was John's.

"I saw this red Mercury with a white vinyl top," she says. "I remember thinking, 'That's got to be his.'"

Their first date was to a Fellowship of Christian Athletes meeting.

"We had a great time that night," he says. "She had a great heart and she would laugh at my jokes, and we had the same viewpoints about things."

He called her early in the week, on a Sunday or Monday, and ask her for a date the following Friday. Later in the week he would call her again and ask if she could go out on Saturday as well, but she often had committed to a date with someone else by then.

"I didn't want to wear out my welcome. I knew that we sometimes had other things to do," Rees says. "But after she was busy the next few weeks I determined this wasn't working. I learned pretty quickly that I better go ahead and ask her on the front end for both nights."

Several of their earliest dates were doubles with his roommate and her friend. When Debbie's friend decided she didn't want to date John's roommate anymore, Debbie and John started going out on their own.

"That's when we decided, no, we're just going to date each other, and we don't care what they're doing," Debbie says.

There were functions for athletes and sometimes they would go out after his football games. They got burgers at Minute Man, and after she pledged Pi Beta Phi, they went to her sorority events.

"Our times at the university were so fun because we would go out with his friends, who became my friends, and their girlfriends, who became my best friends," she says.

He proposed late one evening in the basement of the Pi Phi house.

"The ring was my aunt's. She gave me her ring and I used that as an engagement ring and I was excited to give it to Debbie," he says.

John's friend had accompanied him to the sorority house and was talking with some of Debbie's friends, and John asked Debbie to go into another room with him.

"I just couldn't wait to do it, to propose to her and hoped she would say yes," he says.

She did say yes, of course. John's friend had alerted everyone to what was happening.

"We went out and everybody was down there jumping around and all of the Pi Phi House, we were all just celebrating and it was just fun," she says.

They were married on June 26, 1971, in First Baptist Church in Dallas.

They moved into an apartment as newlyweds and continued college. John trained with the Pittsburgh Steelers but decided he would rather be back home with Debbie than on the professional sports circuit.

After graduation, John and Debbie moved to Dallas, where he got started in real estate. They moved to Little Rock a few years later. John started his own company, Rees Commercial, in the early 1980s.

They have four children -- Amy White, Lauri Field, John Aaron Rees and Pamela Wight. They also have 13 grandchildren, and a 14th grandchild is expected in December.

"She's the heart of our family," John says of his wife. "We've got four great kids who all love the Lord and we've got great grandkids and they're all strong believers and we think that makes all the difference in the world."

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The first time I saw my future spouse:

She says: “I thought he was so cute.”

He says: “It was a blind date, so I had never seen her before. I was extremely excited that she was as pretty as she was.”

On our wedding day:

She says: “I remember my daddy saying, as we were standing at the back of the church, ‘Now, Debbie, this is it. If you aren’t sure, you better tell me right now.’ And I said, ‘Daddy, I am so sure.’”

He says: “I was excited to know that she was going to be my future companion. I was pretty nervous that day.”

My advice for a long happy marriage:

She says: “Our life and our marriage really is centered on our relationship with the Lord. Find something that you do that you enjoy doing together. Have a good sense of humor. And be ready to forgive and let it go.”

He says: “Bring the Lord in and make him a part of your life and her life and let him be the center of the relationship. Be loving to her; be understanding.”

Print Headline: Double date breaks the ice for 50-year marriage


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