TIFTON -- Opal Young has fond memories of the Tift Theatre. After all, that's where she first met her husband of about 40 years.

In 1938, a 23-year-old Tift County woman went to the theatre with friends, never dreaming that along with that night's entertainment she would find lasting love with one of the theatre's employees, Earl, a ticket-taker. Young remembers that the men were dressed up in uniforms, monkey suits she calls them.

Although Young, 85, doesn't remember much about the night she met her husband, she does remember attending a dance with him a few days later. It was at the dance where she told a friend that she would marry Earl Young. Of course, she added, he didn't hear that.

"He might have run," Young said, laughing.

And marry him she did. But living happily ever after together would have to wait. After being married for about two years, Young's husband was drafted into the army to help fight in World War II.

"He was drafted right after the first of the year," Young said. He was headed to England.

While her husband was overseas, she moved in with his parents in Mobile, Ala, where she worked at the Base Exchange.

The couple would eventually have a child - between wars, of course.

"I was 36 years old," Young said. "We'd been married 13 years before we had a baby."

War again took her husband who had decided to make the military a career. Only this time, the wars were in Korea and Vietnam.

Because of his constant travel, the family rarely saw each other. Young raised their daughter while her husband continued to defend America.

"He went so many places, I don't really know how many years we were together," Young said wistfully. "We weren't married 50 years."

He finally retired from military service in 1967 and in 1977, he died from an aneurysm. They had been married for about 40 years. She hung an American flag on her porch. And over the years, if she heard about an organization selling bricks or other memorabilia, she'd buy one in memory of her husband.

When Young read in The Tifton Gazette that the Tift Theatre was holding a fundraiser for a new piano, she knew she just had to buy a key in honor of her deceased husband. After all, she loved and missed him, and the $250 was a small price to pay for the happiness she'd had.

Besides, she said, "Every time I go by there, I think of him."

To contact reporter Marie Arrington, call 382-4321, ext. 206.

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