RIGHT TIME RIGHT PLACE: They caught up several years after high school

Jeanne Burns Ford and David Meek on their wedding day, April 10, 2015
Jeanne Burns Ford and David Meek on their wedding day, April 10, 2015

Jeanne Burns Ford didn't talk to David Meek at all in high school. She thought he was a snob.

"He wasn't. He was shy, but I didn't know that then," she says.

They ran in the same circles at their high school in Hot Springs in the 1980s, though, and their fathers knew each other -- his was a general surgeon and hers was a hospital administrator.

After graduation in 1985, David went to Centenary College in Shreveport, La. Jeanne graduated a year later and went to the University of Central Arkansas in Conway.

Fifteen years passed before they bumped into each other in a Little Rock hospital. Jeanne was a nurse then, and David was in pharmaceutical sales.

"We talked about trying to have lunch together but I worked nights and he had a normal life and so it just never happened," Jeanne says.

She had been divorced for 18 years by 2013, when a social media post from David set off alarm bells.

"He was in the middle of a divorce and he put this big rant on Facebook," she says. "I posted a comment that said, 'Hey David, sounds like you could use a friend. If you ever want to have coffee here's my number.'"

He took her up on it.

"I said, 'That post is not going to do you any favors. I know you're upset but you need to take it down,'" she says.

David was surprised.

"That was the first time that I would describe Jeanne as being beautifully disruptive," he says.

He deleted the post then and there.

Her advice to him as he re-entered the dating world included not going to Cajun's Wharf, deeming it not a place to meet someone for a long-term relationship.

She invited him to listen to a band at The Afterthought and introduced him to some of her guy friends, with instructions to help him ease into the social scene following his divorce.

Jeanne was packing for a move to Florida. She had dreamed of living on the beach and the time seemed right. Her friends were throwing a going-away party for her at Cajun's and she asked him to come.

"He texted back, 'I thought I wasn't supposed to go to Cajun's,'" she says.

The party was on a hot August night, and the place was packed.

"I had kind of fallen for her at that point, but I knew she was leaving," David says. "I ended up leaving the party and not saying goodbye."

Jeanne's new job in Florida was not all she hoped, and five months in she was homesick, missing her sons, and struggling with whether to go or stay.

David texted a picture of a box of Cocoa Puffs with the words, "Dinner. How are you doing?" and she responded with a picture of a package of Oreos, and the words, "Dinner. I'm miserable."

"Immediately my phone rang and he said, 'Hey, what's going on?'" she says. "I heard home. I mean, I heard Hot Springs-Arkansas-home, kindergarten at Second Methodist Church, with the big picture of Jesus, with Ms. Fullenwider."

Once she made her decision to go, David flew down to help her move back. They visited the National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, Fla., and watched the Blue Angels fly before a last trip to the beach for some sun.

On the drive back the next day, they played truth or dare.

"I learned so much about David Meek," she says. "I think he learned a lot about me, too."

At one point, she was exhausted and needed to lie down.

"He had rested his arm on my shoulder and I don't know why or how but all of a sudden I was holding his hand," she says.

Jeanne told David she needed a time to settle in. On the fourth day, she let him know she didn't hold hands with platonic friends.

"I said, 'OK. Do you want to go on a date?'" David says.

They went to dinner and a movie, and she started going with him daily to Hot Springs to visit his father, who was dying of pancreatic cancer.

"We still hadn't kissed but we would hold hands," she says.

That Christmas, after dinner with her family, they went back to his place. He handed her a Sissy's Log Cabin gift bag and an envelope.

"He took the box out of the Sissy's bag and he got down on one knee and he said, 'Will you marry me?'" Jeanne says. "It was the most beautiful diamond ring I had ever laid eyes on."

They were married on April 10, 2015, at Alda's Magnolia Hill, followed by a family dinner at Arthur's Prime Steakhouse.

Jeanne supported David after the death of his father and again after his son, Brooks, died in a car accident. He, in turn, has mentored Brooks' friends through crises with drugs and alcohol.

"We both realize that there are no big deals," Jeanne says. "God turns all things to the good. There is a sadness but there is also hope and purpose. I waited my whole life for a love like this and it came at just the right time."

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The first time I saw my future spouse:

She says: "We ran in the same circles. My guy friends would say, 'Jeanne, give me a hug! And David would just kind of stand there with his hands in his pockets."

He says: "I thought she was too pretty for me, and she was always dating someone else. She was a Miss Teen Arkansas."

On our wedding day:

She says: "I just felt so much love and I felt so grateful that I was able to really let go and let God do what he had done."

He says: "My son forgot the rings. I was living in Maumelle at the time and we had to go back across the bridge and get them and it was a parking lot. It was about 30 minutes. I was like, 'Well, Im going to be there when I get there."

My advice for a long happy marriage:

She says: "Treat every day like a honeymoon day."

He says: "The thing that will bring a marriage down is 1,000 small cuts, so be careful with your words. They can build or they can tear. Choose to have a positive attitude toward your spouse and think of things that you really love one another for."


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