They gathered in a private room at the Atlanta Grill over plates of halibut and salmon and, for more than three hours, talked and laughed and talked.
After 50 years of friendship and 150 years of marriage between them, the conversation flowed like run-on sentences.
That’s how it is whenever John and Vivian Ingersoll gather with friends Lawrence and Marva Carter and Alvin and Lydia Foster, and it’s what kept them close all these years.
Listening to them reminisce, you see them as they once were, 20-something graduate students steering toward futures together and apart.
Their lives collided gently on the campus of Boston University in the summer of 1969, when they each married within two weeks of one another.
The Ingersolls tied the knot first, after meeting the year before at Spelman College.
John Ingersoll, a starry-eyed white guy from Arizona, was a history professor and freshman adviser at the all-women’s school, and Vivian, the daughter of a North Carolina college professor, had just returned from Germany, where she earned a master’s degree in German.
It was 1968, a terrible year, Vivian recalled. The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in Memphis, then Robert Kennedy was gunned down in Los Angeles. The country was in mourning.
Vivian and John worked in the same building. She shared a first-floor office with one of John’s friends, and he worked upstairs in an office next to the Coke machine.
John said she was very loquacious, and often came down to visit his friend.
“We became buddies,” Vivian said. “That was odd because I was a black woman and they were white men.”
Pretty soon, Vivian was taking more and more Coke breaks.
On March 7, 1969, with some urging from his friend, John asked her out, Vivian obliged and before you knew it, they were an item.
“She was gorgeous, really smart and sophisticated,” John said recently. “She was fluent in German. She could speak French and a little Italian. Her students loved her. I never dreamed we’d be romantically involved. It was the age of black power. It didn’t seem feasible.”
Less than four months later on June 21, the two were married at high noon in the chapel at Johnson C. Smith University, where her father, Coleman DuPont Rippy, taught sociology.
Hundreds of miles away the very next day on June 22 that year, Lawrence Carter and Marva Griffin were married in a double ceremony that included Marva’s younger sister, Gaynelle, at the New Hope Baptist Church in Waco, Texas, where the sisters’ father was pastor.
Two years earlier, the Carters had met on a blind date in Boston, where Marva was a senior at the Boston Conservatory of Music and Lawrence was enrolled at Boston University School of Theology.
That October Sunday, Marva sported an orange wool suit, beige heels and a short Afro, the one thing Lawrence was sure would be a deal breaker.
“I’d told my roommate that if she had a teeny-weeny Afro, it wouldn’t work, but the moment she bounced down the stairs into the lobby, I was drunk with confirmation I’d found her,” Lawrence Carter said. “She had this magnificent smile and warmth. It was like cupid shot a golden arrow right through my heart.”
They set out walking, stopping in the middle of the Massachusetts Avenue Bridge with MIT in full view and Beacon Hill at the end of the river, and where Lawrence Carter shared his dreams for the future and the life he hoped to create for the two of them.
“I was smiling the entire time,” he remembered. “I felt like I was a foot off the ground, floating.”
Lawrence Carter was so convinced she was the one, he told himself if it didn’t work out, he’d have to take his romance out of God’s hands.
It almost didn’t. During a visit to Texas to meet Marva’s parents, he decided the time was right to tell them he intended to marry Marva.
“Their faces became a bowl of crushed ice,” he recalled. Marva’s father began to ask him a series of questions. Do you have a job? Do you have an apartment? Do you have a savings account? Do you have a car?
Lawrence replied “no” to each.
“Even in the Bible, they offered some goats, sheep or something,” her mother responded.
Lawrence Carter was crestfallen but determined.
He graduated in May, and on Sept. 23, 1968, at exactly 5:30 p.m., the moment he was born in Dawson, Georgia, he asked Marva’s hand in marriage.
After the ceremony that June day, they moved into a campus apartment, next door to where the Ingersolls would move after a monthlong honeymoon.
Two weeks later on July 5, unbeknownst to either couple, the Fosters would marry, too.
They met, the story goes, one night in 1967 at a nightclub in Cincinnati, where Lydia, a recent graduate of Southern University, was enrolled in a dietetic internship at Good Samaritan Hospital and Alvin, then a graduate student at Xavier University in Ohio, was working as an insurance salesman.
From the moment he laid eyes on her, he was drawn to her — the way she looked but more importantly by her sense of self.
They became quick friends, and after nearly two years, Alvin popped the question.
They were married in Cincinnati and the next day piled into Alvin’s 1966 gray Mustang and moved to Boston, just blocks away from the Carters and Ingersolls and where Alvin began work on a doctorate at Boston University.
How was it that the stars would align to bring them all together?
Come back Thursday and I’ll tell you what happened next.
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