Wilburn and Hazel Williamson of Lilburn loved to tell folks they had been married for 70 1/2 years. Those extra six months were too important to leave out. So too were the hand-holding and kisses.
But daughter Sandra W. Cline, also of Lilburn, said it was a miracle the marriage ever took place.
She said shortly after the two started dating in 1935, her father took a job transfer from their hometown in Charlotte across the country to San Francisco. Mr. Williamson had been a teletype technician with the Associated Press since graduating from high school in 1929.
While they corresponded throughout those tough Depression years, face-to-face visits were rare, said Mrs. Cline.
“Once he wrote her and said he was coming home for a visit and wanted to see her,” Mrs. Cline said. “Well, she waited and waited and waited. A whole week went by. He finally called and she said, ‘I’m sorry, I don’t have time to see you.’ What she didn’t realize was that he was kept busy visiting all of his family.”
Mr. Williamson’s persistence in maintaining the long-distance relationship finally paid off.
They were engaged in December 1938. Then in April, Mrs. Williamson, not wanting to marry in North Carolina and spend her honeymoon on the train to California, packed up, moved to San Francisco and the two married right after the morning services at Calvary Presbyterian Church. “The whole congregation stayed for the ceremony,” Mrs. Cline said.
“He was always so affectionate, always holding her hand and surprising her with a kiss,” Mrs. Cline said. "My mother always told people the secret to a long marriage was never go to bed upset or angry at each other, to kiss before you go to bed. And if something is said in anger, just don’t take it personally."
Mr. Williamson, 97, died Dec. 22 at Sunrise at Five Forks Assisted Living in Lilburn of congested heart failure. A memorial service is scheduled Tuesday at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Snellville at 11 a.m. A family graveside service will follow at Eternal Hills Memorial Gardens at 2 p.m. Tom Wages Funeral Service LLC in Snellville is in charge of arrangements.
Mr. Williamson retired from AP in 1974, spending the last 28 years of his career in the Atlanta Bureau, said his son, Wilburn O. Williamson of Hiram. Mr. Williamson started when news traveled by ticker tape and retired just as the news operation was becoming computerized, said his son. His job was to go wherever the wire service machines needed repairs and on occasion, he would take his son along on one of those trips.
While he loved his job, Mr. Williamson was a family man at heart, said his children. Family vacations were a priority and he and Hazel traveled extensively following his retirement.
Gardening was another love. He was always pruning, mowing, clipping and planting, Mrs. Cline said. She said the family had to hide his hedge clippers this year because even though the 97-year-old was beginning to lose his balance, he couldn’t resist working in his yard.
Mr. Williamson also was devoted to his church and the Masonic Lodge. He was a long-time elder and Sunday school teacher with the Presbyterian church, his son said. The Williamsons were members of Westminster Presbyterian Church in Snellville. As a Mason, he was a Past Master of Daylite Lodge 125 F&AM and a member of the Mountain Park Lodge 729 F&AM.
Mr. Williamson rarely missed a lodge meeting, said his daughter. Long-time Masonic friend Jim Noe said Mr. Williamson loved the lodge and enjoyed participating in a Secret Santa program providing Christmas presents for children and widows.
Other survivors include his wife, Hazel C. Williamson of Lilburn, and sister, Ruth Moore of Rock Hill, S.C.
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