By Tia Lynn Lecorchick STAFF WRITER
Madison Mayor Fred Perriman, president and co-founder of the Morgan County African American Museum, came to this newspaper with the idea of choosing four married couples in the community to be spotlighted during Black History Month in February.
Henry Veasley, 76, and Katherine Veasley, 74, have been married for 58 years, raising their family here in Morgan County. The Veasleys met at the old Morgan County High School, Pearl Street High School in Madison, and married before Katherine finished, when she was just 16-years-old.
Henry took notice of Katherine while she was playing basketball and the two became fast friends. His persistence soon won Katherine’s heart. “It was his consistency of bothering me,” laughed Katherine. “At that time, I didn’t know what love was, but believe you me, I learned after what love was and what love isn’t.”
“Back in those days, a good woman was hard to come by and I knew she was good,” said Henry.
After they married, The Veasleys worked numerous jobs around Morgan County. Henry worked for 31 years at the Madison post office and Katherine worked for 33 years as a pre-school teacher for the Head Start program.
The couple has two sons and one daughter. Their daughter, Erica Veasley serves on the Board of Education in Morgan County. “To see our daughter sit on that board makes us proud, especially since blacks couldn’t always do such a thing,” said Katherine.
“More African-Americans are being elected here in Morgan County. There has been a lot of improvement made in that area, because that hasn’t always been the case. We’re still not quite there, but we’re headed in the right direction.”
Although the Veasleys lived through segregation and the Jim Crow era in the south, they found ways to shield themselves from discrimination and avoid the oppressive treatment so many African-Americans regularly endured.
“We both had large families and lived on farms. We were big on cooking and doing things at home with our family and friends,” explained Katherine.
“We had it better than a lot of people.” “I just worked hard and made happy memories with family,” said Henry. But the Veasleys heard stories about the harsh treatment and discrimination experienced by so many in their community.
“I would hear my mother and grandmother talk about it. But they always told me, “You are blessed, you are something, you are just as good as anybody else,” Katherine recalled. “We knew who we really were.”
“It was not a good thing to hear about how others were treated, knowing this was going on all over the place,” said Katherine.
“But to see how far Madison has come since those days is just amazing. It’s a big change with the election of our mayor, that never would have happened back then. We are real proud of our mayor.”
As the Veasleys have spent over half a century being married, they learned their share of life lessons. “It was love, mercy and the grace of God that has kept us together all these years,” said Katherine.
“We stuck with each other. We worked and took the best care of our family that we could and trusted in the Lord.” “We put God and our family first,” said Henry.
“I was a dedicated worker, very supportive of my family all through the years.” The Veasleys hope to impart the wisdom they have learned over the years to young people today about marriage.
“I would tell them to love God and get to know themselves first, to find out who they are first. You need to know yourself and get an education. You also have to know what true love is: taking care of each other and respecting each other. You love a person not because of how they look or talk or what they wear, but you have to love others as you love yourself. Don’t do anything to others that you wouldn’t have them do to do,” said Katherine.
“I think it is most important to be dedicated to your family and committed to your job, to work hard and save your money. You have to be responsible to make a marriage work,” said Henry.
“You are going to have problems in life, you have to learn to deal with it and work with each other and work the problems out and stick together and forsake all others,” added Katherine. “Also, the family that prays together, stays together. I tell young people all the time, that’s the secret to life.