NC judge, SC mayor rekindle 38-year relationship

Published 12:00 am Monday, February 18, 2013

GASTONIA (AP) — Jesse Caldwell’s eyes sparkle when he talks about the love of his life.
The Superior Court judge relishes his professionalism and devotion to community service, but when sitting next to his fiancée, he resembles a love-struck teenager.
Jesse proposed to his future wife in late December.
They plan to tie the knot next month. But despite the short engagement, the couple has a relationship that spans nearly four decades.
Jesse met Minnie in the 1970s. Minnie was a friend of Caldwell’s secretary.
They were both young professionals — he an attorney, she a sales manager.
Jesse said Minnie was a popular girl about town. They enjoyed each other’s company, but neither was ready to be tied down.
“We were on different paths,” she said.
Still, they made memories and formed a lasting bond.
“We just hit if off,” he said.

In his spare time, Jesse enjoyed acting. He remembers his role in “Play It Again, Sam.”
Minnie came to one of the performances. Always with an affinity for drama, Jesse ended the show by grabbing a rose, leaping over some seats and presenting a rose to Minnie.
Jesse would resurrect that flamboyant gesture some 30 years later.
Minnie eventually took a job in Charleston, S.C.
The two kept in touch — sending Christmas cards, birth announcements and notes about special life events.
“We’ve never lost our friendship for each other or our respect for each other,” Minnie said.
Each got married, had children.
Minnie Boose became Minnie Newman Blackwell.
She went to school and became a teacher and ultimately worked her way into school administration.
He was elected a Superior Court judge.
She was elected mayor of Hanahan, S.C.
There were divorces. Loved ones passed away.
During a surgery, Minnie lost her eyesight. She calls the terrifying time the most life-altering experience she’s had. Her eyesight has since been restored.
Through it all, they kept in touch.
Minnie lived alone just outside of Charleston when she got a call from Jesse in 2008. His son, Jesse IV, planned to move to the area and needed help finding a place to live.
Minnie checked around and found a spot next door. She knew Jesse’s kids as they grew up. She willingly parented the young man when he moved in, and started seeing more of Jesse during visits.
Maybe it was the more frequent contact. Perhaps it was just timing. But everything fell into place. The two started dating.
Jesse turned on the charm.

Since they rekindled their relationship, Jesse has proposed three times.
“I have never had anyone so persistent in a relationship,” Minnie said.
She declined the first time, saying the timing wasn’t right. Minnie answered by saying they still had a little more work to do in the relationship.
Jesse wouldn’t be denied the third time around. Dressed in a tie and tails, he proposed to Minnie in front of a crowd in an upscale Charleston restaurant.
Jesse’s antics were met with applause — and a yes.
Judge Jesse and Mayor Minnie (as they’re often called) make the rounds in both cities – Gastonia and Hanahan.
They alternate weekends making the trip.
Each time Jesse sees his fiancée, he greets her with a card and a red rose.
When they’re apart, the lines of communication remain wide open.
Jesse writes Minnie every day — not a text or email, an actual letter or card.
They talk each morning and every night, with texts peppered in intermittently.
Neither expects the relationship to change once they’ve exchanged vows.
Minnie has two years left in her term as mayor. Each has an active career and volunteer commitments.
They plan to keep both households, and they don’t see it as a negative.
“We’re going to share the best of both worlds,” Jesse said.
The couple plans a small family wedding in Gastonia with celebrations in both cities.
The honeymoon will have to wait.
Jesse and Minnie jump at the chance to talk about their 38-year relationship. They pull memories from their minds with bins and binders full of photos and mementoes to back it up.
They hold hands, and even have a story to tell about the engagement ring — a sparkling diamond sandwiched between two emeralds.
Jesse’s birthstone, the emeralds symbolize him embracing his beloved.
The wedding ring also has symbolism. It will have the birthstones of both of their mothers and all of their children.
Jesse and Minnie pledge a commitment to family, church and community. They say that priority system paired with honor and devotion for each other has tied the two together all these years.
Jesse said their unusual love story should encourage anyone looking for love.
“Don’t give up hope,” he said. “We waited 38 years. People should never give up hope for love.”