Valentine’s Day and a 1984 general delivery letter, posted on the off chance it would reach its intended recipient, loom large in the story of Burleson husband and wife Johnny and Sandra Green.
An earlier chance meeting and shared acquaintances also played a role in the couple’s meeting and subsequent journey into love and marriage.
“I don’t know what you think about getting letters from people you don’t know very well, but I thought that it wouldn’t hurt to write and see,” Johnny Green wrote to then-Sandra Hodges in a Feb. 6, 1984, letter.
The couple first met in 1983 during a singles retreat at Pettijohn Springs Christian Camp in Madill, Okla.
“I was 23 at the time and lived in Lexington, Okla., but taught fifth grade in a small town — Paoli, Okla.,” Sandra Green said. “I was dating another guy at the time and we thought about getting married, but it didn’t work out and we broke up.”
Around that same time, Sandra Green said she befriended and “hung out” with Susie Harrison. The two also prayed for guidance concerning the challenges in their lives, she said.
“I wanted to get married and have a family,” she said. “So I prayed to God to help me figure out the situation with this other guy, or to have the courage to move on. Susie’s prayer was to help her decide whether to go to seminary or not.”
Both, seeking a change of pace, went to Pettijohn Springs in May that same year, a retreat filled with, “people from 18 to old ladies,” as Sandra Green describes it.
“Eight of us went,” she said. “I remember it was rainy, yucky and wet the whole time. But, we all liked sports so we were out in the rain playing volleyball and softball.”
Johnny Green, 22, an Oklahoma State University graduate from Okemah, Okla., was also attending the retreat.
Both being interested in sports, Johnny and Sandra met naturally enough, though it wasn’t love at first sight and neither harbored the slightest inkling they would soon be husband and wife.
“At that point I was kind of interested in another guy there, and he liked another one of the girls at the camp,” Sandra Green said.
Sandra’s last name caught Johnny’s attention though and he told her he knew a Tom and Betha Hodges back home.
“Well, they’re my aunt and uncle,” Sandra Green said.
The two briefly discussed the happy coincidence, small world, etcetera, but that was as far as the conversation went.
“After [the retreat] we didn’t see each other for nine months,” Sandra Green said. “But he did mention me to Aunt Betha next time he saw her and she bragged on me, how I can cook and sew and all.”
Johnny Green, working as an engineer for the USDA at the time, moved from Duncan to Davis, Okla., about seven months after he first met Sandra Hodges.
“Duncan had a big singles group at his church,” Sandra Green said. “When work moved him to Davis, there was one other single person there, so he was unhappy.”
Sandra Green said she was drifting, too, about that time.
“It was around January of 1984, the girl I mentioned earlier and I were praying about our problems, what to do and all,” Sandra Green said. “My mom and the ladies at my church were praying for me.”
About that same time, Johnny Green remembered meeting Sandra and decided to contact her. He knew she lived in Lexington, but didn’t know her address or phone number.
“If that happened now everyone would have all the cellphones, Twitter and Facebook stuff,” Johnny Green said. “But we didn’t have all that in 1984.”
Sandra’s Aunt Betha proved no help. Sandra’s version was that she ignored or brushed off Johnny’s requests for Sandra’s address.
“No, see it was, my mother was kind of weird,” Johnny Green said. “I don’t think [Aunt Betha] was sure Sandra would want her for a mother-in-law.”
Either way, Johnny Green tired of waiting and decided to write Sandra. Not knowing her address, the envelope, postmarked Feb. 7, 1984, is simply addressed to Sandra Hodges, Lexington, OK 73051.
“I don’t know, I probably never expected it to actually reach her or her to ever get back with me,” Johnny Green said. “But I figured it was worth a try.”
Fortunately for both, Lexington being a tiny town with a small post office, as Sandra Green describes it, Johnny’s letter found its way to her.
Johnny, in the letter, apologizes to writing Sandra, should she be involved with someone else. Otherwise he asks that Sandra, should she be so inclined, call him and maybe they could go to dinner, a movie or church together sometime.
Sandra called and she and Johnny set a date the following Saturday to go eat in Norman, Okla.
Visits to church together followed, leading to a Valentine’s Day dinner date and an early sign the couple were in sync.
“I went to a flower shop and bought this giant plant for him,” Sandra Green said. “I was getting it out and he kind of laughed and said, ‘That’s for me?’
“The funny thing was he had also gone to a flower shop and bought this really nice flower arrangement and had it sent to my school. But I didn’t know that ’til he told me because it got there after I had already left work for the day.”
The next week was funny too and, Sandra said, a sign of God’s hand at work in her and Johnny’s future.
Sandra, a 4-H instructor at the time, went on a field trip with her class, where she caught the flu going around at the time.
Her fellow teachers at the school were laughing when she returned to work. She had a date with Johnny that night, and another man had called the school looking for her leaving word that he wished her to join him at his church night.
“So, I have two dates that night, and I’m sick as a dog,” Sandra Green said. “I couldn’t figure out what to do so I finally just called to cancel both, but I wasn’t able to get hold of Johnny.”
Unaware of the developments earlier that day, Johnny Green showed up for the date, about three hours early.
“A month later he asked me to marry him,” Sandra Green said. “We moved the wedding up to [June 2, 1984] because Johnny’s brother was in the military and about to ship out, but he ended up having to ship out the day of the wedding anyway.”
Susie Harrison, now Susie Rogers, served as Sandra’s maid of honor. Rogers’ prayers led her to the seminary and she later performed missionary work in Jordan.
Sandra laughed recalling a frantic call from Johnny while they were dating. He tried to make spaghetti, basically meat and ketchup, to disastrous results.
“He gained 50 pounds the first six months after our wedding from my cooking,” Sandra Green said.
The Greens, now four months shy of 30 years of marriage, went on to have three children: Monica, Zachary and Allison.
The Greens moved to Texas in 2006. Johnny Green is still an engineer, carrying the unwieldy title of administrative director of the National Design, Construction and Soil Mechanics Center. Sandra Green teaches special education at Caddo Grove Elementary School in Joshua.
The two were surprised to find that their earlier church pastor in Oklahoma had relocated to Burleson several years before they moved there.
“We were looking for a church down here,” Sandra Green said. “Johnny came home one day and said, ‘Honey, you’re not going to believe who I ran into.’
The couple reflects on the whirlwind courtship that created the union which will celebrate 30 years this June.
“The funny thing is,” Sandra Green said. “We got to know each other and it was fun getting to know each other, but we really didn’t know each other when we first started dating. It was a blur, engaged in a month and married three months later.”
They seem to have it figured out though.
“We both went in with the attitude that this is forever and, whatever problems come up, we just learn how to live together,” Johnny Green said.
Sandra Green agreed.
“We both had a lot in common in many ways: church, both grew up in farming, rural communities, although Johnny grew up in a farm and semi-city community,” Sandra Green said. “But we also complement each other. I like to talk a lot, he doesn’t. But we’ve both always known we’ll work out whatever issues come our way, know God is on our side to help us through.”
The couple have yet to pay a return visit to Pettijohn Springs.
“We were going through that area with our youngest daughter a few years ago and thought about stopping by,” Johnny Green said. “But we realized we were in the wrong town and didn’t have time to swing back.”
The letter — “I don’t know what you think of getting a letter like this — and to tell you the truth I’ve never written one like this before,” Johnny wrote — remains locked away for safekeeping.
Allison Looney, the couple’s youngest daughter, said she’s always thought the story of how her parents met very sweet.
“It really reflects my dad’s personality,” Looney said. “He’s an engineer so, when he wants something, he always goes about it in a very scientific and methodical way to figure it out.
“He thought my mom was beautiful and wanted to reach her but didn’t have her address so he approached this as a way to figure out how to find her, which, again, just reflects his personality perfectly.”