After almost 48 years of marriage, it is evident that Harlon and Midge Reece share something special — a love that is stronger than the Texas tornado that almost ruined their wedding day.
"We had a 'stormy' start," said Harlon Reece from the living room of their Victorian-style home. "I was taking [college] exams and there was a tornado alert — we had to all evacuate the building."
"I was getting my hair done and they all left me there," said Midge Reece, explaining the hairdressers left the salon to find shelter. "I drove around trying to find a salon to get my hair done."
Luckily for the young couple the tornado changed course at the last minute and they were able to go ahead with their wedding day as planned.
ORIGINALLY FROM DIFFERENT small towns in Texas, the Reeces first met when Midge Reece was a junior in high school and Harlon Reece a sophomore in college.
As a music major on scholarship, Harlon Reece said to earn extra money he would work as a choir director at various locations — which is how he met his wife-to-be.
"I was actually her choir director at her church," he said, explaining when it came time to need a date to a dance, she made the first move. "She asked for the first date — for me to go to the dance with her."
Although he teases her about her "bold" move at the time, Midge Reece gets her husband back by bringing up the fact that, at 18 years old she could legally marry, whereas at 21 years old he had to have written permission from his parents.
After only being married a year and a half, and before his college graduation, Harlon Reece received a draft notice that he had to appear for a physical exam for military service.
Having "unfortunately passed" the exam, Harlon Reece quickly learned from a basketball coach at his university that he could apply for an officer candidate program for college graduates with the Marine Corps — resulting in the Marine Corps becoming his career.
During his initial training, Harlon Reece was in Fredericksburg while his new wife stayed in Texas.
"At the time it wasn't that long and I knew he was coming back," said Midge Reece about his initial leave. "I thought it was exciting, we were starting an adventure of life."
Although absent from the beginning of their marriage, Harlon Reece said they still went through the transition period that most newlywed couples experience.
"Midge was the youngest of eight and I was the oldest of four," he said, adding they bumped heads from time to time.
"Midge is very outgoing ... and I am very reserved," he explained. "I was really fortunate to marry someone who could stand up to me, and she was willing to bring me down a couple of pegs."
Midge Reece added as the years went on they continued to adjust to various aspects of their marriage.
"It gets to the point where you start to say the same things," she said. "It's a little disconcerting at first, but you get used to it over time."
AFTER COMPLETING HIS officer training course in Virginia, the couple moved for good to Fredericksburg while Harlon Reece was stationed at Quantico.
"After three years into the Marine Corps we knew we were not going back to small towns in Texas," said Harlon Reece, adding their first son was born on base.
Although their relationship had periods of absence while Harlon Reece was on duty — the first time a few months, the second more than a year overseas — the couple said they never stopped working at their love.
"When you first fall in love it's so physical and passionate, that I don't think you think that far ahead," said Harlon Reece, adding anyone who thinks they don't have to work at a relationship is wrong. "I think in successful marriages roles change over time."
For the Reeces, while her husband was stationed overseas, Midge Reece had to take on the role of both spouses, making the "big" family decisions alone.
"Midge really made the conscious decision to be home with the kids when they were in the formative age," said Harlon Reece. "She put her career on hold for traveling and the kids."
Because of this, Harlon Reece said he made a silent commitment to put his wife's career first once out of the service.
Soon Harlon Reece said he found himself cooking dinner while his wife attended night courses to get her master's degree in social work.
"After 47 years we have been through so many experiences — good and bad," he said.
AFTER RAISING THEIR TWO sons in numerous states including Hawaii for three years where their second was born, New Jersey for four years and being stationed in the Washington-area multiple times, the Reeces finally opted to live in Northern Virginia.
But, it wasn't until 1988, when Harlon Reece was driving through Herndon to his relocated post-military job, that the couple moved into Herndon.
"I've always wanted a Victorian house, ever since I was a little girl," said Midge Reece about their current, and longest, residence in a house.
The Reeces explained they were living in Alexandria when Harlon Reece saw a "For Sale" sign on an old Victorian house off of Elden Street.
Knowing his wife's dream to raise children — now realistically grandchildren — in a Victorian-style house, the couple bought the weathered house.
"The house had been vacant for four years — it was over 100 years old," said Harlon Reece.
"We've been working on the house since we moved in," joked Midge Reece.
SIXTEEN YEARS LATER Harlon and Midge Reece have become active in multiple community groups including the Towne Square Singers, Friends of Runnymede Park, Herndon Homes Tour, Sister Cities International, Herndon Historical Society, Herndon Free Clinic, Council for the Arts, the Herndon School Board and the Herndon Town Council, among other groups.
"We like Herndon so much, I guess in a lot of ways I consider this the best time [of our marriage]," said Harlon Reece. "Each year just gets better."
Even with 47 years behind them and meetings that keep them away at night, the couple said they still make a point to spend time together during the day to "make up for lost time" from their military years.
"I just can't imagine not being married to Midge, she completes me," said Harlon Reece.
"We complete each other," corrected Midge Reece.