Beverley and Preston Mulford are well-known to area residents because, for more than 30 years, they've run a preschool and riding school in Centreville. And this year, Centre View is honoring this long-time married pair as its Valentine couple.
The Mulfords met in 1948 at Maryville College in Tennessee, near Knoxville. They were both juniors then, and Beverley was majoring in English and P.E., and Preston was a political-science major.
"EVERYBODY HAD to go to chapel every morning, and we were seated alphabetically," explained Beverley. "I was Musick, he was Mulford."
Then one day during ethics class, he was reading the book "Cheaper by the Dozen" and she started reading over his shoulder. "Before we had our exam, he bet me he'd have a higher score than I would," she said. "He said he could listen to the teacher, take notes and read at the same time, better than I could — and he won the bet."
So Beverley had to treat Preston to a movie and a hamburger, and they started dating. Often, they and other students would gather at the student center and dance.
Preston said Beverley's "good looks and intelligence" attracted him. And, he said, "She just seemed to fit in easy with other people. She had a very good personality, and everybody seemed to like her." Meanwhile, Beverley liked him because he was "very honest, kind and sure of himself — and he was cute, too, and smart."
After graduation, he attended Boston College's law school. "It was three years, and we got married in June 1952, at the end of his second year," said Beverley. "Then we moved to Patterson, N.J."
There, she taught seventh grade at Ben Franklin School in Ridgewood, N.J., and he completed his law degree at Rutgers University. But in August 1953, he had to enter the Army. "He had a deferral to go to law school and was planning to go into the Marine Corps, but the Army got him first," she said. "He served as a lawyer in the JAG office."
AFTERWARD, the Mulfords returned to Beverley's home state of Virginia and lived in Spotsylvania. At first, Preston was a claims adjuster for State Farm Insurance and Beverley taught seventh grade in Fredericksburg. Then they moved to Arlington and he became a stockbroker with Merrill Lynch.
She started the Mulford School in Centreville in 1960 and still runs it. And he later began his own company, the Mulford Group, based in Centreville, where he's still a stockbroker. (They moved here in 1972).
Along the way, they also raised four sons — Hudson, Phillip, Gardiner and Harry — and are also the proud grandparents of 13. But that total will soon become 15, since Harry's wife is about to give birth to identical twin girls.
Beverley and Preston enjoy traveling and have visited Europe and the Caribbean. They also like playing bridge and swing dancing. "We used to dance twice a week, in Vienna," said Preston. "We haven't done it in awhile, but we plan to again."
They've been married for 53 1/2 years and, when asked what advice he'd give to young couples just starting out, Preston replied, "Just play it cool." As for Beverley, she said, "I think you need to be real good friends."
She attributes their long, happy marriage to the fact that "he's so kind and always helps me with whatever I want to do. And I feel the same way about him."
As for Valentine's Day, though, the Mulfords don't do anything special to mark the occasion. But they enjoy spending time with their family and being in each other's company. Said Beverley: "We just do things together often."