For Ann and Rutledge “Hap” Hazard, the secret to a good marriage is knowing when to agree and knowing when to disagree.
“If we have a disagreement, I usually tell her that she’s right,” he said. “That’s one of the reasons that we’re compatible, I guess.”
They describe their 54-year marriage as a perfect romance, an endless Valentine’s Day that unfolds in day-to-day concern they show for each other. From opposites sides of their living room in Goodwin House, the Hazards can communicate without words — sharing a furtive glance and a knowing smile.
“We like the same kinds of people and we like doing the same kinds of things,” she said. “We like to play tennis and we like to swim.”
They met each other in 1947 at a community pool in Birmingham, Ala., where they both grew up. Their families knew each other, but the two had never met before that day. She was finishing high school. He was an artillery lieutenant stationed in New York. They began a long-distance romance.
“He would tell me about the Berlin airlift, and I would tell him about college,” she said. “We wrote each other all the time.”
While courting, he would visit her in Birmingham and she would visit him in New York. Eventually, after a date one night, he proposed to her in the front seat of his mother’s car on the top of Red Mountain.
“I didn’t accept at first,” she said. “I had to think about it first.”
THEY GOT MARRIED on June 18, 1952 at Church of the Advent Episcopal Church in Birmingham.
“It was the hottest day Birmingham had ever known,” Ann Hazard said. “They had to peel me out of the dress at the end.”
“The church didn’t have air conditioning,” her husband said. “The only room that was air-conditioned was the small room next to the chapel where the groom’s part was waiting before the wedding.”
For their honeymoon, they went to the Cloister Hotel at Sea Island, Ga., where they enjoyed a peaceful retreat on the warm Georgia beaches. After that, they embarked on the nomadic life of an Army couple — moving wherever Uncle Sam wanted to station them and uprooting their lives at the whim of a commanding officer.
Their first two children were born in Los Angeles in 1954 and 1955. Their third child was born in Kansas in 1960, shortly before they moved to Virginia to be near the Pentagon. His career path in the Army led him to working with missiles while she was raising the children in suburban McLean.
In the late 1960s, he was deployed to Vietnam. The war was raging in Indochina, and Hazard was the commanding officer of the 52nd artillery group.
“Our job was to support people with artillery fire when they needed it,” Rutledge Hazard said. “It was a challenge.”
Eventually, Hazard retired from the Army as a brigadier general and joined the Central Intelligence Agency. He was able to use his expertise in missile technology to become director of the National Photographic Interpretation Center. She got a job at John Davey Toys on Cameron Street.
“John Davey brought toys from Europe,” she said. “He had a lot of wooden toys.”
But parking in Old Town was too difficult — and she got too many parking tickets — she she quit her job and returned to home life.
“We raised three beautiful people,” she said. “And they turned out terrific.”
After he retired in the late 1980s, they began retired life — traveling all over the world and sharing special moments in popular destinations and remote corners of the globe: Thailand, Malaysia, Kenya, England, France, Poland. The walls of their apartment in the Goodwin House are a museum of their travels. Now, with more than five decades of marriage behind them, they are looking forward to a nice, quiet Valentine’s Day in Alexandria.
“Maybe we’ll go out for a nice dinner somewhere,” Ann Hazard said, exchanging a quick glance with her husband.
“Maybe,” he said.