Murrell and Kitty Cook sat close together on a futon in their sunroom, holding hands. They gazed affectionately into one another’s eyes, laughed at each other’s jokes and leaned into each other’s embrace.
They acted like a couple of teenagers in love. In April, they’ll have been married for 64 years.
“To me, respect and patience are two things that make a marriage work,” said Kitty. “And love, of course. If you don’t have love, you shouldn’t get married.”
She looked at Murrell with a smile, breathing out in almost a sigh.
“I just have the greatest respect for him,” she said. “He’s such a good person.”
The couple lives in University City and are now in their 90s. They met in 1947 when they were volunteer pilots with the Civil Air Patrol in Charlotte. When she first began volunteering, Kitty said, the other pilots didn’t accept her right away.
“The men all thought I was there to find a husband,” she said. “But then they saw me fly and knew I wasn’t just looking for a husband.”
But that’s exactly what she found.
Murrell, a Charlotte native, was an Army pilot during World War II. When his father became ill, he was allowed to move back to Charlotte as part of the Army Reserve.
He began to volunteer with the Civil Air Patrol. When he met Kitty, he couldn’t wait a week before asking her out.
“He took me to a drive-in movie, off Wilkinson Boulevard,” said Kitty, “and he fell asleep!”
Murrell and Kitty laughed, holding each other tightly.
“I wasn’t insulted, though,” she said. “He was just so cute.”
Kitty was an avid softball player and loved baseball, traits that were uncommon among women in those days. The couple also enjoyed classic cars; later in life, Kitty took mechanic classes to learn to restore them. She rebuilt a 1956 Pontiac Firebird with the help of a family friend and won first place in a classic car show.
Murrell said he loved that his wife was unconventional.
“I am so proud of her,” he said. “I’ll never find another woman like her.”
The two married in 1949 and had their first child, Joy, in 1953. Murrell worked at his family business, Cooks Truck Equipment, which his father started in 1921. The company is still in operation off Billy Graham Parkway..
“We had a small house my father gave us a block from the business,” he said. “Kitty would walk Joy to work every day just to see me.”
Kitty and Murrell had two more children, Ivy and Tommy. Kitty eventually went to work as a bookkeeper for the truck equipment company. They both worked full time, but they made time for each other. They traveled the world, from Asia to Europe and Canada, and took the children to the beach every summer.
“Murrell hated the beach, but I never knew it,” said Kitty. “He loved the mountains, but he never said anything all those years because I loved it so much.”
Murrell looked down, a bit shy.
“She just loved it so much,” he said. “I couldn’t say ‘no’ .”
The couple also made sure to have regular date nights.
“We’d go dancing every Saturday night,” said Kitty. “He’s a wonderful dancer. Even today, he will dance for me when music comes on the television.”
Kitty can no longer dance. Since 2009, her health has been deteriorating, beginning with her vision. She was declared legally blind in 2009, and she has had a continuing series of small strokes since 2010. It scares her a lot, she said, but Murrell is the perfect caregiver.
“He never complains or raises his voice,” she said. “He is always right there to lend me a hand. He’s just unbelievable.”
Kitty said the couple will sometimes spend all morning at the kitchen table, reminiscing over all the good times they’ve had.
Their entire home is a shrine to their life together. Old photographs line dressers, and Kitty’s favorite hats are displayed on the walls. Her most prized is the cream-colored pillbox hat she wore at their wedding.
She still has the first gift Murrell ever gave her: a small blue porcelain music box. It sits on a dresser next to Murrell’s picture. Kitty held it in her hands, letting her fingers brush the smooth surface.
“Isn’t it beautiful?” she asked.
Sometimes, the couple will lie on the futon in the sunroom for hours, just being together, Kitty said. She listens to audio books, and Murrell lies there with her.
Murrell smiled and asked, “Where else would I be?”
The couple plans to visit Hilton Head Island for their 64th anniversary, just as they’ve done for the past 22 years.
Kitty held Murrell’s hand and slowly looked over at him. “We won’t stop going until we have to,” said Kitty.
“That’s right,” Murrell replied.