When Mary Martin Young was growing up, in the 1960s and ’70s, she spent Sunday mornings volunteering at a hospital in Alexandria, La., alongside her father, who was a doctor. There’s a piece of advice that she remembers him repeating.
“Nobody in that morgue woke up and thought they were going to die today,” he would say. “So live your best life and be grateful for the people and for everything that you have.”
This past year, Ms. Young experienced both the hopeful and the foreboding sides of that sentiment. The hopeful side came around the beginning of the year, when she reconnected with a college acquaintance, Dr. Kenneth McKay Davis.
Ms. Young and Dr. Davis had first met in 1975, as students at Millsaps College in Jackson, Miss. Dr. Davis and Ms. Young had much in common then: Dr. Davis had also grown up in the South, in Cleveland, Miss., in a household where faith and public service were prized. As a boy, he too had devoted his Sundays to volunteer work, accompanying his parents to the Mississippi State Penitentiary, where his father led church services. So he and Ms. Young would have had plenty to talk about if they had gone on a date in college. But Ms. Young got engaged to someone else during their freshman year. Dr. Davis dated a roommate of Ms. Young’s. Their lives took different paths.
In some ways, when Ms. Young and Dr. Davis reconnected last year, they had become different people from their college selves. For one thing, their resumes were fuller. Dr. Davis has had a long career in medicine; he is now the chief medical officer of Christus Santa Rosa Health System, a health care organization that includes several hospitals in and around San Antonio. Ms. Young spent decades as an executive at AT&T, the accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (now PwC) and IBM. In 2010, she became the director of the Ziff Graduate Career Services Center at the University of Miami’s business school, a position that she retired from in 2018. Both Ms. Young and Dr. Davis had marriages that ended in divorce.
In late 2019, Ms. Young’s college roommate Claudia Hopkins Ragon — the same roommate who had dated Dr. Davis years before — suggested that Ms. Young and Dr. Davis reconnect. After many years in Miami, Ms. Young had moved back to Louisiana; Dr. Davis lived in San Antonio.
Despite having been apart from Ms. Young for decades, Dr. Davis said that their rapport felt familiar as soon they started talking. “It was the same person that I knew in college,” Dr. Davis said, “just older and wiser.”
Given the complications of traveling between Texas and Louisiana in 2020, in the weeks that followed Ms. Young and Dr. Davis primarily bonded through nighttime phone calls. They didn’t mind that: “The phone lets you have a little bit of a mystique,” Ms. Young explained.
The calls allowed them to bypass the formalities of dating, like going out to dinner, in a way that fit well with their seasoned senses of what they were looking for in a partner, which were built from decades of experience.
“Love today is different from love at 20,” Dr. Davis said. “At 20, it’s infatuation and lust. Now it’s a lot more respect and caring. She knows who I am, I know who she is.”
In June, Dr. Davis drove about seven hours to meet Ms. Young in Louisiana. He brought a pair of gifts for her: Jimmy Choo perfume and a set of coffee pods. The first, she noted, was romantic; the second was practical. “He is still that Cleveland farm boy made good,” she said.
By late in the year, Ms. Young and Dr. Davis were engaged.
The couple was planning to wait awhile before getting married. But in November, Dr. Davis was hospitalized for seven days with complications of the coronavirus. (He was treated in a Texas Covid ward that he helped develop.) Soon after, Ms. Young also became ill. During that period, Ms. Young thought about the advice that her father had given her at the hospital decades before, about how quickly anybody can end up in a morgue. The couple agreed to get married before the end of the year.
Ms. Young, 63, and Dr. Davis, 64, were married on Dec. 23 at the Bexar County Courthouse in San Antonio. Judge Jeff Wentworth, a justice of the peace, officiated. Their union was the actualization of a sentiment that Ms. Young had expressed to Ms. Ragon, the college roommate, in a giddy conversation months earlier, after Ms. Young reconnected with Dr. Davis.
“She says, ‘How was it?’” Ms. Young recalled. “I said, ‘Claudia, I feel like I’ve been married to that man my whole life.’”