Elliott W. Davis likes to joke that his wife would not wait to be released from the hospital to marry him 60 years ago because she was afraid he would get away.
Peggy Davis reminds him she was the one who had initiated their flirting eight months before she landed in the hospital, in need of emergency surgery two days before their wedding.
The couple reminisced this week ahead of the 60th anniversary of their hospital wedding about the uncertainty of the night before, the joy since and a Tribune-Herald photograph treasured over the decades.
They met when Elliott started working at the J.C. Penney Co. where Peggy, then Peggy Ann Stephens, was already employed. Tired of waiting for Elliott to make a move, Peggy broke the ice.
Elliott said he had just bought a 1951 Ford, and “She came up to me one day and said, ‘When are you going to take me for a ride?’ ”
Three months later, they were engaged. Eight months later, both 20 years old, they were prepared to be married, at 1 p.m. Aug. 9, 1958, at Herring Avenue Church of Christ.
But at 5 p.m. the Thursday before their Saturday wedding, Peggy checked herself into Hillcrest Hospital with severe pain and learned she would need an emergency appendectomy.
She came out of surgery fine but needed to stay in the hospital for a few more days. The wedding rings had already been engraved with Aug. 9, 1958. They already had a marriage license, and the state- required prewedding blood test, a health screening that is no longer required, would expire if they postponed the nuptials.
Peggy assumed she would have to get married in her hospital room. But the doctors allowed her to attend a ceremony in the hospital’s chapel as long as she remained in a wheelchair, she said.
“Immediately the couple rescheduled their wedding — for the same time with all the same plans — but in Hillcrest Hospital Chapel,” reads an Aug. 10, 1958, edition of the Tribune-Herald. “She was wearing her wedding dress, a white sheath with a boat neck, accented in the back with covered buttons and a bow at the waistline.
“She carried white carnations over a white Bible given her by her parents. Her accessories were blue.”
Elliott’s suit was pale blue, Peggy said Wednesday, sitting in their China Spring home on 94 acres purchased by the Davis family in 1913.
Elliott said he did not remember the suit’s color but does remember paying $17 for it, probably at a discount.
Late Tribune-Herald photographer Jimmie Willis captured the moment with a photo that ran alongside an article with the headline “Appendectomy Fails To Halt Wedding Here.” The article and Willis photographs are included in the couple’s wedding album.
Peggy was released from the hospital three days after the wedding. They missed their honeymoon to Galveston and did not get to take it for another two years, but they have returned to the Gulf Coast town many times since.
After spending the first year of marriage in Lubbock, the couple returned to the Waco area, where they have lived ever since.
“We have been very blessed all of our lives,” Elliott said.
He too, later in life, had his appendix removed. His didn’t make the newspaper though.
They have a son and a daughter, five grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.
The couple offered some simple tips for a successful marriage: Do not go to bed angry. Have chemistry. Keep the romance alive.
“Make your spouse your best buddy and do everything together,” Elliott said.
He also learned a long time ago that when his wife’s chin starts to quiver, “I’ve gone too far.”
Their daughter, Judy Davis Butts, said her parents have always done everything together, from ballroom dancing and square dancing to bicycling in Hawaii.
Two months ago the couple climbed Enchanted Rock outside Fredericksburg.
Elliott retired from Central Texas Iron Works at 53, and Peggy Davis “took a 35-year leave of absence” before working five years in the library at McLennan Community College before her retirement.
And one day, maybe, they will be old, Elliott said.
“My bucket list is 15 years long,” he said with a grin.
“We’ve done just about everything we’d like to do,” Peggy said.
Elliott said he would call the Tribune-Herald in 15 years to give another update.