It was in the first week of Elizabeth Ashford’s time at Texas Woman’s University that she met the love of her life.
Following a neighbor’s decision to attend TWU in 1964, Ashford realized that the quaint campus in Denton may be perfect for her. Hailing from a small town, TWU provided opportunities for meeting new people and experiencing cultural enrichment. Additionally, TWU’s renowned dance options drew her in, as well as the fencing program taught by Kitty Magee, after whom TWU’s arena is now named.
“[TWU] had the creme de la creme professors then,” Ashford said. “I had the benefit of that wealth and talent, as well as devotion and commitment. I encourage my students to come here.”
It was the fall of 1964 when Ashford first moved into Houston Hall. During her first week, she connected with a young man from her hometown that was attending North Texas State University, now known as the University of North Texas. He asked her if she would want to meet his roommate, Ralph.
“He introduced me to Ralph and it was like I just fell in the Grand Canyon,” Ashford said. “I knew it would be exciting to take advantage of everything university had to offer, but one thing I didn’t factor in of course was this world traveler from the time he was born. They say opposites attract, country girl meets city boy from Paris.”
They shared their first memories together going through black-and-white photographs of Paris and his family.
“I went straight to my advisor the next day and I said ‘I would like to minor in French. I need to learn this beautiful language,’” Ashford said.
The couple estimates that during this time they had not seen each other more than seven times. Between university coursework and residential dorm hours, the couple seldom had the time or flexibility to see each other.
A twist of fate would lead to the couple seeing each other again. After an injury from dancing occurred, Ashford started weekly physical therapy. Following her physical therapy one day, by complete coincidence, the couple was reunited in the backseat of a taxi, an experience that Ashford described as a key moment in furthering their fondness for each other.
In the years following the Vietnam War, they searched for each other with no success. At the time, there was no technology to find someone, and hiring a private investigator was costly.
Without knowing the other’s fate, the couple continued to live their lives until Dec. 4, 2021. When Ashford found Ralph’s Facebook profile, at first she did not recognize his darker hair until she noticed the part in his hair. Instantly, she messaged him to reconnect and they were able to reunite on Christmas day.
“My love for him was given in a time capsule and it stayed in that time capsule,” Ashford said. “Now I am just picking up where we left off”
This last Christmas, the couple celebrated their first anniversary after being apart for 55 years. They make a toast every 25th to all those at TWU and NTSU who did not live to find their person.
The couple plans to spend the rest of their lives together fulfilling their bucket list, including trips to Machu Picchu, Ireland, the Panama Canal and more.
“Never give up,” Ashford said. “Be persistent. We were two lovebirds looking for each other and the odds were clearly stacked against us.”
Maddie LaRosa Ray can be reached via email at email@example.com.
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