Unforgettable: South Georgia man holds on to true love
REIDSVILLE, GA (WTOC) - True love. Everyone searches for it. The lucky few actually find it.
That unforgettable, one person. And, if it's true that a picture is worth a thousand words, imagine the stories this picture could tell.
We did. That's 93-year-old Clarence Purvis enjoying lunch with his late wife, Miss Carolyn.
The photo out of Reidsville is now making the rounds on social media. But it's the story behind the picture that is truly unforgettable.
Clarence met his one true love in 1948. She was just 16 years old. Carolyn Todd was a Glennville High School senior when 24-year-old Clarence swept her off her feet. The two married the next year. And would spend the next 63 building a life, building a family and building a love like few will never know.
For the last 13 years, Clarence and Carolyn have dined at one of Reidsville's hottest lunch spots, Smith's Restaurant.
"Ain't nobody loved one another more than me and my wife loved one another," Clarence tells me. "I wanted what she wanted and she wanted what I wanted."
In October of 2013, she stopped coming with Clarence. Well, sort of. You see, Clarence was not giving up his lunch partner.
"She was always with me when we were livin'. She's with me now."
Since then, you will still find Clarence at his favorite table enjoying the day's special, with the love of his life.
"He's a part of this restaurant. He is a part," says Joyce James, the restaurant's owner.
She says Clarence has touched the hearts of hundreds here. And has left many more wondering, how does one find that kind of love?
"I asked my husband, I said, 'You know if something happened to me, will you put my picture on the table?' He said, 'I don't think so dear.' He said, 'I love you but, that might be a little much,'" James said.
Many have tried to convince Clarence he's just lonely and needs a new love.
"They said if I get me a girlfriend things will be better," Clarence explains. "I could ask her, could I get me a girlfriend? You know what she'd say? If you want too. That's how we operated."
Clarence made a career of working on other people's cars, says he did it better and cheaper than anyone else. Folks around here will tell you the two were generous friends and the friendliest of strangers.
Clarence loves working now that he doesn't have to. He still does yard work for the church, for neighbors. Many times, for free.
But his down time is still dedicated to true love. Inside his modest Glennville home, Clarence points to a stained-glass lamp on the television cabinet. He says Carolyn always loved the light it produced. Her picture is propped against the base.
"This here, that lamp ain't never turned off, not since she came out of the hospital five months before she passed."
This living room is a shrine to a million memories, a perfect union and a once in a lifetime, that lives in a 93-year-old heart that is still very full.
"Eat lunch, come back, watch television, go to bed, love one another. What more you want? Go to church. We had everything we wanted."
At least four times a day, Clarence drives his 20-year-old Mercury to the Glennville Cemetery, pointing out folks he knows as we make our way through the neighborhood.
"They good people. And her dad used to be the Sheriff."
This is his best time with Carolyn. Between the routines, the lunches and lawns and whenever he needs to feel her presence.
"I imagine I come 125 times a month."
I asked him why he comes so often.
"I love her that much. And miss her that much. And think she would with me."
Clarence knows some might see his brand of grieving as a bit extreme. But to him, true love never has a happy ending, because true love never ends.
At the gravesite, Clarence gets down on his knees, removes his hat and kisses the tile portrait of Carolyn attached to the marble headstone. And he talks to his wife.
"I love you, baby. I wish you could go home with me. Come on let's go. You can't go or you would, wouldn't you? I would stay in your place."
Clarence Purvis told me he never served in the military because he could never read or write. Still can't.
But every year he travels to several local cemeteries to plant American flags at the graves of veterans. It's his service to them.
And you probably noticed, he keeps Carolyn's grave-site immaculate. He's a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to her. After all, he'll tell you that being someone's first love is great. But being someone's last is beyond perfect.
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