BY JOYCE NANETTE JOHNSONS, Staff Writer
ST. PETERSBURG —Johnie and Rosemary Kitchen celebrated their 57th wedding anniversary May 20. They have forged a lifetime of memories and love that has bonded them together through the years.
As they reflected on the past, their love story was filled with knowing, secretive looks that passed between them, accented by laughter and teasing.
“Where is my anniversary gift,” Rosemary laughingly asked her husband. “Right here,” was his immediate response pointing at himself with a smile on his face.
Johnie and his family moved from Georgia to St. Petersburg and he began school at 16th Street Junior High School. It was there that he met his future wife.
“We starting seeing each other secretly,” chuckled Rosemary. Johnie was not allowed to come to the family home until she reached the age of 16. In fact, no one was allowed at the house; her father used to run potential suitors off with a shotgun.
The all-American story: she was a beautiful cheerleader and he was a tall, handsome football player. There was no keeping these two apart. The two eloped in 1959 when she was 13 years old, but lived apart for three years.
“I was scared to tell my mother that I had ran off and got married,” Rosemary said.
Eventually the couple had two sons, Johnny Kitchen Jr. and Robert B. Kitchen. Through the years they endured financial hardships, but held on to their family principles of hard work and dedication to family.
Johnie was employed by the City of St. Petersburg in the former Street Department and later the Sanitation Department for almost 30 years. Rosemary was employed at the Vinoy and Beverly Enterprises in their housekeeping departments.
Although they had two incomes coming in, money was tight.
“Sometimes he only had bread and coffee,” she said. “But our kids always ate.”
Rosemary said that during her long marriage, her husband has always been there to support her both financially and emotionally. She recalled during the passing of her mother, sister and father, “he was right there with me.”
They both strived to raise their sons the way they were raised. “I told my sons not to talk to people any kind of way,” advised Rosemary. “Treat people the way you want to be treated.”
Johnie taught his sons not to lump people into one category, which helped them to get along with all different types of personalities. But the main lessons he learned and taught his children were to rely on the Lord and followed the teachings of the scriptures.
The couple feels the lessons they taught their children have been passed on to their grandchild and four great grandchildren.
Through the many trials and tribulations endured throughout their marriage, they have remained together out of love and family values.
“My mother and both grandmothers told me ‘if you marry, stay with one man until death do you part,’” said Rosemary, who has this advice for young couples: “You’re going to have tricks and turns. Satan will move right in there and you have to be strong. It takes cooperation and understanding each other.”
Over the years the couple has been joined together at the hip. From both graduating from Gibbs High School, to singing together in the choir at Shiloh Primitive Church, Johnie and Rosemary’s love story has stood the test of time.
Putting God first in their lives, they continue to be active in the church. She is the secretary of the choir and vice president of the Home Mission Ministry at Shiloh, and he is an ordain Missionary Baptist Church deacon.
“I thank God for those 57 years,” said Rosemary, as Johnie nodded in agreement.