David and Linda

Building their love to last

In some ways, it’s a typical love story—boy meets girl, they start dating, fall in love and get married. However, David and Linda Walters followed a somewhat different path. 

“I met him at Goodwill,” Linda exclaims with a big grin and loving look over her right shoulder. Linda, 73, recently was diagnosed with dementia, so her husband, David, picks up the story. 

“We were friends for a while, then moved into a nice, intimate relationship—we went steady,” David, 54, says in his typical thoughtful tone, recalling dates to dinner or the movies. “When I told my mom I was going with Linda, she did not approve because she’s older than me. But, I decided to stay with her because I wanted to do this, in my own life.”

David and Linda continued dating through the early 1990s. At the time, she was living in a group home in Hyde Park, where she had lived since 1981 after getting out of Orient, the state-run institution near Columbus. David was living in his own apartment. One day she proposed to him over the phone. 

“Linda is such a strong woman and wanted to do what she wanted in life,” says Kelly Brannick, program coordinator for LADD’s Geier apartment complex, where the couple lives. 

David waited to share his engagement news with his mother. When he finally called, “She said no,” David says. “Linda was heartbroken.” He then sought the advice of a friend. “The choice is yours—be happy,” his friend told him.

So on Oct. 14, 1995, David and Linda were married at the Calvary Presbyterian Church, a small white chapel tucked in a neighborhood off Wooster Pike, surrounded by their friends and family, including David’s mom.

When asked how she knew David was “the one,” Linda falls back into the couch with a laugh and says, “I don’t know. I loved him.”

David is Linda’s “knight in shining armor,” Brannick says, and takes all the responsibilities of being a husband very seriously. “They’ve been married 23 years and go through what all normal couples do, and everything else that goes along with having disabilities.”

Stephanie Randolph, the HCDDS service and support administrator for both David and Linda, says their love for each other comes through in their interaction. “During our meetings, she reaches over and holds his hand,” Randolph says. “Linda has trouble remembering whether things happened last week or a long time ago, but she always looks to David and smiles. No matter what is going on, he makes her happy.”

David still packs Linda’s lunch every day, talks to her day program staff about her needs and is willing to do whatever he can to support her, Randolph says. Recently, he came out of retirement to work at Frisch’s again so he could pay a few unexpected bills.

“They’re such an inspiration no matter what hardships are thrown,” Randolph says. “They just love each other, so they know it’s going to be OK.” 

In the two decades since their wedding day, David and Linda still go on dates, attend church together most Sundays, and visit family for the holidays. They’re trying to save enough money for their next vacation, a trip they take together every year. 

Having Linda with him, David says, his hand resting softly on her back, is the best part of being married. “We like to be the happy couple and enjoy life together as long as we live.”

David and Linda’s story originally appeared on our website on March 28, 2018. See more stories like this here.