It was love at first sight for Mary Ruth who said, “He was the most handsome man I’d ever seen. I immediately knew he was the one for me. That is the man I am going to marry. But, he didn’t know that at the time.”
Melvin, an eligible bachelor, was handsome and popular with the ladies. He was elected Mr. Smyrna High School, sang in various quartets around the area and was involved in sports in high school as well as college.
Both of Mary Ruth’s sisters married quarterbacks they met in college, and her father sent her to college to find a quarterback. Mary Ruth, a Barney native, was also very popular. Several young men proposed to her, but she was not interested.
Mary Ruth’s heart belonged to one man, and Melvin felt an immediate attraction to Mary Ruth. “When I saw Mary Ruth for the first time, I realized I was staring into the eyes of a beautiful little 98-pound South Georgia peach. And, the rest is history,” he said.
Mary Ruth and Melvin both attended a college “get acquainted” dance.
“After seeing that black-haired beauty in a blue dotted Swiss dress, with small daisies outlining the neckline, that is all it took,” Melvin said.
Melvin was never good at dancing, but at intermission time, he approached Mary Ruth. The couple walked over to one of the windows draped with heavy curtains to talk.
“We didn’t know what happened, but suddenly, the draperies fell, completely covering us,” Mary Ruth said.
The couple decided they should be embarrassed together “as one” and they have been together ever since.
Melvin joined the Navy four days before he turned 18. While on leave, he decided to propose to Mary Ruth. “The night I came to Mary Ruth’s house to propose, she came out with her hair in rollers and calamine lotion on her face. I knew if I loved her looking like that, I would love her forever,” Melvin said.
Following a revival service, the Hollemans married in the chapel at First Baptist Church of Smyrna on June 26. Mary Ruth recalled the preacher asking the congregation, “‘Who would like to stay following the service for a wedding ceremony.’ That night, the Smyrna First Baptist Chapel had one of the largest attendances ever just to see who was getting married.”
After returning to Cobb County following his Naval service, Melvin worked for the Veteran’s Administration and later in circulation for the Atlanta Journal and Atlanta Constitution. He returned to the VA, where he retired in 1986. Mary Ruth taught school when they first married and retired from Rich’s Department Store in 1987, after 25 years. Like her father who was post master in Barney, Mary Ruth also worked in the post office and credit office.
The Hollemans continue to live in the house on Love Street that they built in 1948. Their house is next door to the home where Melvin lived as a child. The Hollemans raised two daughters, Dianne Holleman Spears and Charlotte Holleman Winkles, who both graduated from Campbell High School and live in the Marietta area. The couple also has two grandchildren, Christie Winkles Blankenship and Joshua Winkles and one great grandchild, Meghan Ruth Blankenship.
The Hollemans are active in First Baptist Church of Smyrna and the community. Melvin received the 2004 Mr. Smyrna award from the Smyrna Moose Lodge for his longtime involvement in the community such as volunteering at the Smyrna Museum. Despite health issues, the Hollemans consider themselves “very blessed.”
Melvin credits their 70-year success to a strong moral center and parents who were role models for a lasting marriage.
“I think a lot of it is giving credit to how we were raised,” Melvin said. “We were both fortunate to have strong Christian parents. We are of the old school. When we got together, we just thought it would be for life.”
Mary Ruth added that the couple has always lived within its financial means, never fought over money, and maintained close ties with their families.
“May there be more years ahead,” Melvin said, “until the Lord calls us home.” As Melvin likes to sing, “Oh, what a day that will be.”
Special thanks to the Holleman’s daughter, Dianne Holleman Spears, who contributed to this story.