By Angie Crutchley —
Friday is Valentine’s Day – celebrated by some and dreaded by others.
About five years ago, I met Tyrone Wessells, of Accomac. His wife, Deborah, had died in 2013 just before Christmas, and he came in to put an announcement in the paper to honor her birthday.
He brought her photo and a poem. His eyes welled with tears and he choked on his words, even stepping out for a minute to gather himself. After placing his first memorial in the paper for his newly departed wife, I thought this might be the last time I would see him.
But a few months later, he showed up again and honored his wife with a Mother’s Day memorial. This continued over the years until this very day (see Page 35).
This is the story of Deborah and Tyrone Wessells and one man’s mission to make sure that no one ever forgets his soul mate – about a love so strong that it continued after death.
“We were both working at Perdue and I had a little crush on her. She played hard to get. But I got her anyway,” he grinned, sharing the first months of a love that lasted over 30 years, until cancer took her from him. They were married Feb. 12, 1983.
When they first started dating, she lived in Cheriton and he bought a motorcycle.
“She fell in love with my motorcycle. And when I bought it when we were boyfriend and girlfriend and I’d come to Perdue and pick her up. She’d get on the bike, wrap her arms around me, and I’d take her home.”
They cooked together most of the time; their favorite was pork chops. He cooked the fried potatoes and onions. He cooked when she got sick and he served her in the living room.
With all the memories come all the things he wishes they could still do. His favorite memory of his beloved is dancing in the living room together.
“We loved to dance. Oh, we loved to go out dancing, too,” he said.
They shared their love dancing to Smokey Robinson’s “Cruisin” and Mel Waiters’ “Hole in the Wall.” And that’s when his eyes really become bright.
We’re talking in the room, but he doesn’t see me anymore. Instead, he’s at the VFW in the 1980s, Deborah on his arm, and it’s New Year’s Eve. He’d watch her do the cha-cha slide and then the electric slide for a while. But then they’d come together for R. Kelley’s “I Believe I Can Fly” (her favorite). We should all be so lucky.
The years passed and they shared son, T.W., daughters, Tyrontha and Renae, and grandkids, Boogie, La’Meere, Jordan, Carmel, Desi, Derrick, Brandon, and Germauri. The kids and grandkids turned their marriage into a family.
Ocean City, Md., was the couple’s happy place.
“I’d get off work on Saturday and when I got home she’d be on the couch and her leg would be swinging,” he said, describing the nuances that only long-time lovers know about one another.
They would hit the boardwalk and start the day with the world-famous Thrasher’s French Fries. She got her own because she loved a lot of vinegar and salt and he liked his less customized. They’d spend the whole day riding rides – a favorite was the Himalaya – and playing games. She won a lot of teddy bears with the water gun. They would turn around and go back every Sunday.
They traveled to all the amusement parks. She loved the roller coasters but Wessells wasn’t so sure. “She said, ‘Please come on, Tyrone.’ Listen, if you’re not used to it, you know, you’ll have a heart attack, and I got sick after that. I was down in the floor. I didn’t get back in it. But I did it for her,” he said.
He surprised her with a trip on the Spirit of Norfolk with a cruise, dinner, and, of course, dancing. They went to New Jersey and the whole family went to Hershey, Pa., for a vacation.
When her time was drawing near, he relished every moment he could with his bride. When she got sick, he still had to work, getting up at 3:30 a.m. But as soon as he got off, he was right by her side until it was time to go.
One night they were watching “Undercover Boss” and he sat by her bed holding her hand as he had every night since she was brought home from the hospital. She asked Tyrone, “Are you going to let my hand go?” He said, “No,” and he never did.
During her last days, her kids asked if she needed water. She said, “No.” They asked if she wanted food. “No.” They asked if she needed Tyrone? She only said yes to Tyrone.
Valentine’s Day will be tough on Wessells but he’s thankful for every minute he had with his wife, his best friend. Still, he can’t help but think about what he’d say to her if he had one more shot. “I’d say, ‘I miss you, I really miss you. I think about you every day. When I see your pictures on the wall when I get home from work. And, oh, the memories do come back.’”