Phyllis and Richard Kirk have been married 47 years and met on the campus of East Tennessee State University.
Both Social Work students, the two weren’t strangers, but they had not yet gone on a date with each other when Phyllis decided it was time to make the first move.
“He was serious, and I was not,” Phyllis said. “I was serious about having a good time.”
Phyllis made sure to say that despite all her fun, she graduated.
Their love story began in the fall of 1969, when the more outgoing of the two, Phyllis, a proud member of Delta Zeta, followed Richard around campus to ask him out.
“I was shy, and she was mesmerizing,” Richard said.
“He didn’t stand a chance,” said Phyllis, with a laugh.
The two dated for two weeks, were engaged and then married in June 1970.
“We’re like beauty and the beast,” Richard chimed in. “But of course, she’s still beautiful.”
The love between the two was evident as they discussed their lives together.
During the beginning of their relationship, the Vietnam Conflict was raging on. Richard was drafted, but they insisted they both were, since they went together.
They went to Fort Jackson, Michigan, and then went to Fort Polk, Louisiana, where Richard worked as a Social Work Therapist and Phyllis worked as a fundraising chair for March of Dimes.
After leaving the military, they received their master’s degrees from the University of Arkansas – Little Rock.
Once they graduated, the two moved back to Phyllis’s hometown of Johnson City and continued their life together.
The couple has two children, Emily and Ben. They also have four grandchildren, Caroline, Ellis, Reed and Mable, who they describe as the greatest grandchildren in the world. Both of them also refer to their son-in-law Mark and daughter-in-law Haley as their children.
Their son, Ben, opened Vessel Sandwich Co. in Flagler Beach, Florida, where the Governor of Florida will be visiting next week.
“Empty nest syndrome is great,” Richard said.
For the past 43 years, they have lived in the old Pi Kappa Phi house in the Tree Streets, where Phyllis grew up. When purchased, the house was in poor condition, but they have worked to turn it into a home where they raised a family.
Though they often spend time together watching movies, taking classes and cooking, their favorite thing to do together is attend ETSU Men’s Basketball games.
Richard and Phyllis also enjoy doing their own things, which they stated is very important in a relationship.
Phyllis stays busy each day with different club and crafting projects, while Richard enjoys cycling with his friends and training for different marathons.
“My son-in-law often jokes and asks if I’m going to Monday Club, Tuesday Club, or Wednesday Club,” Phyllis said. “I like to stay busy.”
Although they enjoy doing their own thing, the couple loves taking classes together with their favorite class having been Political Thought.
Many might wonder why they are still taking classes, as they are both degreed professionals, but to Phyllis and Richard, learning never stops.
“Taking these classes exposes us to new ideas and new ways of thinking,” Richard said.
“It has been really fun surrounding ourselves with young people,” Phyllis added.
The pair has lived a long life together, and although nothing is perfect, the two have been happy with each other.
“If you have the basic needs, everything else is indulgence and ego,” Richard said. “We are blessed.”