Life

DuVall’s share 39-year whirlwind romance

By FRED KRONER
fred@mahometnews.com

Carla and Larry DuVall could be the poster images for a whirlwind romance.

“We met on a Friday and were married on a Saturday,” Larry DuVall said.

It was almost as quick as it sounds.

The night they met in 1979, he proposed. A church wedding was held eight days later with the bride wearing a blue homemade wedding dress her mother, Jane Bebout, started and finished within a seven-day period.

“My mom and dad were thinking I was friggin’ nuts,” Larry DuVall said.

“People said it wouldn’t work,” Carla DuVall added.

Thirty-nine years later, the rural Mahomet residents are still enjoying each other’s company and affection.

They celebrated their 39th wedding anniversary on Sept. 16.

“Nobody said it was going to be easy,” Larry DuVall said. “We’ve had our fights, but we find a way to make it work.

“It always meant more working it out. I’d do anything for her.”

Added Carla: “We took each other for better or worse.”

So, how did the relationship start?

“I had a car for sale,” said Carla DuVall, who was raising a 13-month-old son, Jimmy, by herself. “His brother bought it.”

The brother, Eric, and Carla dated a few times,  but she didn’t see a future with him.

“Our lifestyles were not the same,” Carla DuVall said. “Eric and I had nothing in common. We broke up.”

In early September of 1979, Larry DuVall was home on leave from the Marine Corps. He had been in Okinawa.

A double date was set up between the brothers, Carla and Carla’s cousin, Cheryl Cooley.

Not everyone was aware of the setup.

“I didn’t have any inkling what was planned,” Carla DuVall said.

The cousin canceled, but the brothers showed up — in separate cars — at Carla’s home, with Eric arriving first.

Carla vividly remembers what transpired when Larry showed up shortly after his brother and entered the home.

“Jimmy ran past Eric to Larry and called, ‘Daddy. Daddy.’ “ Carla said. “Jimmy never called anyone dad.”

After Jane Bebout agreed to babysit her grandson, the trio went to Champaign with Carla — at first — riding with Eric, who originally was going to be her date for the evening.

They separated at Country Fair, with Larry and Carla going to a nearby establishment where one of her cousins, Mike Cooley, was playing in the band.

“We wanted to listen to the band and get to know each other,” Carla DuVall said, “but it was so loud, we couldn’t hear each other.”

They bought tickets to a movie, but had time before it started.

“There used to be a fountain at Country Fair,” Larry DuVall said. “We went there.”

“By the fountain is the first place he kissed me,” Carla DuVall said. “It was like I had the world to myself.”

The movie ended late, and they were hungry.

“I said we’ll go to the store and get groceries,” Carla DuVall said, “and go home and I will fix breakfast.

“We had eggs and bacon, and hung out and played records.”

One of the singles in Carla’s collection — which she still owns — was entitled, ‘What Are You Doing Sunday’ by Tony Orlando and Dawn.

A line in the song is, “What are you doing Sunday, baby? Would you like to marry me?”

Carla DuVall wasn’t expecting what occurred next from the man she’d met less than 12 hours earlier.

“As it was playing, he turned around and said, ‘What are you doing Sunday? I want to marry you.’ “ Carla DuVall recalled.

He was scheduled to return to Scott Air Force Base the following week and said, “I don’t want to go without you.”

Larry DuVall said he was convinced that Carla was who he wanted as a life partner.

“There was something from the get-go,” he said. “I thought, ‘This is it. I’m done looking.’

“We hit everything off. It felt good. It felt right.”

Before she responded, Carla had a question.

“I said, ‘You realize I come with a package (a son),’ “ she said.

He repeated his desire to marry her, and they began the event planning.

Carla DuVall acknowledged she had conflicting emotions.

“I was kind of scared,” she said. “I had been through four years of a bad marriage.

“I had a baby to think about, but my heart took over and all senses went out the door.”

They immediately encountered a potential stumbling block.

“My church (Nazarene) wouldn’t marry us,” Carla DuVall said.

They soon found an agreeable location, however, at the Mahomet United Methodist Church.

The short turnaround time for her mother to make a wedding dress was not a huge obstacle.

“Growing up, most of my clothes were homemade,” Carla DuVall said. “I don’t know how many wedding gowns she made.”

In her spare time that week, Jane Bebout also made a three-tiered wedding cake and planned a reception.

The young couple had to leave one person off the invitation list. After the weekend, Eric DuVall decided he wanted to reunite with Carla.

“We couldn’t tell his brother when or where we were getting married,” Carla DuVall said. “We were afraid he would come and object.”

The two — both 21 at the time — heard their share of objections.

“His family thought I was a gold-digger who wanted to find someone to help with my kid,” she said.

“My mom and dad thought I was crazy,” Larry DuVall said, “and the only reason (for marrying) was for the land around here.”

Even if begrudgingly, the families came around and were supportive.

“We were married on Saturday and he had to report to Scott Air Force Base on Monday,” Carla DuVall said.

Larry DuVall was recovering from surgery for a broken leg and had to be readmitted to the hospital once he was back on base.

“The leg wasn’t healing right,” he said.

The euphoria he felt from the marriage was soon offset by the medical news.

“I couldn’t run, so I couldn’t climb,” he said. “That ended my military career.”

In October 1979, he was discharged from the Marines after four years of service.

“I wanted to make it a career,” the Monticello native said. “If I could, I’d do it again.

“I sure miss it, serving the country. It’s a huge family.”

He also has no regrets about the quick decision to marry.

“Over the years, we’ve disagreed on things,” he said, “but we made a commitment, took the vows seriously and here we are.

“We somehow made it work. It’s not been easy, but it’s not been bad. You’ve got to work together.

“I don’t like to be a minute away from her. I love it when she’s within an arm’s distance of me.”

The couple has raised four children: Jimmy (whom Larry adopted), William, Curtis and Cristina, whom they adopted as an infant.

The DuValls, now each 61, have 10 grandchildren. Most every Sunday, they all gather at the DuVall residence for a family dinner.

Carla and Larry have faced more than their share of adversity.

When Carla was diagnosed with breast cancer (she is now four years cancer-free), “he took care of me,” she said.

And now, as he struggles with serious heart and lungs issues, it’s her turn to be a loving caregiver.

They don’t know how much more time they will have together.

In April, Larry DuVall was placed in hospice care.

“I’m not strong enough for surgery,” he said. “My time is limited.”

Carla DuVall said the words from the doctor weren’t encouraging when her husband left the hospital in April to be transported home.

In a subsequent home visit, Carla remembered the doctor saying, “When we loaded you in the ambulance, I didn’t think you would make the ride home.”

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