One day in church, years ago

Just Married

Cora Vivian Bellamy and Johnny Johnson

August 18, 2002|By Molly Knight | Molly Knight,Sun Staff

In church one Sunday morning about 25 years ago, Cora Vivian Bellamy prayed to God for something. She can't remember what. She sang some hymns -- she's not sure which ones -- and listened to a sermon about something.

In the grand cycle of Sundays, it was an unremarkable morning in church, except for one thing.

About a dozen pews ahead, Cora spotted the man she wanted to marry. Even from the back, there was something distinguished about his sharply cut suit, the arch of his shoulders and the way he held his head high. She couldn't take her eyes off of him.

"I thought he looked so dapper and handsome from the back," she said. "I stared at him throughout the entire service."

After church, a mutual friend introduced Cora to Johnny Johnson, a mortgage loan officer in Columbia. They exchanged a few words, and Cora was taken with his smile and cheerful disposition. He was, she thought, the perfect man for her, but he was married.

"When I found out, I said to myself, 'Oh well, that's the end of that,' " recalled Cora.

Years passed, and Cora became involved in a serious relationship. But her path kept crossing Johnny's -- in church, at the mall, in the grocery store. Then, in the fall of 1999, tragic circumstances brought the two together. Cora's boyfriend of 18 years was killed in a car accident. At the same time, Johnny was going through a divorce. He stopped by to pay his condolences, and they found solace in each other.

"We were both going through a terrible time," said Johnny. "But I always felt better when I saw her." Soon, their condolences turned into a camaraderie and then a courtship.

"I've had plenty of boyfriends," said Cora. "But none of them, until Johnny, ever made me think about leaving my comfortable place."

That "place" is a cozy, red brick house in Baltimore that she shares with her mother, Aljurian Bellamy. Even Cora would confess that at the age of 53, she's still the quintessential mama's girl. A schoolteacher at Highland Elementary School, she's lived with her mother all her life. They cook together, shop together, even travel together.

But when Johnny, 58, started sweeping Cora away for dinner dates and movies, Aljurian Bellamy couldn't bring herself to protest. "He's really a wonderful man for her," Aljurian said. "When I saw how happy she was with him, it made me happy."

There's nothing like a mother's blessing to give a guy the go-ahead. On Valentine's Day this year, Johnny proposed to Cora over a home-cooked meal of Cornish hen, potato salad and beans. Dessert was a heart-shaped cake. "I couldn't believe it," said Cora. "But I knew Johnny would make a perfect husband."

"The size of the ring was also perfect," she said of the 2-carat diamond that now bedecks her petite finger.

The couple were wed on Aug. 10 at the Ray of Hope Baptist Church in front of 250 friends and family members. The bride wore a gown of white tulle and lace, trimmed with satin. Her mother walked her down the aisle.

After a weeklong honeymoon in Antigua, Cora will leave home for the first time and move into Johnny's house in Cockeysville. She and Johnny look forward to cooking together, seeing movies and traveling.

Ask Johnny what he loves about Cora, and he'll wax romantic about everything: her smile, her laugh, even her grooming. "I love that she's so neat and clean," he said. "She always looks put together."

But ask Cora what she loves about Johnny, and she'll find her way back to that comfortable place. "I like the way that he loves his mother," she said. "I mean, he loves his father, too. But my mom always told me to watch for how a man treats his mom. Both Johnny and I cherish our mothers."

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