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February 14, 2013

Love discovered ... stage left

DUNCAN — For some, true love is found easily and early, however, others find their one and only after life has had time to shape them into the people they need to be in order to make it work.

Darrel Ashford and Tana Latham Ashford grew up in the Duncan area, shared all of the same friends and many of the same interests, yet they didn’t meet until years after their high school graduations in 1992. One of those shared interests was theater and they barely missed each other in the early 90s in Duncan Little Theatre productions.

“I did a lot of productions, then this one year I skipped one production, MASH, and that’s the one Darrel did in 1995,” said Tana.

The couple each had first marriages that ended in divorce and those splits led them back to DLT. In February 2010, they were cast together in “The Butler Did It Singing.” Both were dating again, Darrel was even in a relationship, however, they both caught the other’s eye.

“She walks into the scene and I was blown away,” Darrel remembers. “I was immediately intimidated because here’s this woman who is beautiful, dripping with class and reserved and I just thought she was way out of my league.”

“He was this really attractive guy but he was real quiet and serious,” Tana said.

Despite both pretending not to be interested in each other, they became friends who gave each other advice and as their current relationships fell apart, they became closer. Their first official date was in August 2010 at DLT Limelights, an award show for those involved with the previous theater season.

“If it weren’t for Duncan Little Theatre, we would have never met,” Tana said. “After ‘Butler Did It’ our circles never crossed again, so that’s how I know.”

In Darrel and Tana’s situation, it wasn’t just the melding of two hearts and lives, but of an entire family. Darrel has three children Jewell, Caitlyn and Little Darrel (or Big N’) who are now 15, 12 and 10 respectively. Tana has two girls Kaylee and Kylen Cooper, now 13 and 11.

Darrel wasn’t looking for another marriage when he and Tana began dating because the way he saw it, he was fine raising his children and being on his own. However, as time began to pass, Darrel realized Tana and her children were just what he wanted. They were married June 11, 2011 at Butterfields on Main Street in a Wizard of Oz themed ceremony.

“There was no reason to get married, there was no need but you have to want to get married,” said Darrel. “There is no obligation to be in a relationship, it’s a desire and it’s honestly easier with the seven of us together than it was apart.”

With five children who are or close to being teenagers, life comes at a fast pace with no set routine for the Ashfords. Having a good communication system and being able to trust and depend on one another keeps their relationship strong.

Finding positive people to surround themselves with and the right church family with Stephens County Worship Center has helped in this endeavor.

“We’re lucky to have the chance to start over and I know that the relationship we have is uncommon and I know how blessed we are,” Tana said. “The marriage has to be solid for the family to be whole and our children will know how a wife is to treat a husband and how a husband is to treat a wife.”

The Ashfords said they make a conscious effort to keep romance and affection in their everyday interaction from having lunch dates to just having short periods of time shut away from the kids to have adult conversation. With the social media world available, they frequent each other’s Facebook page with sweet words of adoration or encouragement.

“We don’t say anything on Facebook that we wouldn’t say in a room full of people,” Darrel said.

“He is always encouraging me and lifting me up with praise,” Tana said. “I know what it is to be valued.”

Finding a second chance at love is something that the couple doesn’t take for granted. Despite the challenges and the hard times that come with every marriage and every family, they say they work through it and go on while never losing the love and attraction that brought them together.

“If we could explain it, everyone could do it,” Darrel said. “It’s not a formula; there’s a little bit of magic and here we are three years down the road and we still feel the spark everyday.”

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Duncan Vice Mayor Mike Nelson talks during Wednesday's Duncan Rotary meeting.

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