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Post photographer Michael Williamson is traveling across the country covering the economic situation.

For Richer or Poorer

PizzaKissSND.jpg

Justin Hamby and Holly Rogers share a kiss as they eat pizza in the kitchen of their home in Oneida, Tennessee. Photo by Michael Williamson/The Washington Post

Love stories sometimes end like this: A bride in blue, a groom in jeans and a ring that holds a promise of better days.

Michael and I first told you about Justin Hamby, 24, and Holly Rogers, 21, back in June, near the start of our summer-long journey across America. They were the couple in Tennessee who were hitchhiking home from a job that didn't work out and wanted nothing more than to get married. But there was one small detail stopping them: A ring.

Hamby had told Rogers to pick out whichever ring she wanted. She chose a sterling silver one from Walmart for $186. But the couple couldn’t afford even that. Hamby and Rogers had each lost their jobs. So the two put the ring on layaway, deciding to pay it off little by little, odd job by odd job. When we last saw them, they still owed about $100.

That was in June.

In the months that have passed, there have been many moments when Michael and I--and maybe you, too--have wondered what happened to them. Did they find jobs? Were they able to fix their car? Did they ever get the ring and the wedding they wanted? As we look back on the people we’ve met this summer, there are a few stories that linger in this way, unfinished in our minds, begging for updates that might reveal how the economic situation has changed somewhere, or how it hasn't. We decided that as we wrap up our journey, we ought to check back on a few people we met along the way. I started by calling Rogers.

JournalSND.jpg

Holly Rogers looks over a journal in the bedroom she shares with Justin Hamby, whom she met three years ago. Photo by Michael Williamson/The Washington Post

“We’re married!” she said. “August 24.”

In the tradition of the best love stories--ones that happen despite circumstances, not because of them--Hamby and Rogers stood in a brick church that day and exchanged vows they refused to put on hold any longer for the economy.

“We didn’t want to wait,” Hamby said. “We knew we were going to spend the rest of our lives together and we just wanted to make it official.”

It didn't matter that Hamby didn’t wear a suit or that Rogers didn’t wear a white dress. They wore their best. He donned a black dress shirt and jeans and she walked down the aisle in a blue gown and tiara.

“She looked so beautiful,” Hamby said. “She just looked so gorgeous.”

And the ring?

“No," she said. "Not yet."

“But we haven’t given up,” he said. “She’ll get her ring.”

Neither of the two has found a job despite filling out applications throughout Oneida and the surrounding area. However, Hamby said he is optimistic for the first time in a while about a potential tree trimming job. (“God, I’m just praying,” he said. “I’m just praying I get that job.”) The work has its dangers, he said, but they don’t concern him as much as the car in his driveway that no longer runs or the disrepair of his mother’s house, where he and his new wife live.

Hamby said his mother and younger sister helped pay for the wedding ceremony and a small party in the park the day before. They also helped him buy the ring that he slipped onto Rogers’ finger with the understanding that--like their situation--it was temporary. It cost about $50.

“It’s not special, believe me. But she’s still happy with it,” he said. “She’ll have her dream wedding one day.”

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Holly Rogers and husband Justin Hamby live in his mother's house, which he plans to fix up once he finds work. Photo by Michael Williamson/The Washington Post

By Theresa Vargas  |  September 25, 2009; 9:06 AM ET
 
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Comments

Congratulations to Holly and Justin!

Suppose a reader wanted to make a small donation to this couple as a wedding gift? Please tell us how to do so.

Posted by: outragex | September 25, 2009 11:03 AM | Report abuse

Best of luck to them both. Respect each other and put each other first, and things will be alright. Remember the feelings you have for each other right now. Keep them locked away in memory so when things get tough you can remember why you got together in the first place. Thanks for sharing with us.

"We got each other, and that's a lot. For love we'll give it a shot."

:-)

Posted by: mrfett | September 25, 2009 11:07 AM | Report abuse

Dag, dude. Couldn't you have put on a clean wifebeater for the picture?

Posted by: Peaux_Sucent | September 25, 2009 11:08 AM | Report abuse

Happy to see that they're married and looking hard for a job. I just hope they don't get knocked up, then get locked in poverty having kids they can't afford to raise.

Posted by: screwjob1 | September 25, 2009 11:08 AM | Report abuse

America the beautiful!

Posted by: ih82 | September 25, 2009 11:15 AM | Report abuse

Congratulations to Holly and Justin, and good luck! May you keep your sense of hope and your love of making each other happy. If you are reading this section, disregard any rude comments by blind or ignorant people. If you keep prioritizing each other, family, and working hard, I'm sure you will be fine.

Posted by: nkd78 | September 25, 2009 11:56 AM | Report abuse

Good for them?!?
Young in love & married.
Neither have a job, broke down car & adding to the burden of his mother and sister, who it sounds are also struggling (house in disrepair).
Unfortunate for them, is love won't pay to keep the electric on, the gas bill paid, nor can you pay the rent/mortgage with it. If their love is that strong they could have waited it out a little longer, been a little more patient.

Posted by: moronius | September 25, 2009 11:57 AM | Report abuse

Good luck to both of them. If they are lucky, they will realize that they are rich beyond compare as long as they have each other.

Posted by: steven7753 | September 25, 2009 12:07 PM | Report abuse

Great for them! Our relationships are the most important thing we got in life. Our relationships with others are what matters at the end of it all, not wealth or job title. My husband and I got married dirt poor but things always turn up if you keep focusing on what's most important - each other. Stick together and you can make it through anything. Great for you! Best wishes for many happy years together!

Posted by: dcgal09 | September 25, 2009 12:08 PM | Report abuse

Congrats but don't get pregnant, please please please. And when you do please don't tell me your faith prevents you from taking the appropriate steps necessary to keep the rest of us from raising your child.

Posted by: hyperbanana | September 25, 2009 12:15 PM | Report abuse

Congratulations to both of them. Don't waste the money on a "real wedding" or another ring; they're just trappings of what you already have, the most important thing--a commitment to each other. No ceremony or trinket will ever replace that.

Posted by: gce1356 | September 25, 2009 12:20 PM | Report abuse

Good for them! My wife and I were dead broke when we got married out of college. I think those first couple of lean years really made us appreciate what we have now. Never let money (or the lack of it) determine how you feel about your spouse because we never really "own" anything anyway...

Posted by: bigceedee | September 25, 2009 12:20 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, that wedding ring will cost you. Do tell us where to send a small donation.

Posted by: cmarshdtihqcom | September 25, 2009 12:34 PM | Report abuse

Sometimes man hough, it can be easier to find a ring than it is to find a. the right woman or b. the right woman who will give you a go.

Posted by: cmarshdtihqcom | September 25, 2009 12:36 PM | Report abuse

Congratulations Justin and Holly! Please ignore the harsh comments. Although money certainly makes somethings easier..it is not a magic solution. Concentrate on your real wealth...faith, love and respect.
Good luck.
Thank you Theresa and Michael for keeping us updated. I hope you followup on others...any word on Juan Rodriguez or John El?

Posted by: iamtoni24 | September 25, 2009 12:39 PM | Report abuse

I didn't read that the ring only cost $186. If and when my time comes and I am preparing for a nightmare. But I guess it is meant to make you stop and think, what mortal woman is worth two months of a mortal man's salary?

I really expect in all realism to have her second income to have any comfort in the marriage living around here. I try to explain to my friends with Asperger syndrome but I don't think they understand: an income they think is a freaking fortune (most are unemployed or underemployed, very few computer or other professionals of hundreds of members) goes like running water in the 'burbs.


Posted by: cmarshdtihqcom | September 25, 2009 12:48 PM | Report abuse

depressing.

Posted by: squier13 | September 25, 2009 1:13 PM | Report abuse

Congratulations . . . . . Justin and Holly . . . . . God Bless You . . . . . . . You can trust the Providence of God . . . . . . pay no attention to people like posters 'hyperbanana' and 'screwjob1' (what an awful name) . . . . they are selfish and they don't know the purpose of marriage.

Sincerely

Robert Kraus
Akron

Posted by: rmkraus | September 25, 2009 1:20 PM | Report abuse

This is a great story. It is better than the horrific news we are inundated with every day. This is America. There are different people in this country that maybe didn't have the same chances as many others and they deserve a chance too. That chance is the Pursuit of Happiness.

Good Luck Guys.

Posted by: slsolutions33 | September 25, 2009 1:44 PM | Report abuse

The providence of god doesn't pay any bills or put food in any mouth. If there was some fool god, the kid would have had the 200 bucks to buy the ring. More than likely this couple will be breeding in no time -- the uneducated tend not to practice birth control -- with little end in sight. Unless the gov't assistance provides some disposable income, she will never see that ring. Just as children should not be sent to war, children should not marry and breed.

Posted by: bob2davis | September 25, 2009 1:55 PM | Report abuse

Wow. How redneck can you be. Can’t afford a $125 ring! I'm originally from Tennessee (although I don't live there anymore), and I just have to say; It's irresponsible rednecks like this that give all Southerners a bad name. You guys think this is sweet couple? I guarantee everyone on here these two people are the Evangelical hypocritical racists so many people on here hate. Take it from someone who has lived in TN, AL, MS, and GA. I've seen a hundred stories like this. These two will end up one of two ways: 1)DIVORCED, or 2)Unemployed, over weight and unhealthy (with no insurance), and with more kids than they can possible support. Sorry guys; I find this story to be sad and depressing, not heartwarming.

I'd feel bad for writing this, but I'm guessing they don't get internet in Oneida, TN. So, these two will never see this.

Posted by: TheMaestro | September 25, 2009 2:11 PM | Report abuse

What a great story, Good luck you two!!!
As far as the haters who posted here get a life!

Posted by: jprice6 | September 25, 2009 2:31 PM | Report abuse

My advice for a happy future for them can be summed up in one abbreviation and one word: U.S. Army.

Posted by: JoStalin | September 25, 2009 2:33 PM | Report abuse

It is good to see a story such as this to take your mind off of the 'bad' in the world. I admire their tenacity and I hope their fortunes quickly turn for the better.

Wishing you the very best life has to offer...

Chris
Waldorf, MD

Posted by: teracon | September 25, 2009 2:48 PM | Report abuse

lol, hillbilly love. But, I was poor like that when I got married 28 years ago. Go to school, you kids.

Posted by: johng1 | September 25, 2009 3:15 PM | Report abuse

For those of you who mentioned donations, feel free to send them to me and I'll forward them to the couple:
The Washington Post
c/o Theresa Vargas
526 King St. Suite 515
Alexandria, VA 22314

Posted by: tvargas | September 25, 2009 3:16 PM | Report abuse

Great story. Seems like a very nice couple. I also would like to make a small contribution for them. What do you think about having a electronic account for cases like this. I wouldn't be surprised if others hearing these stories would also want to donate for them. A few dollars from your readers could help the cause. Again congratulations to Holly and Justin. Love works!

Posted by: merrittmc | September 25, 2009 3:28 PM | Report abuse

They got married on my birthday! I'd love to give them a present by helping them out with their ring. If the author is reading this, could you send contact info to chaddsford at yahoo dot com.

Posted by: chaddsford1971 | September 25, 2009 3:28 PM | Report abuse

You have to wish these young people well; but the odds are truly against them. Hopefully they will be hopeful and positive. While it was interesting to review their progress from the last visit by the columnist, it would really be interesting to see how they are doing 2-3 years from now which will fly by when you are having fun.

Posted by: MikeV2 | September 25, 2009 3:33 PM | Report abuse

The best advice in the comments was GO TO SCHOOL and DON'T HAVE BABIES YET! Babies before school will lock you into poverty and your relationship will deteriorate.

Posted by: carmen2 | September 25, 2009 3:39 PM | Report abuse

I hate to say it but I agree with the pessimists who see this ending badly. But at least they're happy now. Hopefully it will carry them through what is likely to be a tough life. This article actually provides a great reason why you kids should stay in school!

Posted by: TMFB | September 25, 2009 3:39 PM | Report abuse

Oh please, please, PLEASE don't get knocked up. They seem like a cute young couple but they last thing they need is a baby. People, send her birth control over money!

Posted by: JenSmith | September 25, 2009 3:42 PM | Report abuse

BTW, for those that want to send money to these folks, please note that anyone can post an address on these comments. Make sure its legit before you send some con-man a 'wedding present'.

Posted by: TMFB | September 25, 2009 3:42 PM | Report abuse

Justin and Holly, never forget the magic which makes your relationship special, hold on to it forever. Ignore the vile and shameless people that speak against you; do not poison your soul by repaying hate with hate. I pray for you, all things good. God be with you.

Regards, John Debba

Posted by: JohnDebba | September 25, 2009 3:48 PM | Report abuse

First, congratulations!!! That is a great thing -- marriage. My advice to Justin consists of four words that a friend gave me just before I got married:

Happy Wife, Happy Life.

Truer words have not been uttered.

My advice to Holly: Justin is more important than a wedding ring or a big wedding or anything material. You'll both find work in time so hang in there.

Posted by: teoandchive | September 25, 2009 3:48 PM | Report abuse

Thanks, Theresa and Michael, for following up on Holly and Justin story.

We all have a story, but love stories like Justin's and Holly's are rare and prescious.

Be good to each other, Holly and Justin.

Help each other reach for the sky; work hard, and pray hard for God's Grace to shine upon you both.

Posted by: HereComesTheJudge | September 25, 2009 4:05 PM | Report abuse

Holly, Justin...Ignore all the negative posts here ... because I know anything is possible.

My husband and I became homeless shortly after we were married in a simple church ceremony much like yours many years ago me in a dress and he in a suit and two simple bands. We had to take residence with friends and for the first few months we did not even live together in the same home. We made it through and were better and stronger in love and together we built a successful life family and home. Its hard work but when you start out with nothing (material) and attain together the work is well worth the reward. We often look back on those times in the beginning when things were so hard and actually smile, some of those were the best times together being in love together all we had was each other and a twin bed. Holly and Justin Love, hard work and determination do conquer all! You will be successful oh .. and Justin.. you will get holly that ring one day.. I got mine!
Much love and success to you both!

Posted by: haynesc1 | September 25, 2009 4:48 PM | Report abuse

Thank you for the update on this couple! I think it is sweet that they were able to get married. I wish them a wonderful and happy life! Hope, faith and love....what else in life do you really need?
The Army isn't a bad idea...it has been a wonderful life for us for over 20 years!
Good luck and god bless!

Posted by: keb09 | September 25, 2009 5:16 PM | Report abuse

A beautiful testimony of love! Thanks, Theresa, for following up with them.

Posted by: itsonly10AM | September 25, 2009 7:06 PM | Report abuse

Remember the Army is more than a job. It's like the Navy it's an Adventure. And either way you might have to die for your country. Or it might change you psychologically for the rest of your life.

Read Michael Moore "Will They Ever Trust Us Again?" before you do the military.

I never trusted the military. Fortunately I did not need it for school, I took a loan, and paid it off.

In a time of war you can serve indefinitely (to the end of the war plus six months). Forget about your eight years active plus reserve commitment. I do believe who, Donald Rumsfeld or Cheney, said this was our children's children's war?

But if you do do the military, I'm proud of you for having more guts than I to serve every American, including those who don't want to serve or don't want their own kids to serve.


Posted by: cmarshdtihqcom | September 25, 2009 7:25 PM | Report abuse

Took care of chaddsford. Don't worry.

Posted by: cmarshdtihqcom | September 25, 2009 7:29 PM | Report abuse

bob2davis, has it occurred to you that birth control costs money? Prescription medication (BCP) costs a lot of money without insurance. It isn't a matter of intelligence.

And maybe they do have Internet. Public libraries have Internet. So do many people, friends, family.

Go to school and everything will be fine? It is a little more complicated than that. My graduate degree immediately led to Food Stamps. Less than a year later I had cancer and that ultimately led to Medicaid (but not to the direct cost of the cancer itself. I paid maybe $3,000 and $9,000 was forgiven.).

You can't make anyone respect your degree. A lot of it is how your "personality fits the organization". That is the truth, and the only thing you can do about it is study something else, preferably something else with the supply and demand numbers in your favor.

Posted by: cmarshdtihqcom | September 25, 2009 7:38 PM | Report abuse

My comments are to cmarshdtihqcom...wow you are negative! Maybe you should get some help. Life is what you make of it, maybe you are making yours a bit harder than it needs to be. Negative thoughts bring negative results. Just a thought.
Good luck.

Posted by: keb09 | September 28, 2009 3:28 PM | Report abuse

I am the younger sister of Justin Hamby, my name is Ashley Reed. Thanks so much for all of the supportive comments. It really shows that there still are good people in this world of chaos. To all of the people with the negative comments. Although they may not have the money, love can conquer all. My mother and I both love them very much, and yeah money is tight but it didn't bother us at all to pay for the very small ceremony that they so desperately wanted. If you ever met those two, than your lives would be changed forever. They are living proof that not everyone let in this world are "material" and hell-bent on owning all. Like the song says, "All we need is love", and that's basically what they have. They have the love of each other and a mother, sister, and older brother that would do anything in the world for them.

Posted by: misplacedandlost | October 2, 2009 4:47 AM | Report abuse

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