CHEROKEE — John T. Hampton did the proper thing 78 years ago.

He went to the mother of the love of his life and asked for her permission to marry her daughter, Sabina.

And then they got married.

There was just one little hiccup along the way, Sabina Hampton said.

"Mom wasn't going to say 'yes,'" she said.

So, John and Sabina eloped.

"Their parents didn't want them to get married, so they slipped and got married and then went back to their separate homes," said Bernardean Hampton, who takes care of her parents today.

Eventually, the couple revealed their secret marriage to their parents, including Sabina's mother.

"She didn't say anything," Sabina recalls. "She didn't know what to say."

Today, 78 years later, it is obvious that John, 99, and Sabina, 97, made the correct decision.

"He was a wonderful man and I saw it," Sabina said.

Bernardean said there are health issues with her parents, but she still can tell by the way her father looks at her mother that the flame never went out.

She laughs when recalling that her father has always dutifully responded, "Whatever Sabina says" when asked about anything involving the couple.

"They've had a very happy marriage," Bernardean said. "They never raised their voice to each other, and they worked together. I have four brothers and they all have longevity marriages also, so it must have rubbed off."

The couple's son, Ronnie Hampton, said John was a custodian at a post office and a carpenter who built houses on the side with the help of Sabina.

"She'd paint them," he said. "She taught me how to paint. She worked right alongside him, and she would always go home and fix lunch."

Since the couple eloped, their children gave them a special present for their 50th wedding anniversary.

"They had a full wedding," Bernardean said. "They'd never had a wedding, so we gave them one. The siblings were groomsmen and maid of honor. The grandkids were flower girls and ring bearers, so it was real nice."

John and Sabina also were active in the community and in the Civil Rights movement.

A World War II veteran, John obtained the charter for the first African-American Veterans of Foreign Wars chapter in Alabama. The organization's first meeting took place in the Hamptons' home.

They remained strong in their faith and in their relationship, Sabina said. Along with love, there is a basic key to longevity in a marriage.

"It's just respecting each other," she said. "Simple."

bernie.delinski@timesdaily.com or 256-740-5739. Twitter @TD_BDelinski

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