The Photo That Started It All

by Darlinda McDonald

Who would have thought that a yearbook photo would open the door to a lifetime relationship? Karen Blair went to Hickory High School, Bill Rudge to Sharon. One night, however, Karen was with some friends at a party in Hermitage when Bill and some friends from Ohio walked in uninvited. Apparently, Karen caught Bill’s eye because he invited her for a short walk outside where he said he would “take her on a date sometime,” though he never followed through with his promise.

Then it happened. Several weeks later, Karen learned that a photo of her selling tickets at the Columbia Theatre to Sharon High School’s senior class vice president and his date was printed in Sharon’s High School yearbook. Wanting to see the photo, her mother took her to the Rudges because both Karen’s and Bill’s sisters were in Debulets (a baton twirling group) together. When Bill saw Karen he said, “Hey, I asked you out at that party. Do you still want to go?” “Sure,” she replied, and that was the beginning.

In January, after dating regularly for about six months, Karen became a Christian. Bill, however, didn’t want anything to do with God and decided to hitchhike across the country. God, in His faithfulness, pursued him and on May 23, after returning home, Bill gave his life to Christ. A few weeks after his conversion, on June 5, 1971, Bill and Karen ran away and were married. That was 50 years ago, and so the story continues!

Bill’s picture appeared in the football section of that yearbook underneath the team photo. The caption beside his picture exemplified other experiences that shaped Bill’s life: “In late August, the football team began its two-a-day workouts, which lasted for two torturous weeks. The air was filled with the most terrifying grunts and groans as the players were pushed to the brink of exhaustion ....”