4 prominent North Texas couples give love lessons on staying happily married for decades

Jody and Lanny Lancarte, of Joe T. Garcia's Mexican Restaurant, give love lessons on how they have stayed happily married for decades. Photo by Ross Hailey

As Valentine’s Day approaches, we talked to four North Texas couples who have stayed happily married for decades. All have experienced challenges — physical injuries, devastating wrecks, life-threatening illnesses — but each has found a way through those hard times.

 

 

Jody and Lanny Lancarte, of Joe T. Garcia's Mexican Restaurant, give love lessons on how they have stayed happily married for decades.
Jody and Lanny Lancarte, of Joe T. Garcia’s Mexican Restaurant, give love lessons on how they have stayed happily married for decades.Photo by Ross Hailey

Jody and Lanny Lancarte

Nothing could change their minds.

They knew beyond knowing that they had stumbled into the magnetic pull of love, and they weren’t about to let it go. And so, with all the clear-eyed judgment of youth, they ignored the warnings, the pleadings from friends and family to wait, the pronouncements of a certain doom.

If their families fretted about the fact that she was Anglo and he was Mexican American in an age when few crossed such lines, they kept it to themselves. All except his grandmother, who disapproved.

But love could not be denied. And so they wed in February of 1970, a short six months after they’d met at a summer party. “She was the only one in the crowd,” he remembers. “She kept smiling at me.” He looks at her now across a breakfast table and his dark eyes shine, a smile tugs at the corners of his mouth. She smiles too.

She was just 17, still in high school, so young she needed her parents’ permission to marry. He was just shy of his 20th birthday, full of ideas and determined to follow his heart.

Now, after 48 years together, Jody and Lanny Lancarte are among Fort Worth’s most respected couples, known for their generosity to local charities as well as their devotion to each other and to the family business where they work together with other family members.

Lanny’s grandfather, Joe T. Garcia, founded Joe T. Garcia’s Mexican Restaurant on Fort Worth’s northside in 1935.

Now, it is a popular destination eatery with a reputation that stretches far beyond Cowtown. It is famous for its lush gardens and large patios that will accommodate as many as 1,400 diners. Even on a blistering summer day, patrons wait hours in long lines for a seat.

But when Jody and Lanny married, there were no patios, no gardens, and there was hardly a hint of what was to come. Instead, there was the tiny shotgun house where the Garcias had raised a family, including Lanny’s mother, Hope, while serving Mexican dinners in the front room. It leaned precariously on its foundation and still anchors the corner of today’s sprawling compound.

Lanny had worked in the café since childhood and had no plans to leave, but he was itching to try some of his ideas. A trip to Mexico with Jody made him more determined to flex his creative muscles. They dined in a lovely garden with peacocks and fountains. “I wanted that in Fort Worth,” he says.

In August, after their February marriage, the first patio opened. Just a tiny sliver of today’s gardens, it could only be reached through the original house. Patrons went through the kitchen, around a large stone oven, through another dining room and finally onto the patio that would seat far less than 100 patrons.

But it was only the beginning of what’s become a life-long work as well as a partnership.

 

Jody and Lanny Lancarte in Mexico, outside of Monterrey near Horse Tail Falls. They were looking for “the ultimate beer joint” and found this shack. This photo is now displayed in their Fort Worth home.
Jody and Lanny Lancarte in Mexico, outside of Monterrey near Horse Tail Falls. They were looking for “the ultimate beer joint” and found this shack. This photo is now displayed in their Fort Worth home.Courtesy photo

Here’s more of what they had to say about their life together:

Do you have any traditions or rituals that strengthen your relationship?

Jody: We go out to breakfast every morning. We started that when the kids started school. It’s our time to read the paper, take a breath, relax together, plan…

Why have you stayed together?

Jody: I love him and he still makes me laugh. He won’t argue with me. It’s hard to argue when you’re laughing. And we enjoy being together.

Lanny: She followed me. She let me follow my dreams. She makes life easy. Marriage is learning what it means to be part of a total family. Hers … Mine.

What would you tell your grandchildren about marriage?

Lanny: No matter what happens, if she’s still smiling, she’s the one for you.

Jody: I’d tell them to be happy. You’ve got to enjoy each other. Everything has to become one instead of two. In the beginning you marry for lust, that has to become a deeper lust.

 

Margaret and Joe Faust give love lessons on how they have stayed happily married for decades.
Margaret and Joe Faust give love lessons on how they have stayed happily married for decades.Photo by Ross Hailey

Margaret and Joe Faust

He swears it was her brain that attracted him first. Both were English majors, and it seemed she was acing the Chaucer class at Johnson C. Smith University. That Middle English just rolled off her tongue with such ease. Who wouldn’t be impressed?

Of course, it didn’t hurt that she was easy on the eyes, as well as a good listener.

After class he asked for help with Chaucer, of course. Margaret remembers that he even flirted a little. Never mind that he was dating someone and that she had a steady beau.

She marked him up as a “fast talker.” He was “smooth” too, she says.

“He loved to buy me gifts. Oh wow! He gave me suede boots, a suede jacket, a TV.” She laughs, and there is an element of teasing in the sound. “I think he’d just gotten a credit card … He was trying to win me over.”

It worked. In two short years they wed. Now, 44 years after that walk down the aisle, Margaret and Joe Faust, of Arlington, are a respected and recognizable couple active in their church and in the wider community.

She’s an educator and retired Texas Christian University administrator. He is the public affairs director for BNSF Railway.

 

Copy photo of Margaret and Joe Faust on their wedding day
Copy photo of Margaret and Joe Faust on their wedding dayCourtesy photo

Here’s more of what they had to say about their long marriage:

What do you do for your partner to show your love, acceptance or devotion?

Margaret: Joe’s a busy man. I try to keep order in the home, order in his closet. Every now and then I’ll cook him a meal, too.

After years together, what do you now recognize as your partner’s most endearing quality?

Joe: She’s always been a patient person … it has become a much stronger trait.

Margaret: I admire Joe’s intellect. It has become enhanced. He’s an ongoing student. He loves information.

Why have you stayed together?

Joe: She’s the love of my life.

Margaret: He traveled a lot, so when he came home it was exciting. It was a long weekend of dating. Sometimes I knew he was coming in, and sometimes he surprised me. That was the romantic part.

Do you observe any rituals or traditions?

Margaret: We worship together … and we always eat together.

What advice would you give your grandchildren about marriage?

Margaret: I think relationships should be about communication … accepting each other as you are without expecting change. Romance is important too. You’ve got to hold hands, kiss, all those things. You’ve got to have those connections.

Joe: Marriage is complicated. You have to be friends throughout the whole process. You have to have faith. You have to like each other.

 

Dashelle and Steve Murrin share love lessons on how they have stayed happily married for decades.
Dashelle and Steve Murrin share love lessons on how they have stayed happily married for decades.Photo by Ross Hailey

Dashelle and Steve Murrin

The longhorn’s name was Red River, but it should have been True Love. High-end retailer Neiman Marcus bought that steer at a cattle auction almost 40 years ago to use in promotions for its snazzy new western wear line by the same name.

But before the auctioneer’s gavel came down, the stars were already aligning. Fort Worth rancher Steve Murrin agreed to keep the longhorn at his ranch.

That was the clincher.

From that moment on, it was only a matter of time until he met Dashelle, the pretty visual arts director at Neiman’s who was arranging the launch of that new clothing line. The longhorn was to be a centerpiece of the promotions, of course, and that meant that Steve and Dashelle would have to meet.

Now, after almost 34 years of marriage, the Murrins have become one of Fort Worth’s most recognizable couples. They are western heritage advocates with deep ties to the historic northside and an abiding respect for rodeo and all its traditions.

The daughter of a well-known bronc rider and rodeo announcer, Dashelle says she was immediately attracted to Steve’s “unique personality.” But he was all about the visuals. “That’s one beautiful cowgirl,” he remembers thinking.

“At that time, I had a fairy tale idea of what relationships and marriages should be,” she remembers. They dated for about five years and then wed. It was his second trip to the altar, and her first.

Now at 72, she is tall and lean, with thick graying hair, an easy smile and an arresting confidence. Steve says he’s 60 something, but admits his body will be 80 in July.

“We all change with age. Hopefully we learn, have more patience and love more deeply,” says Dashelle. “I cherish my husband, my best friend, my hero … We have always had the separate things we do, projects, travel. I travel … in my Airstream and he loves his time at the lake with Little Buddy, a yellow Lab. That makes the time we share together even more special.”

 

 

Here’s a bit more of what they had to say about marriage in general and theirs in particular:

After so many years together, what do you now recognize as your partner’s most endearing quality?

Steve: She is true to herself and her sense of values.

Do you observe any rituals or traditions that strengthen your relationship?

Dashelle: We love sharing breakfast together, talking about special projects, plans and family.

What advice would you give your grandchildren about marriage?

Dashelle: Be flexible. Be who you are. Never change to suit someone else. Appreciate every day with who you love. Never stay angry.

Steve: Check out the future grandmother of your children.

Why have you stayed together?

Steve: We like each other. We need each other. We have common life goals. She is the keel and rudder for my boat.

 

Doctors Shakila and Basheer Ahmed give love lessons on how they have stayed happily married for many decades.
Doctors Shakila and Basheer Ahmed give love lessons on how they have stayed happily married for many decades.Photo by Ross Hailey

Shakila and Basheer Ahmed

Theirs was an arranged marriage.

By the time he was 32, Dr. Basheer Ahmed had lived in Scotland and England and was about to move to the United States. It was, he says, time to marry.

Some of his Indian friends had married British women and seemed happy, but he wanted an Indian wife, someone who spoke the same language, practiced the same religion and respected the old customs.

But he also wanted someone who was educated and willing to leave her country and family behind for the adventure and challenge that was America.

At 21, Shakila was finishing her medical degree and marriage the last thing on her mind. But a friend arranged for the two to meet. She knew only that this young doctor was on his way to the United States, to the same city where her sister lived. She had no idea he was looking for a wife.

“If I had known what this was about, I wouldn’t have gone to the meeting,” she says now.

She could have rejected this proposal. “My mother said, ‘If this is not what you want, say so now.’” But Shakila embraced the customs of her country and didn’t look back, forging a comforting bond with a stranger who has become a trusted life partner.

Now, 50 years after an elaborate wedding celebration attended by hundreds, doctors Shakila and Basheer Ahmed, of Arlington, are respected leaders in the Muslim community and beyond.

In 1995, he established the Muslim Community Center for Human Services. As a psychiatrist, he saw the need for mental health and domestic violence prevention programs. But a multitude of health services, including vision and dental programs, are also available. It was the first of its kind in Texas and among the first in the nation. He has also served on the Tarrant County United Way Board. Time and again he has been recognized for his humanitarian efforts and lauded as a bridge builder between many faith communities.

 

 

Here’s some of what they had to say about marriage:

What should Americans know about arranged marriages?

Shakila: It is changing in India now, but not 50 years ago. Not when we married. Arranged marriage is different. Not good or bad. Different.

Basheer: Arranged marriage is like any other. It depends on how you want to make it. I never saw my father kiss my mother. People don’t hold hands. Western rituals are not there. No one takes flowers. Flowers are only for ceremonies. In Islam the family is very important. Divorce is strongly discouraged.

Why did you stay together?

Shakila: He is decent. He is honest. He never drank. He doesn’t cheat. He does lots of charity work. Sometimes too much.

Basheer: She doesn’t do too much talking. She doesn’t do too much spending. She doesn’t do those things, so you are satisfied. I feel very comfortable with her today. I like to travel with her.

What would you tell your grandchildren about marriage?

Basheer: Marriage is a gamble. Unless you have patience and tolerance, don’t get married.

Shakila: Yes. Patience. Tolerance. And education.

 

 

 

Mary Rogers is a freelance writer.

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