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Sweet on his valentine

College sweethearts still going strong

Created date

January 30th, 2015
picture of a happy couple
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Darrell Lawless remembers the first time he laid eyes on Mary Jo Horton. He was a sophomore at Texas Christian University (TCU) in Fort Worth.

“I was with a friend at the Spudnut Shop on University Drive when we saw this cute girl,” he says. [Spudnuts are donuts made with potato flour.] “My friend didn’t think she would go out with me, but I bet him a milkshake she would. He didn’t let on that he had already dated her a few times.”

Darrell got his chance when he saw Mary Jo again at TCU’s Hoedown Club.

“I asked her out, and she said ‘yes,’” says Darrell. “I got that milkshake after all.”

Mary Jo, also a sophomore at TCU, says she was drawn to the tall, handsome G.I. 

“Darrell was easy to be with, and we shared similar feelings about our faith and family,” says Mary Jo. “Our relationship just came naturally.”

Intermittent college years

Darrell’s collegiate career came in fits and spurts. He interrupted his schooling to enlist in the U.S. Army during the latter part of World War II. After his freshman year at Abilene Christian College, Darrell served for a year and a half until the war ended and he resumed his education at TCU.

His undergraduate education encountered another roadblock during his last semester.

“Mary Jo and I were both scheduled to graduate in 1950,” says Darrell. “She did; I didn’t. I lacked one course that wasn’t offered that semester. I had the option of completing a correspondence course, but I didn’t do it. So I left TCU one course short of a degree.”

By that time, wedding bells were chiming.

“Darrell proposed after we dated a year, but we made a pact with our parents not to marry until we both got out of school,” says Mary Jo.

They wed at Bethany Christian Church in Houston, Mary Jo’s hometown, on August 19, 1950.

Darrell worked at Foley’s [now Macy’s] for three years before he went to work for Mary Jo’s dad at Horton Equipment Company in Houston. Darrell continued to climb the business ladder and founded his own company in 1979. Today, The Lawless Group is a professional selling organization run by Darrell and Mary Jo’s son Richard.

“We have four children, eight grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren,” says Mary Jo.

Earning his diploma

In 2004, Mary Jo was sitting in the sunroom of the couple’s Memorial-area home when Darrell sauntered in.

“Out of the blue Darrell said, ‘Honey, I think I want to finish my degree,’” says Mary Jo. “I was surprised but thrilled.”

Darrell enrolled in his remaining class at TCU during the summer semester. The couple parked their RV in Fort Worth for the six-week term.

“School was a lot harder at 76 than at 20,” says Darrell. “I had to read everything three times.”

He passed the course, and Mary Jo surprised their children and grandchildren with graduation announcements that Thanksgiving.

“I was the second oldest person to graduate from TCU at the time,” says Darrell. “But I wouldn’t change a thing. It meant so much more to have my children and grandchildren cheering for me as I walked across the stage to collect my diploma. Even the professors stood and clapped.”

Vibrant retirement living

Around the same time, the couple watched with interest as a new retirement community broke ground near their home in West Houston. 

“We visited the sales trailer while Trace was still under construction,” says Mary Jo. “We liked the idea of moving to an active community with all the amenities under one roof.”

Darrell and Mary Jo were the third couple to join the community’s priority list, ensuring their place in line for the apartment home of their choice.

When they moved, they selected a two-bedroom, two-bath Manchester-style apartment and quickly jumped into life at the community.

“We joined the drama club and line dancing class,” says Mary Jo. “We attend fitness classes and serve as ambassadors who show prospective residents around Eagle’s Trace.”

The couple says mutual support is the foundation of their successful marriage.

“We’re just normal people with ups and downs,” says Darrell. “But we work together and talk through any situations. We’re thankful for the years we’ve had and look forward to many more.”

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