‘Italian cooking or maybe it’s the vodka and tonic’

Ralph and Charlya Johnson then

Ralph and Charlya Johnson then

With 70 years of marriage under their belt, Ralph and Charlya Johnson have been blessed with three sons, four grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren. Married on Nov. 6, 1948, in Riverside, Calf., the couple has an interesting beginning to their courtship.

Charlya was working with the Riverside Probation Department as a receptionist and Ralph was just home from the Merchant Marines. One day Ralph came into the office with his dad. He walked right past Charlya into her bosses’ office, didn’t speak, and never looked up. Though Charlya thought Ralph was the most tall, dark, and handsome man she had ever seen, she didn’t think anything would ever materialize due to Ralph’s non-responsive disposition.

A few days later, Ralph’s father came into the office and gave Charlya an envelope. Ralph Sr. said that the junior Johnson had named his pet after Charlya. She wondered, “Was is a horse or dog?” Inside the envelope was a picture of his bulldozer, and it had her name on the side in four-inch letters. That was the beginning of a relationship that has now spanned more than 70 years.

Ralph’s “pet” bulldozer named for the love of his life

Ralph’s “pet” bulldozer named for the love of his life

The Johnsons have made Blount County their home since 1962.

When asked what has attributed to their 70-plus year marriage, Charlya said her daughter-in-law believes it is Charlya’s Italian cooking. She is of Italian decent, but Charlya said, “Maybe it’s the vodka and tonic.” The couple enjoys this toddy every evening.

Whether it is the cooking or the after-dinner cocktail, the Johnsons have a relationship that most couples only dream about.