In fall 1955, Lawrence's buddy Robert wasn't old enough to buy a car without a cosigner. Lawrence, himself just 21, agreed to sign for him. Then the two rode down York Street, where Lawrence noticed a young woman walking with Bible in hand.
"That looks like my sister," Robert said.
"Your sister?" Lawrence said, hardly believing his luck. "I want to meet her!"
Louise, then 20, was heading home from Bible study. Her brother offered a lift and an introduction to his friend Lawrence, his coworker at Fairmount Motors, which later became Mechanics Choice.
"I liked the way he looked," Louise remembered. "I liked his Southern accent."
Lawrence grew up in Geneva, Ala. While he was in the Army, his father moved to Philadelphia to work at Fairmount. When Lawrence's service was complete, his dad helped him get the only job available there: sweeping floors. Lawrence's boss quickly noticed his head for business, mentored him, and began a series of promotions.
That September day in Robert's car, Lawrence asked Louise if he might go to church with her. They also went to Christian movies and Robert's boxing matches.
"I thought she was an angel from heaven," Lawrence said. "She was a church girl, and she was pretty, and sensible, and smart."
Louise grew up in Charlottesville, Va. She fell in love with Philadelphia at 14 while visiting her father's family, and moved here after graduating from high school. At Campbell Soup Co., she was paid based on the weight of her carrot peelings. "I was real fast, and I made a lot of money," she said. She wanted more, though. "Taking the Civil Service test was my hobby."
Lawrence impressed her. "He had a good job, and a good personality. He was also tall and handsome," she said. "But he actually rushed me with his, 'When we going to get married?' " He started asking three weeks after they met. "I don't know about that," Louise told him. "I don't really know you."
He told her more, and took her to meet his parents, both ministers. "She saw I was from good stock," he said.
On Jan. 15, 1956, Louise wore a white wedding dress and her bridesmaids the same rainbow-hued ones from another friend's wedding.
Two weeks later, Louise's brother Robert, the one who introduced her to Lawrence, died at 20 as a result of injuries from boxing. "It was one of the saddest things in my life," Louise said. "It was almost as if he got me a husband before he left this world."
Within seven years, the couple had five children: Larry, Ronald, Robert, Joseph, and Donna.
Lawrence became warehouse supervisor. "I started making decent money, and I started driving Cadillacs," he said. "Girls were looking my way, and I was crazy and stupid, and I started looking back."
Louise focused on her children, her church, her job at the post office. She joined the NAACP, led voter registration drives, and helped build a community center. Then after two decades of marriage, she filed for divorce.
"She got tired of my foolishness, and I don't blame her," said Lawrence.
Lives apart, then together
In 1975, Louise was hired as a Philadelphia deputy sheriff officer. She retired in 1990 as a deputy sheriff detective - a position she pioneered for women. Louise's second marriage ended after nine years. Then in 1985, she married John Twyman. In 2000, the couple moved to Willow Grove.
Lawrence stayed local when his children were young. "He was an excellent father," Louise said.
Truth is, he still loved Louise. "I never interfered with her marriage," he said. "I just thought about my losses, and how I lost them."
At work, he became a troubleshooter who helped fix warehouse issues across the country. He had two more children, Terean and Matthew.
After Lawrence's kids were grown, he took a job at a hotel in Florida, where, in 2000, he married his second wife, Merlene. She died from cancer in 2007.
John and Louise had been married for 29 years when he died in 2014 after a long illness.
Hearing the love of his life was alone, Lawrence began splitting his time between Philadelphia and Florida. He participated in every family activity but did not make any moves on Louise. "I was praying, asking God to straighten it up for me," he said.
They started having dinner together. In fall 2015, he flew back to town to escort her to a church event. At the end of a visit in February, Louise asked Lawrence if she could ride to Florida with him. "WHAT? Yes! Goodness!" said an overjoyed Lawrence.
He was thinking he might win her back. She was thinking she'd never been to Florida, and she needed a vacation. The next day, she asked if her girlfriend could come, too.
Their granddaughter told Louise three was a crowd while Lawrence talked to Louise's friend. "I'm trying to get my wife back," he told her. Understanding, she declined Louise's invitation.
They had not yet arrived in Largo when Lawrence asked, "Would you consider us remarrying?"
"I've got to think about that," Louise said, diplomatically.
Then a funny thing happened.
They spent three weeks in Florida, where everyone he knew adored him. And he was so good around the house, cooking and cleaning for both of them. Louise had spent so many years taking care of Mr. Twyman. She realized if she ever needed help, Lawrence would provide it. "He was a completely changed man," Louise said. "Gradually, the feelings just started coming back. It was this spiritual feeling of being back together, like going back home."
"You know, I think we could make it this time," she told him just before the return trip. "So, yes, I will marry you."
Their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren were almost as ecstatic as Lawrence. Almost.
It was so them
The couple, now Willow Grove-Largo snowbirds, were married at the Community Baptist Church in Roslyn by Louise's pastor, the Rev. Jerome Coleman of First Baptist Church of Crestmont. The bride, who is now 82, wore royal purple. The groom, now 83, wore a tuxedo with accessories to match.
The bridal party entered to Fred Hammond's "They That Wait on the Lord." Instead of tossing petals, the flower girls handed small bouquets to many of the women present. The oldest, the couple's 8-year-old great-granddaughter, Johnya, announced, "Grandmom is coming, y'all!"
Goddaughter Denise recorded a poem she wrote to music, then lip-synched a wedding performance. Friend Robin sang Stevie Wonder's "Ribbon in the Sky."
The couple jumped the broom, then entered the downstairs luncheon reception to Peaches and Herb's "Reunited" as their 150 guests sang along.
Afterward came a second reception with lots of music, dancing, and a cash bar at a VFW in Willow Grove.
Lawrence waited next to his best man, Herbert, his friend of decades, for Louise to come down the aisle. "I saw that my brother came, and all my children were there, and it's a wonder that I didn't burst thinking about how I prayed to get her back and get my family back," he said. "It was an answered prayer from God."
At the second reception, the couple sat on a little bench, a bit elevated from the rest of the floor. "We were sitting there, holding hands, watching our children and our grandchildren and our godchildren dancing, and I just felt like I was the queen," Louise said. "I don't play the numbers, but I felt like I hit the lottery or something: I got my man with me, and I got all my children together."
The budget crunch
A bargain: Photographer Nadirah is maid of honor Nadine's daughter, and her work was a gift to the couple.
The splurge: Louise bought a pretty chiffon dress for the wedding. Then she stopped by One Stop Wedding Shoppe to pick up invitations and saw a regal purple gown. "I spent $400 on it," she said. "I still have the other dress."
Two days at Caesars Atlantic City.