Happily ever after

He spotted her across a crowded room, and both of their lives were changed forever.‚

Kirk Patrick Jr. was a young intern at the LSU School of Medicine in New Orleans, giving a presentation, when he first laid eyes on Judith Tapper, a senior at Tulane’s medical school. No doubt she stood out in the crowd, as one of only a handful of female med students back in 1963. But Kirk saw something more—a vision of his future.

“I looked up and I saw this girl, and I said to myself, ‘Wow!‚'” he recalls. “I knew I had to meet her.”

The pair’s first date that spring was “pretty much” love at first sight, says Judie, and it wasn’t long before Kirk proposed—so soon, in fact, that she wasn’t sure of his first name. ‚”I had heard them paging ‘Dr. Kirk Patrick,’ and I thought that was all his last name for a while,” she says, with a laugh.

“I usually make up my mind in a hurry,‚” explains Kirk of the whirlwind courtship. “It helps to be young and in love.”

The following February, the couple, still both in the busiest days of their medical training, managed to swap off a few on-call nights in order to get married and have a quick honeymoon. “Only our immediate family and friends were there for the ceremony,” says Judie. “Afterward, we went back to my apartment and had cake from the grocery store and some champagne.”

Fast-forward a half-century to early 2014, when the couple’s two adult children, Kirk “Patrick” Patrick III and Kelly Patrick Williams, suggested putting together a party for their parents‚’ 50th anniversary. “I thought about it, and then I said, ‘You know, we never had a nice wedding reception,'” says Judie. It was decided that the milestone celebration would also serve as the proper reception that she had always imagined.

Instead of the 10 or so people who had attended the original reception, a group of 140 friends and family members from as far away as Ohio and Tennessee gathered at the Patricks’ Old Goodwood-area home to share their good wishes. A friend lent them the bride-and-groom cake topper from her own 1960s wedding, complete with bouffant hairdo, and they used the vintage piece to adorn their elegant three-tiered buttercream confection. “We even cut the cake and stuffed it into each other’s mouths like we were supposed to have done 50 years ago,” says Judie, laughing.

Now that Kirk and Judie are retired from their respective ophthalmology and dermatology practices, they have time to reflect on what has made their marriage endure. “We both did what we loved,” says Judie. “That was one of the main things. You can’t expect your spouse to make you happy—you have to do that.”

And what’s Kirk’s prescription for a happy life together? ‚”It really is a matter of give-and-take,” he says. “You don’t hit home runs every day; you’re going to have a series of ups and downs. But you have to have a sense of optimism about tomorrow.