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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

Time now for StoryCorps. This project is collecting stories from everyday people across the country.

Today, we hear from Rebia Mixon-Clay in Chicago. During her interview, she remembered her first husband, the late Frank Mixon.

Ms. REBIA MIXON-CLAY (StoryCorps Contributor): I was pregnant when I met him. And he saw me, and walked over towards me, and he say - you're going to be my wife. And a year later, we just - one day went down the city hall and got married. And we had no rings. He tried to give me his class ring, a big ugly thing to put on my finger. And I was like, uh-uh.

And I remember coming home one day and he wasn't there, and there was a note on the back of the door and it said go on the bedroom and look on the dresser. And I went in the bedroom and looked on the dresser, and there was the ring box, a beautiful wedding ring and engagement ring in the box. I grabbed those rings - I didn't put them on - I just ran out of the house because I knew where he hung out at. And when he saw me coming, he say did you find them? And I was like yeah, and I was shaking the stuff like I had just met him, and I hand him the rings and he got down on one knee, he said would be my wife - really be my wife? I said yeah.

He would come home and he would say, what's for dinner? And I would tell him whatever dinner was going to be. And he made me feel like it was magnificent. I mean, if I burnt popcorn, it was the best, you know. That was a kind of guy he was. I was married to him for 17 years and we separated, and he moved to Michigan.

I don't know the details, but Frank got into an altercation. They say that this woman was a damsel in distress and Frank was helping her. And the woman's boyfriend shot him in the back.

I had my fourth child with him and he's exactly like his father. Exactly. He never talks above a whisper. He's always happy and laughing. He's the gentleman of all gentlemen. And even my other three kids are like that because they had him. My oldest son, he'll tell you, my biological father's name is so and so, but my daddy's name is Frank Mixon. And out of all the years that we were separated, I still remember Frank Mixon because I honestly believe he was my first true love.

MONTAGNE: Rebia Mixon-Clay at StoryCorps in Chicago. Her interview is part of StoryCorps Griot. That's a collection of African-American stories to be housed at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.

All StoryCorps interviews are archived at the Library of Congress. And you can subscribe to the project's Podcast at npr.org.

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