• Lillie Burke

Southern sweethearts: Buddy and Carolyn Fisher’s love story lasts a lifetime

When Buddy and Carolyn Fisher said “I do,” it meant forever.

Now, 72 years later, the love between a Vandy boy and a Ward-Belmont graduate has stood the test of time.

“She is my Belmont belle. Patient, warm, attractive,” said Buddy, 93, in his endearing Southern twang. He wears wide-framed spectacles and a jolly smile.

“Oh goodness me, why thank you,” blushed 91-year-old Carolyn with a glimmer in her blue eyes, silky silver hair falling around her face.

It seems fate had a plan for them from the start. John “Buddy” Fisher and Carolyn Reynolds were born at the same hospital during the Great Depression, but they didn’t find their way back together until later.

A Chattanooga native, Buddy attended Baylor Academy, then an all-boys military school where his father taught. Eight-hundred acres surrounded by steep, sloping mountains and the marching footsteps of 330 disciplined young men promenading alongside the American flag.

“It was a fine place to be,” said Buddy, sipping on a clinking-cold glass of pop. He spent 18 years there, the football MVP, class of ’46. The academy’s Distinguished Service Award bears his name, and the school is in his blood.

“Baylor is the other woman in our marriage,” chuckled Carolyn. “And I’m sure glad she is a school.” 

As a boy, Buddy traveled to Columbia, Tennessee, to spend summers with his grandparents. Sleek Cadillacs purred on the main streets, passing by the jumping downtown hotspot — the local drugstore, its shelves stocked with sandwiches, potato chips and 25-cent malted milkshakes Buddy splurged on.

“I was sittin’ there drinkin’ this chocolate soda with Bobby Thomas, my friend who lived in Columbia, and he knew people. So I said to him, ‘Who is that prissy little girl with the skinny legs who keeps runnin’ in and out of the drugstore with that short dress on? She acts like she owns the place.’”

That turned out to be Carolyn Reynolds, the pharmacist’s daughter, who grew up listening to the preachings of her pastor at the local Methodist church, learning melodies on the piano and helping her father at the drugstore.

Running around the same town in their youths, she saw Buddy too.

“We just grew up looking at each other,” said Carolyn.

When Buddy turned 16, he attended a Christmas dance in Columbia with his same wingman, Bobby. On the sidelines, sipping punch and munching on crumbly cookies, Buddy’s eyes scanned the crowd of young debutantes in embellished evening dresses. 

“I looked out there and said, ‘Bobby, who is that girl out there gettin’ such a big rush? Guys standing in line to dance with her.’ And he said, ‘I told you, a number of years ago who that was. I said that was Dr. Reynolds’ daughter, Carolyn, who you saw at the drugstore.’ 

Bobby whisked Buddy to the dance floor for the pair’s first formal introductions. They shared a dance.

“And that was the beginning of the end,” said Buddy.

“The beginning of now,” said Carolyn.

a black and white photo of a young man in a suit smiling down at a woman in a white gown

The Fishers at the winter dance where they were introduced. Family photo

After graduating high school, Buddy studied business administration at Vanderbilt University, a co-ed four-year college that cost just $300 a quarter then.

The 5-to-1 ratio of men to women at Vanderbilt made it quite difficult for boys to date, but Buddy knew he had already found the love of his life.

Carolyn attended Ward-Belmont, a two-year women’s junior college a few blocks away, where she majored in English.

The school had strict policies about dating, including a rule that women weren’t allowed to ride in cars.

“We did, but you’re not supposed to,” smirked Carolyn. “It was such a ludicrous thing. I had to sign who I’m dating and he had to be approved. Then we would walk out around the corner, get in the car and drive off.”

She applied and was accepted to Vanderbilt to further her education, but harsh realities of the Korean War soon loomed over the United States beginning in June, 1950.

Under executive order, American men endured pressure to serve, either as a volunteer or in the compulsory draft.

“Uncle Sam was breathing down our necks,” said Carolyn.

Their plans for the future became fuzzy when Buddy was drafted into the Army. 

Before he was whisked away, the young couple knew for sure: they wanted to be united as husband and wife. Wedding bells rang and Buddy and Carolyn married; September 14, 1950, marked the start of their forever.

While Buddy toiled in basic training, the couple swapped heartfelt letters. A standout in boot camp, Buddy wasn’t deployed overseas and instead served as an Army instructor in Boston — especially lucky since the Fisher family was growing.

“I stayed there the rest of my three years. And I didn’t go to Korea. We were fortunate from that standpoint. She became pregnant with our first child, our first of two sons … and he was born in August.” 

A black and white portrait of a mother and father with the two young sons

The Fisher family in the 1950s. Family photo

A few months after their son arrived, Carolyn joined Buddy in Ayer, Massachusetts, where they rented an apartment near the base with the $150 Buddy’s father sent each month.

Bt eventually, the Fishers and their growing family found their way back to the place they met: Columbia, Tennessee. 

Buddy worked for several businesses and volunteered as a Schermerhorn Symphony Center tour guide while Carolyn taught kindergarten and Sunday school.

And the rest is history.

Almost three-quarters of a century later, a CPAP machine now sits on Buddy’s bedside table. A military bugle horn is propped next to photos of their legacy, the timeline of the Fisher family. Children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Any given night, the couple leans back to watch local news, “Gone with the Wind ” or old TCM movie features. The timeless timbre of Gene Kelley and tap dancing of Fred Astaire rings from the living room TV.

As the sky turns to dusk, the end of another day, a Southern beauty spends a quiet night with her husband. Her eyes are as blue as they were when the two first danced.

Times have changed, but the love between the Vandy boy and his Belmont belle has endured.

“When you married, you intended it to be till death do you part,” said Carolyn with a gentle smile. “And we feel very blessed.”

PHOTO: John “Buddy” Fisher and Carolyn Reynolds Fisher in their Columbia, Tennessee, home. Kailee Doherty / Belmont Vision

This article was written by Kailee Doherty.

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