Everybody in the Heartland Has a Story: Love in Tamms, IL - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

Everybody in the Heartland Has a Story: Love in Tamms, IL

TAMMS, IL (KFVS) -

You probably know Tamms, Illinois from the Supermax prison that came-and went, but those who live around there know there's so much more.

It's a community where everyone knows everyone, neighbor helps neighbor and love is right around the corner.

Merriam Webster defines love as a “feeling of strong or constant affection for a person,” but if you lift the word from the coldness of a dictionary's black and white pages and thrust it into our human lives, love is warm, selfless and loyal.

Nowhere does love have deeper meaning than inside a red house around the corner from Tamms, at the cusp of Sandusky.

Within the confines of the home where he was raised and where he raised his own family, James Love proves daily that he is aptly named. Though he insists, “I never thought about it.”

James grew up on the streets that were shaved out of the flat lands of Alexander County.

“When I grew up, there were kids all over these streets, running and playing,” he recalled.

One of those kids, Claria, caught his eye. James Love was in love.

“I fell in love with her when she was 12 and I was 13,” he said with a twinkle in his eye.

Claria's mother shooed the little Romeo away, but James never went far. He married Claria five years later. They wanted a big family and they got their wish.

They had six children, but the Loves had more love to give. They adopted five children and fostered another three.

“The most we ever had at the house at one time was nine,” remembered James with a smile.

Claria stayed home while James went to work first, at the Vienna Correctional Center, and then later, next door, at the Shawnee Correctional Center.

He retired in 2001. Seven years later he nearly died.

“It was the worst pain of my life. I didn't want to believe I was having a heart attack,” said James.

So, nowadays you can find him at the gym in Cape Girardeau three days a week trying to keep the blood pressure down and the diabetes at bay.

“This is something I have to do if I want to live,” he declared matter-of-factly.

Back at the house, things are nothing like they were 20 years ago. It's quiet now. Only the low sound of a TV can be heard coming from behind a curtain down the hall.

James didn't want our cameras back there. It's where Claria lays. Bedridden. Mostly asleep. Mute. She is in the final stages of Alzheimer's.

“I didn't want to accept it at first, she was so full of life,” James said slowly.

The love of James Love's life is dying. Refusing to put her in a nursing home, James, with the help of friends, cares for Claria around the clock.

“I feed her. I bathe her. I wash her. It's not a burden, not a burden at all,” insisted James, “It could be worse. She could be gone.”

When Sunday rolls around and it's time for church, James dresses Claria in her finest and takes her to the Jacob Temple Church of Christ in God.

James has been the pastor here for 36 years. Church has always been at the center of their lives.

“I love doing work for the Lord,” said James.

Claria sits up front as she always has. Though she sleeps through the service, James knows this is where she would want to be. He wants her here too; and when the service is over, James loads his wife into their van with the special plates he got just for her.

“She's my queen. That's what I call her.”

And the king drives his queen home.

“I think she's just as beautiful as she was on the day we met,” he said with a smile.

As it turns out, James Love never pondered the irony of his surname because he's been too busy living it.

“I made a promise to her. Til death do us part and I am determined to do just that,” he said.

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