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Editor’s note: The Evanston RoundTable is pleased to present: “They Do.” This new column is a glimpse into the love stories and commitment celebrations of local readers and their relatives. A chance meeting in a grocery store check-out line, the dog park, an ashram, an Uber Eats delivery, a blind date, speed dating, Tinder, Match, Bumble….children, pets, blended families.
Getting married? We want to hear all about your love story and share it with the RoundTable community. This is a free service of storytelling by the RoundTable. Please contact us if you have a wedding announcement you’d like to share, and include your name, the name of your partner and an email address. We’ll be in touch to spread the love.
When Crystal Jones first saw James Christopher Starks 14 years ago at the Classic Bowl in Morton Grove, she knew he was something special.
Jones, 59, was born and raised in Evanston and comes from a long line of bowlers. She was a regular at Classic Bowl, as were Starks, 50, and his parents, Jimmy and Frenchie Starks. Though not a bowler himself, Starks would often accompany his parents to watch and socialize.
“He’s handsome and had dreadlocks at the time. When he smiled, that was it,” Jones said of the couple’s first encounter.
A first date, although not at a bowling alley, soon followed and while the couple was not exclusive, they spent a lot of time together.
At the time, Starks was busy raising his daughters, Kayla and Jada Starks, now 21 and 17. Jones has three children, Tramelle Williams, Michelle Thomas and Michael Thomas and six grandchildren, who range in age from 7 months to age 12.
Starks and Jones waited a year before the did the introductions to their children and Jones’ grandchildren. After that “we were inseparable. I still get excited to see him,” said Jones.
A 1981 graduate of Evanston Township High School, Jones is a hairstylist and also co-owner of Magik Shoppe in Skokie. Her three children also graduated from ETHS and her son, Michael, was the catalyst behind the school’s bowling program, which still exists today. Her daughter, Tramalle, earned a bowling scholarship to Texas Southern University in Houston.
Starks was born in Evanston but left town at the age of 8. He is a digital print operator at Alight Solutions, Libertyville. Both are members of Second Baptist Church, Evanston, where Jones has been a member of the choir since she was 16.
The couple dated steadily for 14 years with discussions of marriage, but “nothing too serious,” said Jones.
On May 11, 2019, during a dinner at STK Steakhouse, Jones was shocked when Starks got down on one knee and proposed. “Get up! What are you doing?” Jones remembered telling him. Starks definitely surprised Jones, but restaurant staff and her family were in on it all. Jones said, “The whole restaurant cheered!”
Like so many other couples, Starks and Jones postponed their wedding for two years due to the pandemic.
But on May 13, 2022, about 150 friends and relatives watched as Senior Pastor Dr. Michael C.R. Nabors from Second Baptist Church officiated at the ceremony held at the Fountain Blue Banquets & Conference Center in Des Plaines.
Both wanted to include their families in the ceremony.
Jimmy Starks was the best man, and Jones’ daughters served as her matron and maid of honor. Jones’ oldest grandson walked down the aisle before the bride and two of her granddaughters were flower girls.
Her son walked Jones down the aisle and her father, Samuel Jones, Sr., 92, gave her away. Two of her grandsons carried signs that read “If you think we’re cute, wait until you see the bride!”
Following the ceremony, Jones’ surprised her new husband by singing a heartfelt rendition of At Last by Etta James.
After a cocktail hour and beautiful dinner, the couple and their guests danced for hours to the music spun by DJ Dwayne Oates, whom the couple had met while he was playing tunes at Classic Bowl.
Guests were treated to a delicious wedding cake by Dalton’s Cakes, a Black-owned, mother-daughter bakery in Grayslake.
Jones said she is forever grateful to Connie Henry and Nicole Henry for making the wedding a seamless event. This mother-daughter duo “made this day come to light” for the couple, putting the final touches on this perfect game.