Everyday Heroes. I got a call from Northwest Herald saying that a friend of mine wrote a letter recommending me as an Everyday Hero. Since my retirement, I have volunteered for various organizations including Adaptive Adventures which is featured here. My thoughts were that this award should go to my husband Larry instead who in the past has fixed up more than 2,000 bikes for the needy. He also has used his construction skills with Habitat, Willow, Bright Hope and Conference Point as well as helping many individuals. But I was chosen since I accompany him on many of these outings. It definitely is a time in our lives to give back and it is what has given us so much joy. If a person is wrapped up so much in his own life, he makes a small package. Enjoy the video and look for Larry as well.
Being a child of the 60’s, I remember vividly a group of students and teachers hovered around a radio with the news of the assassination of John F. Kennedy. I came home from my school on the south side of Chicago that evening to my family in tears as we watched the news. It was the beginning of woes—soon after Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King were shot. The world was a different place—-the rug of security was pulled out from under us. But life goes on for a girl on her way to the university.
My best friend Carol and I set out for Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, IL. We were roommates in the first coed dorms, Lincoln and Douglas. We actually made a list of rules for ourselves which included no kissing on first dates. The other mission in our collegiate life was to visit various churches in our search for meaning and independence from our parents.
With our meal ticket in hand, we stepped into the coed lunchroom ready to refine the art of flirting. Carol was a master. Eating dinner, by the way, was a secondary activity.
“Looks don’t matter to me,” said Carol, “I’m more interested in dating a man with intelligence and personality.”
I felt rather vain as I pointed to my poster dream boy pinned by my desk. Glancing at George Hamilton made for a good study break. He was tall, dark, muscular and handsome—all the required ingredients. I had my eye on one that fit that description. Eventually Rick asked me out on a date. But his handsomeness palled when he opened his mouth. I guess Carol was right. I needed to look beyond my poster dream boy.
Pledge time came; Carol put her eye-liner on with a sharpened pencil; we dressed in our best attire; piled our hair high and went to sorority teas. It was an adventure we could not afford. Sororities cost money; so when we were invited back, we declined saying we didn’t want to be stereotyped into a specific group.
After the tea, we went to the Union where students gathered nightly to dance. Looking to my left, I saw a tall and handsome young man. His engaging smile spoke volumes about his love for music and dancing. I dreamt of peering into his thoughtful, romantic eyes with lashes that would be the envy of any girl. OK, he didn’t have dark hair; he was blonde like me. I imagined myself encircled by his muscular arms. Other than that, he was my poster boy. Now there is someone I would like to meet, I thought. But the evening evaporated and Carol and I sauntered back to our dorms before opportunity knocked.
My rigorous and difficult school load kept me so busy and often overwhelmed. I was thrown into advanced French with a Parisian teacher who spoke very little English. I survived my math class by rewriting my notes over and over again. Now speech was my specialty. I joined the speech team at NIU and was confident in my abilities. But I was disappointed in my first speech performance. It didn’t go well. I began my dialogue with God, while gazing at the pink setting sun.
“I don’t know if you are there or not, but if you are—- show me you exist by making something wonderful happen. Right now, I wish I were a cloud floating along care free. But if you are there, you can have my life,” I cried out.
My older brother, Bill, and I had many conversations on summer nights as we sat on the lawn looked up at the stars.
“There is no way we could ever know if God exists or not,” he said. I really looked up to my brother and valued his opinions.
If God did exist, I thought, couldn’t he communicate with me, as a human being? Couldn’t he reveal himself in some way?
Carol had a date the following Friday. Determined not to spend a weekend night in the dorm alone, I ventured to the Newman Club for the Valentine Day dance. The band was in high gear, when I looked across the crowded room of dancers. There he was, my poster boy, the very same one I had noticed at the Union the week before. He would stand out in any crowd. “You’re going to meet him tonight,” I heard but wondered where the voice came from. Fat chance I thought. He had a girl pasted on each side of him. When I came out of the bathroom, he was standing alone. It was now or never to make a move before the pasted sisters returned. His picture was in the newspaper that day along with a comment on his views of the Vietnam situation. I starred at the picture for a long time drawn in especially by his eyes.
I was basically a shy city girl and my wardrobe was rather drab. My savings went for college expenses leaving little money for anything else. However, my roommate was out to change my image. We went shopping the morning of the dance; she talked me into buying a red sweater with draw strings that gently dangled in front and a red and white checkered skirt.
“Red will compliment your blonde hair and capture a guy’s attention,” she said.
Here I was a few feet away from my dream man. I was not going to let this opportunity pass by. I boldly walked up to him turning as bright as my red sweater and said, “What do you think of the Viet Nam situation?” He laughed knowing that I was making reference to his picture in the paper. He looked down at my five foot frame and in a deep voice said, “Aren’t you Sue?” I was ecstatic that he knew my name. He had seen me for the first time that morning walking with his friend Graham. He had me confused with a fast moving girl named DeKalb Sue who was dating Graham. I melted when he asked me to dance to a medley of Beatle songs and even the cramp in my foot didn’t stop me from dancing. At the end of the dance, he asked if he could walk me back to the dorm. We held hands on the long walk back to the dorm. Girls had to be in by midnight on the weekends. I’d be grounded the next weekend if I was even a minute late whereas the men had no hours at all. At last we arrived with minutes to spare. Placing me a step up, Larry starred into my eyes and they melted into mine. “Can I kiss you goodnight?” he asked. I very much wanted to be kissed by my prince charming. I don’t remember saying “Yes,” but Larry remembers and it was the softest gentlest kiss I had ever experienced. “I can’t believe you kissed me,” I said. I then remembered my vow to not kiss on first dates and this wasn’t even a date. It was a pick up. But Cupid’s bow had landed in my heart and I ran down the hall shouting, “I’m in love; I’m in love”—-knowing that at 18 years old, I had found my man. Yes, I do believe in love at first sight. Shakespeare was right when he said, “The eyes are the window of the soul.”
He called later that evening and we talked about our families. “Would you like to go out next weekend,” he asked. I held my breath hoping he would say Sunday instead of Saturday since I already had another date. “How about going to the Hootenanny on Sunday night at the Union?” Our dating relationship began.
As I found out later, Larry was majoring in Dating 101. He had dated 32 different girls and still reserved Friday’s for pick ups like me. He was making up for all the time he missed as a shy, overworked boy in high school. Larry’s studies were getting little attention. When people asked him where he would be living next semester. He would say, “Off campus,” Yes, I thought, way off campus. He later joined the Marines as an air-controller.
There were certainly ups and downs. After spring break, he didn’t call me. I think he was afraid of getting serious at such a young age. I was very upset and Carol said you need to forget him. But how could I? Back then, we waited for the guy to call. When someone else asked me out, I said “yes” and ended up at the Newman Club dance again. It was Friday—Larry’s pick up night. He saw me with my new date. He danced with his pick up girl right next to us. My heart was throbbing. About 12:30 AM that night he called saying,” I didn’t like seeing you with that other guy.” I think I’m falling in love.” We spent the next day talking, laughing and enveloped in each others arms. We knew there was something very special about our relationship and we didn’t want to lose each other.
God had answered my prayers by making something wonderful happen in my life. As a result, I gave my life to Christ and soon after Larry did as well. We know that we are gifts to one another and even after 48 years of marriage, the flame grows stronger. There is a God who designed us for one another and each Valentine Day is special to us.
The fairy tale romance blossomed into marriage and the rearing of three children. Presently we have five grandchildren and we have had many foster children. Regardless of the many ups and downs in our lives, our prevailing emotion is happiness. The scriptures say that “Two are better than one.” That has certainly been true in our lives. God has used us to reach out to many and to share his love. Larry built a beautiful high ceiling home for us filled with our son’s art work, family pictures and plants too numerous to count. Our love for the outdoors and people is apparent.
The world continues to be a place of turmoil, but by making Christ the center of our lives——joy prevails.
We enjoyed a wonderful family time in Montana with unseasonably warm weather. We stayed at a cabin in Silver Gate near Cook City and skied in Yellowstone with Aaron and Lynelle and grandsons. It was a late Christmas celebration. We had no Wi-Fi and no telephone service… just electricity. It’s the greatest way for family bonding. Praying with your kids and grandkids is important but playing is as well. I have memories of running up and down playground equipment playing tag. Larry has been described as a little boy in a big boy’s body. Camping is another wonderful way to bond. There is something about our memories of camping at Devil’s Lake while sleeping out under the stars that stays with me. But we have even slept in our backyard minus a tent well before mosquito invasions. I guess the main point is breaking from routine. Yes, the family that prays and plays together stays together. How do you make memories and break the routine?