Yesterday was our fifty-fifth anniversary, and special birthdays and anniversaries always generate nostalgia for Steve and me. As I sorted pictures as part of our recent move, I found many old pictures of friends from days gone by. As I told Gina about some of the people in the pictures, she suggested I blog about these people and our memories.
The first one goes back to Steve’s days as a grad student at the University of Illinois. Though we lived in Bloomington, he went to school 50 miles away in Champaign-Urbana while teaching at Illinois State University in Normal, twin city to Bloomington. We were members of the Four Seasons Church of Christ and have fond (and not-so-fond) memories of the people there. So clearly it was a typical church full of warm, loving, and fallible people.
Some of our fondest memories are of Dick Wright, who worked in PR as Information Director for Country Companies Insurance, part of the Illinois Farm Bureau, among other things. He was a well-known and respected local personality. He recruited me to be the female voice in some Country Companies radio commercials. We had a lot of fun doing them, and it was a hoot to hear myself on local radio.
Dick mentored Steve in his hopes to be a professional speaker and was a great support on Steve’s Toastmasters International winning speech in 1971. He helped Steve design a logo, but also told him no one would pay much attention to what he had to say until he had some gray hair. We’ve often remembered that!
Because of his position, he had a press pass to the Indianapolis 500 and took Steve with him in May of 1972—a life highlight for Steve. Of course he also graduated from the U of I with his Ph.D. that spring. Then we had a baby that August, which pretty much overshadowed the other big events.
Dick and his wife Barb were among the first we told when we were pregnant. In late 1972, they made a special trip from Bloomington, Illinois, to Southgate, Kentucky, to meet baby Josh. Theirs is the one of the oldest pictures I found.
We have other fond memories of Dick, who has kept in touch over the years. We were saddened to hear of his divorce but delighted when he met Mary Lou and they decided to marry. Dick asked Steve to come to Normal, Illinois, to perform their wedding ceremony and Steve was honored. They were married on July 21, 1978, so they recently celebrated 42 wonderful years of marriage.
We were excited to visit Illinois again and see old friends. On the way there, we had car trouble in Covington, Indiana, near the Illinois state line, and called Dick to say we were stranded. Nothing without cell phones was as easy as it is now, but we reached him. That man had contacts everywhere! He called a friend whose brother lived in Covington. The friend’s brother’s son, there for the summer, offered us his little pickup (NOT air conditioned!) which got us safely to Normal, though sweaty and dusty since it was one of the hottest days of the year.
While waiting for us, the group had gone ahead with the reception. We cleaned up a bit and the wedding proceeded. Dick and Mary Lou went off on their honeymoon and we returned to Covington. By the time we got back to our car, it was repaired and ready for us to drive it home, which by then was Fort Thomas, Kentucky.
Dick has always been that slightly older, wise friend that we all need. He always wrote a warm, personal letter each December (and before smartphone calendars sent Steve a small calendar book), and now he emails occasionally to keep us up to date on their activities and health. In a recent email, Dick wrote, “We think about you often and you’re featured prominently in our prayers each day.”
Our visits have gotten farther apart, but the warmth in our hearts for Dick Wright will never change.