They saw each other at a wedding and fell in love. They shared art appreciation [dash] and appreciation of each other. They had a blind date that has continued for decades. Their brother and sister also married. They shared a bus ride. News-Gazette staff writer Paul Wood asked our readers for 'meet cute' stories, like the old movies where Cary Grant might step on Katharine Hepburn's flowing dress, or Judy Garland would meet a guy, lose him in the crowd and find him at last. Here are excerpts from their stories:
Bob and Cathy Trotter, Fisher
Writes Cathy: "You have heard all the stories of blind dates that 'go wrong.' Ours was the blind date that 'went right.'
"It was the summer of '67. My sister Mary and her boyfriend Harold wanted to go to the drive-in movie, but they needed a car and a driver.
"Harold asked his good friend Bob if he would take them in his car. Bob said, 'What's in it for me?'
"Harold, being the quick-thinking guy that he was, said, 'She's got a sister who looks just like her.'
"So on Sunday night we sisters got off work at the I & B Inn and walked out to the car sitting in the front parking lot. We two couples drove to the Harvest Moon Drive In where Bob and I had our first date — a blind date that resulted in a marriage that will be celebrating its 42nd year in September."
Tim and Sarah Tufte, Champaign
Writes Sarah: "My husband and I met on the MTD Blue Line. Still happily married — two kids.
"Some people in town know us as the bus couple. Of course the story got morphed that we got married on the bus. But that's just where we met.
"After the wedding ceremony, we had our former bus driver, Ron Chubb, pick us up from the church.
"We're both from large, local families so both sides of the family plus the wedding party all rode the bus to the reception."
Clement and Shirley Jandeska, Rankin
Writes Shirley: "Fresh in the minds of everyone was the Korean War. It was 1952, and I had just graduated from high school. My very best girlfriend was getting married to a sailor stationed in Little Creek, Va. She asked me to be the maid of honor, and naturally I accepted.
"We were so excited on the wedding day — everyone getting dressed for the occasion and all the guys dressed in their uniforms. I noticed an exceptionally handsome sailor in the group, and we started talking. I looked in his eyes and I (all 18 years of me) thought ... this is the guy for me.
"We wrote to each other every day for three weeks when he suddenly appeared at my home with an engagement ring and asked me to marry him. I lived in Baltimore, and he was from Chicago. My parents went crazy:
"'Are you out of your mind, Shirley? Chicago is where all the criminals are. You don't know anything about him.'
"But love prevailed. We were married four months later. We moved to Chicago after he was honorably discharged from the Navy, and on Jan. 17, we celebrated our 60th wedding anniversary."
John Edgecombe and Sharon Campbell, Tuscola
Writes Sharon: "John and I met in 2008. He lost most of his belongings in Hurricane Katrina while living in New Orleans. He left just hours before Katrina hit and ventured north until he could find lodging.
"Travels brought him to Southaven, Miss. A local church, Getwell Road Methodist Church, was helping displaced persons at the time. John started attending the church, and my best friends attend the church as well. They introduced me to John in 2008 just as a gesture in church.
"I again went to visit my friends in Southaven and attended church, and John was there that Sunday in July 2009. He was going to have shoulder surgery within a few days, so I gave him a hug and wished him well. Days later, I decided to get his address and send him get well cards.
"In September 2009, John asked my friend for my address and telephone number and called me to say hi. We talked several times each week after that. I visited Southaven several times that fall and had dinner with John on occasion. In December, he decided to drive to Tuscola to see me over New Year's.
"He visited again in February for Valentine's Day and presented me with a beautiful engagement ring. We talked, and I said YES! We were married Aug. 7, 2009, and John moved to Tuscola to begin our life together."
Rick and Brenda Williams, Mahomet
Writes Rick: "Brenda and I met 26 years ago at summer camp, where we were both serving as counselors (we were both in our 20s). We each worked with high school youth groups in our local churches at Springfield and Peoria, and we'd come to camp knowing there were firm rules against counselor romances. Which was fine, since neither of us had come with that in mind, anyway.
"I planned to not shave and enjoy a week of scruffy manliness with my cabin of guys. She was going to forgo the time-consuming routine that came with 'getting ready' every morning (makeup, hair, etc.) and show her girls there were more important things in life than looking good for guys.
"When I walked into the room for counselor orientation that first morning, I noticed her right away and was immediately smitten. Since I was a camp veteran and it was her first year, I was able to 'impress' her with my knowledge of daily routines, expectations and activities, and I was always able to time my movements during the day to be sure and cross paths with her on a regular basis. Needless to say, I shaved and tried to look my best, and she quickly borrowed some makeup and a blow-dryer!
"The week passed with much flirtatious 'joking around,' well-timed meetings at the dining hall so we could 'just happen' to eat together, and many 'getting-to-know-you' conversations. When my team won the week's competitions — and earned the highly-coveted moonlight walk around the lake and pizza party prize — it ruined our plans to hang out together at the pool that last evening. But the next afternoon, before driving home, we made plans to stay connected. After a short long-distance courtship (six months), we were married.
"We arrived in C-U in 1996; she for a new job and me looking for one. I wound up teaching high school history and civics at Judah Christian for the next 15 years, where every year began with an all-school retreat. What a surprise when for several years that retreat was held at the same camp where I'd met my wife.
"I stood up in front of the student body in the assembly hall every one of those years, pointed back to the corner of the room, and shared the story of meeting my wife — love at first sight. 'Awww ...' the girls would all sigh in unison, 'how romantic.' The guys were, of course, less demonstrative, but I'd like to think they were equally impressed!"
Albert and Caroline Helregel, Loda
In 1946, with "the war over, the boys coming home across the ocean," Caroline returned from war work building B-57s and B-24s in Detroit to Newton. Her friend Betty asked her to be a bridesmaid in her wedding, a cousin who was returning after 30 months in the Pacific theater.
Albert's and Caroline's grandparents went to the same church, but they had never met.
They were playing cards when Albert's dad dropped one. The father bent to pick it up and "ran his hand up my leg," Caroline said.
"I jumped up real quick. He just missed a good slap. Everybody laughed but Albert."
It turned out, Caroline said, that Albert's dad had pulled that trick on women before, "but Albert talked to him about me," she said with a laugh.
Betty was disappointed Albert didn't ask Caroline out that very night, but he did the next Saturday. They married on Dec. 30, 1947 and had two boys and two girls.
It's been quite a happy 65 years, Caroline said.
Pat and Ellen Noonan, Champaign
Writes Ellen: "Twenty-seven years ago, my husband put a personal ad in The News-Gazette. My older sister, who has a way of being very persistent, read that ad and helped me write a reply. By helping, I mean she wrote it and I signed it.
"Let's just say that even though we had visited for over an hour on the phone a few nights before, our first visit in person did not go as well. We parted ways without Pat knowing my last name or where I lived. We had used my sister's post-office box for safety reasons. There are a lot of weirdos out there, you know.
"After our first meeting, I knew I had met one. Even though I had insisted that I was through with personal ads, my sister (did I mention she was persistent?) found another ad several months later that she knew would be a much better match for me, as it mentioned he was a Christian.
"Again, she wrote the letter and I signed it. The answer came back in record time. I knew I recognized the return address. I opened the letter and the first line was, 'Please keep reading, let me apologize for my stupidity on our first date.' Yes, you guessed it: Pat had placed another ad, and I had answered it. Truth really is stranger than fiction!
"I could not believe my luck, but my curiosity had gotten the best of me, so I called him again. We talked for a long time, and Pat explained that he had done a lot of thinking and talking to friends that he trusted and knew that he had been pretty narrow-minded on our first date and not very clear as to why. We went to dinner a few nights later and found that we did have a lot in common. We dated for several months, became engaged, planned a wedding and got married a year later on Oct. 10, 1987.
"When we returned from our honeymoon, we decided that we should let people know how lucky we were and encourage them to do what we did. We placed another ad in the personals saying, 'We met and married through these personals, and you can too.'
"Life continues; we are empty-nesters now. We have two grown children, Hannah, 22, and Sam, 21."
Wayne and Susan Bekiares, Champaign
Writes Susan: "My sister is my sister-in-law. My husband's brother is his brother-in-law. Our children are double cousins, sharing the same grandparents. My husband and I met through mutual friends — well, actually through my former boyfriend. And in a strange twist of fate, he happened to participate in our wedding as my brother-in-law's best man.
"And through my relationship with my then-boyfriend, now husband, my sister starting dating his brother.
"My sister Christine, my husband Wayne, his brother Byron and I all hail from the North Side of Chicago. We all attended college in Chicago for our first two years, then transferred 'downstate.' I followed Christine and two older sisters, and Wayne followed Byron.
"For a period of several years, we were all students and we sorted ourselves out into two couples. After graduation, Christine was a teacher in the Unit 7 school district, Byron taught at University Laboratory High, Wayne was physical director at McKinley YMCA, and I, as the youngest, was finishing my undergraduate degree. As graduation drew near, it seemed like the natural evolutionary process took over, and the obvious next step was that we would all get married.
"Our situation in 1966 was that we sisters were living together on Hill Street in Champaign, while the brothers were living at Hessel Manor. It was apparent that after marrying, we could conveniently shift the gender balance by having Wayne move in with me while Christine moved in with Byron. My parents both died while I was in college, but in a twist of fate, the brothers' mother, Lillian, had a chance to plan a wedding and reception — a task she enjoyed that would normally not be assigned to the mother of the groom. With only two sons and no daughters, this was her chance!
"We were married in Chicago in a double wedding. Since the same families would have attended each wedding, and we had many friends in common, it was a convenient as well as a unique ceremony. Apparently it was unique enough to merit notice in the Chicago Tribune.
"Several years ago, we attended an anniversary celebration at the church and took a photo reminiscent of that earlier time. As the years go by, we have watched as our children, two to each couple, have become almost as close as siblings.
"We are coming up on our 46th anniversary, and to make it special, one of the children in the next generation was married on the same date two years ago. This is the ultimate convenience, since we are reaching the age where we have trouble remembering dates, but we certainly won't forget this newest addition to the family calendar."
Bob and Linda VanRoosendaal Payne
Writes Linda: "My husband and I met at Western Bowl 12 years ago when I was bowling in the senior citizens league and he was subbing for the opposing team. Early in the game, I got a strike, and he reached over to shake my hand. I thought, 'What a good sport, to congratulate his opponent.' When he shook my hand, he also passed a note (very subtly).
"I sneaked a peek. It simply said: 'Phone number?' I waited a while, and then went to the rest room and wrote down my number. Feeling like a teenager, I went back out to continue bowling.
"Later in the game, when he threw a strike, of course I had to shake his hand to return his gesture of good sportsmanship, and as I did, I passed him back his note.
"When I got back home from bowling that day, my phone was ringing and he asked me to lunch the next week, and the rest is history."
Saivi and Lois Charehsazan, Savoy
Writes Lois: "In 1966 my husband and I met at Southern Illinois University in square dance class. We took the class as an easy physical education credit. We were paired up because we were both the same 'shortish' height. After class, he asked me out, and I was too scared to say no. I had no experience with foreigners!
"He was studying English as a second language and learning square dance terminology/calls was like another new language (dosado, allemande, promenade, sashay your partner.)
"I took him under my wing and promenaded him to the altar two years later. We have never square-danced since, but after having two sons, 47 years of living in three countries, and now working at the same place, our love prevails!"
Sasha Rubel and Dick Detzner, Urbana
Writes Sasha: "We were introduced by a refrigerator. Both artists, living in Chicago. Also, Dick was doing graphic design, I was doing art therapy. I was at a friend's house, saw a Christmas card he'd made, hanging on the refrigerator. It was hilarious, almost scandalous.
"Several weeks later, he was house-sitting for the same couple, saw a drawing I'd made to wish them bon voyage and loved it. When they came back, he said, 'Who did this?' They replied, 'That's the same person who liked your card.'
"So they arranged for us to meet."