Wittenberg Magazine P.O. Box 720 Springfield, Ohio 45501-0720
Phone: (937) 327-6141 Fax: (937) 327-6112
Going to the Chapel: Lifetime of love
With flowers in bloom and weddings abounding, summer seemed the perfect time to talk with some of our alumni couples.
From how they met to the role Wittenberg has played in their lives, 11 couples share their stories.
Ruth Kunkel Bayley, ’42, knows a secret. She discovered it soon after she and her husband, Robert Bayley, ’39, said “I do” 38 years after they first met on the walkway between Blair and Recitation Halls.
Back then she was a freshman; he was a senior.“He had a twinkle in his eye and a smile for everyone,” Ruth remembers of that 1939 fall day when they first saw each other on campus. “I took notice.”
But life intervened. Robert graduated and headed to law school, and the two went their separate ways. Years passed before Ruth saw Robert’s twinkling eyes again.
“I was working at Guardian Bank, now Security Bank, and my boss came back and said ‘Mr. Bayley wanted to settle an estate’ and that I should take care of him,” Ruth explains. “I said I would.” She has taken care of him ever since.
The two married on Jan. 19, 1977. He was 59, and she was 57. Ruth laughingly explains that Robert picked the 19th because his 60th birthday was the next day, and he wanted the newspapers to say that he was 59, not 60.
“People said it wouldn’t work, but it has lasted for 22 years,” she says. As for their secret, Ruth explains that neither one of them has tried to diminish the other’s independence. “That’s the key to getting along,” she says.
Close to 2,220 Wittenberg alumni couples also seemed to have found a secret of their own. Hugh, ’37, and Janet McKenzie Gilmore, ’37, know they have.
One of Wittenberg’s oldest living alumni couples, the Gilmores met at The Barn, an old student hangout on College Avenue where Coca-Cola was once five cents a glass. “No one had any money back then,” Janet says.
During one time at The Barn, Janet remembers seeing Hugh.“He was kind of shy, but he was very handsome,” Janet says. He eventually asked her to a Wittenberg dance.
“I remember telling my sorority sisters that I had a date with him, and they couldn’t believe it,” Janet says. “I knew he was the one.”
The two married Dec. 24, 1938 in Springfield. Janet’s mother and father, her brother and his wife, and Hugh and Janet’s daughter were all married on Christmas Eves. “It’s quite a family tradition.”
Janet, a Gamma Phi Beta, and Hugh, a Phi Kappa Psi, credit the Greek system for helping them meet people and each other. “The Greek system was very important then. Everybody met everybody,” Janet explains.
“We learned a lot through the Greek system, and we loved our Greek years.” They also credit their children for making them who they are today.
“A minister once said, ‘I’ve never known anyone who was as crazy about their kids as you two,” Janet says. As for the secret to their 61-year marriage, Janet jokes, it’s “staying alive.”
Ron Duncan, ’66, and his bride, Karen, ’67, also have a sense of humor. They met in 1964 at Wittenberg. “He said he’d been turned down by other women anywhere from 17 to 52 times,” Karen says.
The Akron vs. Wittenberg football game provided the setting for their first date. Ron was on the team, so Karen drove to Akron with his roommate. “Ron didn’t score during the game, but he ran into the referee twice,” she says with a laugh.
“He looked hot.” Ron still remembers the score: Witt: 9 Akron: 7. After dating for about eight or nine months, the two married on March 27, 1965 while still in school.
“We struggled together financially and academically trying to manage tuition and college life, but there were good people who were kind to us,” she says. Professor of History Robert Hartje was one of those people.
“It was a time in my life that was difficult,” Karen says, “and he instilled confidence in me.” Another friend let Ron bus tables in exchange for boarding. Professor of Philosophy Robert Remsberg also helped the duo.
He lived next door to Ron and Karen, and he and his wife would invite them over every Friday night for tea. “They were outstanding people,” she says.
Betty Braun Pitzer, ’33, and Elwood Pitzer, ’35, also have wonderful memories of their time at Wittenberg despite being Depression-era students.
“We got an excellent education there,” Betty says, adding that they still keep in contact with professors and fellow alumni. Like the Duncans, athletics provided the backdrop to their long romance.
They met at the old Springfield High School in the late 1920s. Elwood was on the basketball and baseball teams, and Betty enjoyed watching athletics.
During their senior year, Betty’s family was late in returning from vacation, so Betty and another late return had to be placed in the boys’ division for athletics at the school. Betty explains that she and Elwood sat next to each other in the division.
“We started going steady shortly after that,” she says. In the fall of 1929, Betty came to Wittenberg, and Elwood entered a semester later following a semester at the University of Kansas.
They continued to date, but because of the Great Depression, there was not much talk about marriage.
Upon graduation in 1935, Elwood, a Phi Gamma Delta, left Springfield to play minor league ball and pro-basketball while Betty took steps toward her career in social service work.
When Elwood returned in 1936, he took a coaching position at Springfield High School, which started his 40-year career as a teacher, coach and athletic director with the local Springfield schools.
“We decided to get married immediately at that point,” Betty says. They wed two weeks later on Oct. 2, 1936. Elwood then entered the Navy in 1942. Betty, an Alpha Delta Pi, says that the time apart gave them a foundation for life.
“We were a loving partnership throughout all our careers and married life, each supporting each other,” Betty says. “It has been a very gratifying and wonderful 62 years, and we’re looking forward to many more.”
James Wilkerson, ’42, and his bride Jeanne Fross Wilkerson, ’42, share the Pitzers’ “secret” of a loving partnership. They’ve split everything 50-50 throughout their 55-year marriage.
Similar to the Pitzers, the Wilkersons also met prior to attending Wittenberg. “I saw her at First Lutheran Church years before,” James says. In fact, the two were only five years old when their eyes first met.
But although the two grew up together, they never went steady until their sophomore year at Wittenberg. “I gave her my Alpha Tau Omega fraternity pin,” James says. Jeanne, an Alpha Xi Delta, accepted, and their affection blossomed.
The two married on May 20, 1944, almost 20 years after they first said hello at church. Both James and Jeanne think that Wittenberg’s atmosphere helped them to become who they are today.
“The atmosphere at Wittenberg provided a great to opportunity to meet people with good values,” James says. “The professors were also very good.” James specifically credits A. Edward Patmos, professor emeritus of economics.
“He got me started in the business world,” he says. Debbie Fernandez Graeter, ’86, and Chip Graeter, ’86, share the Wilkersons’ thoughts on Wittenberg. They both say they had a wonderful experience at Wittenberg.
“Wittenberg is a pinnacle to us,” Debbie says. “It’s such a part of our lives.” Although the two were in English 101 together their freshmen year, they didn’t date each other until their senior year.
Debbie explains that she knew Chip through a mutual friend, Phil Strobel, ’86. Initially, Debbie remembers Chip being “more like someone who could be your brother.”
As friends, they still saw each other a various parties, but it wasn’t until their first date that Cupid hit their heartstrings. It was on Valentine’s Day, 1986. The two went to an Admission Office dance.
Chip was a student assistant in the office and had to go. “He was a lot of fun,” Debbie says. Chip then asked Debbie to his Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity formal.“Chip was boyish and cute, and he was really positive,” Debbie says.
“I started looking at him in a different way.” The two said “I do” on September 22, 1990, following a three-year long-distance love affair. They both agree that good communication is one of the secrets to a successful and happy marriage.
“Good communication helps us to support each other, and it helps us not to be afraid to ask for what we need,” Debbie says.
“We also put our children and our relationship first before our own individual needs even though we try to take care of ourselves as best we can.”
Dick Armstrong, ’74, and Jann Stevenson Armstrong, ’74, have tried to do the same. “A marriage is not just something that happens. You really have to work at it, and we have,” Jann says.
Both Greek at Wittenberg, he being a Phi Mu Delta and she a Delta Gamma, the two would run into each other regularly on campus. “We always had a good time, and we had a great group of friends through our houses,” Jann says.
Although the two dated in high school before going their separate ways, Dick again caught Jann’s eye when she transferred to Wittenberg. “He was cute,” she says. The size of Wittenberg also helped.
“Wittenberg can be such a little romantic place,” Jann says. One of their first Wittenberg dates was during a sweetheart weekend at the Phi Mu Delta house. “The girls lived there for a weekend, and the guys moved out,” she explains.
“We had a lot of fun. I don’t know where the guys went, though.” The duo later married on Sept. 1, 1973 during their junior year. Jann thinks the secret to their 25-year marriage is remembering to save time and energy for each other.
“It can be hard with all of our responsibilities, but there’s a lot of give and take and communication. We’re a team,” she says.
Both on education tracks at Wittenberg, Virginia and Rudy spent tons of time talking on the Woodlawn curb. “We shared stories every day,” Virginia says. They also shared the same geography class, except that Virginia’s class met after Rudy’s.
She remembers having a test one day, and when Rudy’s class ended, Virginia asked him about the test.“He said he studied for his, and I would have to study for mine. He wouldn’t help me,” Virginia says with a laugh.
But the two did help each other with another love: the jitterbug.“We loved to dance and still do.” They actually met on the old Field House dance floor at a Panhellenic dance.
“I was dancing with someone, and Rudy came over and asked me to dance,” Virginia says. “She danced well,” Rudy explains, adding that she also wore a nice dress.
The two wed on June 7, 1952, and both think that one of the secrets to a successful marriage is knowing how to play. “We have just always had fun,” Virginia says.
They also agree that Wittenberg has played an important role in their 47 years of wedded bliss. “The closeness of friends and faculty surpasses anything I’ve seen at the undergraduate and graduate levels,” Virginia notes.
“Wittenberg has so many wonderful memories.” Joseph Bullock, ’63 and Martha Foss Bullock, ’63, concur.
“We had excellent professors who were mentors and friends at Wittenberg,” Martie says, adding that they “received an excellent liberal arts education there.” They also think the campus life itself encouraged people to meet one another.
“There was really a community feeling on campus,” she says. “Campus life was really the educational and social life; they were one in the same.”
Joe and Martie actually met at a party earlier during their time at Wittenberg, but their first date wasn’t until January 1962.
Martie was walking home to the old Delta Gamma House on North Fountain Avenue, when Joe and his fellow Phi Kappa Psi brother, Alan Castle, ’63, drove by.
They stopped and asked Martie if she wanted to go to the old Eifferts, a local Springfield hangout south of Wittenberg, for a beer. Martie said sure.
Once there, though, Al had to leave, so Joe and Martie walked and talked all the way back to the Delta Gamma house in the snow.“Something just clicked,” Martie says.
One of Martie’s sorority sisters also seemed to notice that “something” when Joe and Martie arrived back at the DG house. “We were sitting in the living room of the house, and she walked in and said ‘I think they like each other.’”
Joe and Martie married on June 20, 1964, and 35 years later, they are still clicking. Their secret: “We are a team,” Martie says. “We’ve always been team players; we hit for each other.”
Lawrence McCoy, ’57, and Carole Holmes McCoy, ’58, understand the team concept literally and figuratively. They were both members of the debate team at Wittenberg.
Friends from the get-go, their courtship began after Carole, an Alpha Xi Delta, and her boyfriend at the time broke up. “Larry and I talked, and he just listened,” Carole says.
Larry, a Beta Theta Pi, has continued to be her shoulder and she his for 42 years now. The two tied the knot on June 8, 1957, three days before Larry graduated.
The second couple to say “I do” in the campus’ brand-new Weaver Chapel, officially dedicated on Sept. 27, 1956, they say the secret to a successful marriage is friendship. “We’ve always been friends first,” Carole explains.
Elisabeth Stewart Robertson, ’96, and Matt Robertson, ’96, share that sentiment. “We were friends from the start. That was the key,” Elisabeth says. Married last summer, Matt’s and Elisabeth’s eyes first met in the old North Hall, now Firestine Hall.
“He lived on the third floor, and I lived on the second, but I swear I don’t remember meeting him until January of 1993 when he pledged Delta Sigma Phi, and I pledged Alpha Delta Pi,” Elisabeth says.
Nonetheless the two became fast friends at North despite Matt’s apparent opinionated nature.“He consistently got on my nerves,” Elisabeth says.
“He always thought he was right, and seeing as how I’m pretty bullheaded, we got into many heavy conversations.” But as time passed, they both realized they shared something special.
“I knew we really had something when he took me home in September of our senior year to celebrate his parents’ 25th anniversary. A year and half after they graduated, Matt proposed on Valentine’s Day, 1997.
“It was so romantic — downtown Chicago, a horse and buggy ride along Lake Shore Drive. It was an evening I’ll never forget, and neither will he because he was so darn nervous, moving around and fidgeting the whole time,” Elisabeth explains.
Like the McCoys, Elisabeth and Matt wed in Weaver Chapel on July 11, 1998.“Wittenberg is an amazing place,” Elisabeth says. “We learned and grew a lot in those four years, and we discovered who we were and who we wanted to be.”
They also remember walking along the campus’ paths when they were covered with leaves, packed with snow or shiny with rain. “That is why getting married at Wittenberg made so much sense to us,” she says.
“It was so comfortable and so right; it’s where we fell in love.”
Wittenberg Magazine P.O. Box 720 Springfield, Ohio 45501-0720
Phone: (937) 327-6141 Fax: (937) 327-6112