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Senior marriage - 50 years in the making

On Life and Love after 50 Newsletter - March 18, 2017

From Jackson, Michigan to Dana Point, California after 50 years - See story below

News that spread like wildfire among my high school classmates

I grew up in Jackson, Michigan, a city of 50,000. Jackson is 80 miles due west of Detroit. And like so many of our Champs, I loved my home town. Most Champs, however, eventually moved away from where they grew up. They went off to college or joined the military or moved away for some other reason. They parted ways with classmates, former boyfriends and former girlfriends. Through the years, Champs would run into their classmates in the most unlikely of places, but most often it would be at high school reunions. I’ve been fortunate because from my graduating class of 1957 at Jackson High, there are individuals that assumed the role of class historians or connection points so that we can keep in touch with one another from time to time. We had nearly 500 in our class. Classmate Marty, who lives in Michigan, has been the glue that has kept my JHS classmates in contact. As we age and reach our mid-to-late 70s, Marty’s role has become tougher. She’s the one who sends out the obituaries of classmates we have lost. I am sure you Champs are experiencing a similar situation from your hometowns. I’ve seen Marty three or four times over the years, usually at reunions. But one day a few years ago, she walked into my Dana Point, Calif., deli, and asked me for an employment application. I didn't recognize her but there was a familiarity I couldn’t identify. I thought to myself, “Wow, this woman is a little old to be applying for work in a busy, physically-demanding, on-your-feet, deli.” She wrote her full name on the application, and nothing else, and with a big smile, handed it to me. I saw her name and it all clicked. We had a big laugh over the joke she had played on me. Marty emailed me last Sunday morning. Of course, my initial reaction was, “Oh, oh, not another obituary.” But no, the message was the opposite, it was good news. And it was spreading like wildfire across the USA among our classmates. Marty wrote, “Phil Williams wanted me to notify you that he and Sue Hamlin Piper got married in Calif. Feb. 24th.” I was certain that Marty was playing another joke on me. How could this be? Phil lives in Palm Springs and I had no idea where Sue lived. (I found out later, she had been living in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where she had moved to be near her children after she was widowed in 2012). I see Phil a couple of times a year and knew he was married, but that he and his wife had not lived together for a few years. I also knew his wife had been terminally ill and that Phil had been taking exceptional care of her in her final months of life. To my knowledge, Phil and Sue had never actually dated. They liked each other in the fourth grade at Griswold Elementary School, where the three of us attended. Here are two very old photos of them--circa 1949. The quality is poor but they were both handsome kids.

Phil in 4th grade-in middle, smiling

Sue in 4th grade-girl in back on right They saw each other at the 50th reunion for 20-30 minutes. Greta remembered that Phil brought gifts for everyone at that reunion. I knew both Phil and Sue well, right through high school. Phil and I were on the track and swimming teams together and acolytes at the same church.

Phil the hurdler; Tom the pole vaulter - Circa 1956

Sue and I were officers of our senior class. Here is a picture of us holding our campaign posters, dated Feb. 16, 1957

Tom and Sue as class officers --photo courtesy Jackson Citizen Patriot newspaper - Feb. 16, 1957 At any rate, as I started to realize that what Marty had told me--that Phil and Sue got married-was true, I was dumbfounded. Sue, it turns out, had been a caregiver for another classmate for a year before he passed away, a guy named Phil Beck, who had been on the track team with Phil Williams and me. I think Phil Williams was aware that Sue was care-giving Phil Beck. The newlyweds shared with me how this marriage union started and culminated within 24 days just last month (speaking of a busy, decisive, unique, waste-no-time, February, 2017): On February 1, Sue called Phil Williams to tell him Phil Beck had passed away On Feb. 2, Sue called again: "Hi Phil what are you doing?" Feb. 3-6, The conversations between them started getting serious On Feb. 7, Phil said to Sue, “You better come out here and we will have a face-to-face talk." On Feb. 8, Sue e-mailed her plane’s arrival time at Ontario Airport (just east of Los Angeles) Also Feb. 8, Phil reserves separate rooms at a motel Feb 9-15, Marriage discussions take place. Finally, Sue says, "If we are going to get married, why don't you ask me?" Phil said, 'OK, I just asked you.'" Feb 15, Phil changes motel reservation to one room. Feb 17, Phil goes to Men's Warehouse and buys suit for wedding Feb 24: -10 a.m., Plane lands at Ontario Airport -11:00 a.m., Married at Fullerton Orange County Clerk Office -Bought matching wedding bands -Checked into Mission Inn Riverside -Went to Mr Picwick's Pub at night Feb 25, Attended Dickens Festival and visited classmate Dave Judy Feb 26, Stopped outside my house to surprise me (We were in Nashville) and then had lunch at Tutor and Spunky’s, my former deli -Saw Anglican priest. Church wedding in Orange set for after Easter Feb 27, Lunch with classmate Ken Ware After the news sank in, I started to think, this is wonderful. Finally, Phil nabs one of the prettiest and nicest girls in our class. Both are widowed and both have been caregivers. Now, it’s their time together. And, they have a great deal in common—going all the way back to Griswold Elementary School. They wasted no time tying the knot. I’ve often said, in searching for a mate, don’t forget to attend reunions and keep in touch with your classmates. Now you know more about the Jackson High School class of 1957 than you ever wanted to know.

Sue and Phil Williams, Feb. 24, 2017

And, this article appeared in the San Clemente Times Newspaper

And, this article appeared in the San Juan Capistrano Dispatch Newspaper

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