Romance for the ages: From couples who made it
by Mat Cohen
No one knows love more than the people who have been pierced by Cupid’s
arrow and withstood the test of time.
Two couples in the Streeterville neighborhood offered their stories and advice for others.
Bill and D Clancy, married 60 years, went on the most epic first date you can imagine, and Roger and Jeannette Becker are high school sweethearts who have been married for 56 years.
Both know a thing or two about the ways of love.
D, who goes by the first initial of her maiden name, met Bill when she was 10. She was seven years younger than her future husband and friends with his niece.
Bill’s and D’s families are from Chicago and knew each other.
“The reality is we both really knew each other’s families for a long time,” D said. “I think sometimes newlyweds have problems with families and we never had that, but we both already knew each other’s families really well.”
And everyone thought they’d be together, especially after their first date years later.
“Our first date was more than 24 hours,” D said.
They went to a lecture, to dinner and then out dancing, which is enough to last three dates, but there’s more.
Bill crashed on D’s couch for a few hours of sleep, then they attended 6 a.m. mass the next morning, drove north to visit his brother, and finally back home.
They’ve always had fun together, which continued when they had kids in the 1960s.
“Bill and I had so much fun with our kids,” she said. “And that’s not true for everyone.”
They took a month-long road trip along the California coast and camped in a van along with four kids and a dog.
“I don’t think too many people do that,” D said. “I’m not sure if we were wise or not, but it was great. Now that we’re older we still have a lot of fun as a family. We’re not smothering, but we still have a good time together.
“The ability to laugh at things helps your relationship, sometimes people take things too seriously.”
High school sweethearts Roger and Jeannette Becker started dating their junior year after Roger asked Jeannette to the prom, partly because of her shiny hair.
“There was kind of a click,” Roger said. “A fit that developed more over time. I went away to college, but we saw each other close to every weekend. And we got married right when I got out of college.”
Jeannette agreed, “It was really meant to be.”
When Roger joined the army, travel and distance were introduced to the relationship.
“It takes work to have a good marriage, and by that I don’t mean it’s a struggle,” he said. “Sometimes you just have to pay attention. It’s a miracle that people can change in compatible ways. Both of us are different people than we were back in high school, but we’ve been lucky the changes have been compatible. We’re still best friends and plan to stay that way.”
The Beckers grew up close to St. Louis and moved to Chicago in 1996. The move filled them with newfound energy. Roger teaches a current events class and joined a gentlemen’s club, and Jeannette stays active at church and various seniors groups.
“(Chicago) has so much energy, it revitalized us,” Roger said. “We take advantage of what Chicago has to offer. We like to go out to eat and do many other things together.”
For the Clancy’s, Chicago is not their permanent home. Having Florida to escape to during winter helped the marriage blossom from the start.
“Another thing that was wise of us,” D said. “Bill hates the cold weather, so after we got married we moved to Florida over the winter and into May. I think starting out life with each other there, we got a chance to know each other better. We got off to a really great start.”
Through thick and thin, the couples have grown together, mourned losses together, and loved deeply together.
But of course, there is always some luck involved.
“We’ve been lucky,” Jeanette said. “I got a really great guy.”