If anyone can teach us about lasting love, it’s Duane and Joan Wilcox who will celebrate their 70th—yes, 70th!—anniversary this summer. My husband and I met with them recently so I could interview them for Valentine’s Day.
We arrived at their warm and inviting apartment in Baraboo’s Oak Park Place and Joan, remembering I enjoy tea in the afternoon, readied a plate of cookies and pot of tea. It turns out that tea was a factor in their meeting. Joan, who grew up in the Dells, attended a college where one of her classes taught her how to serve tea elegantly, while wearing heels mind you, and an-other class tried to teach her the analytics of physics. She didn’t feel either of the classes were a good fit and transferred to River Falls to get a degree in elementary education.
River Falls held dances. At one of them, Duane, recently out of the navy after WWII, caught sight of Joan across the room and asked her to dance. She accepted. Joan had learned how to dance at sock hops. Duane had learned from a seventh-grade classmate.
They enjoyed several dances and spent the rest of the evening together and, as it turned out, the rest of their lives together.
The night they met, Joan returned to her apartment and woke her roommate. “I think I just met the man I want to marry.”
Her roommate mumbled, “That’s good. Now shut up and go to bed.”
They kept seeing one another, taking long walks along nature trails near the river, and sharing their lives. Classmates had elected them king and queen of their college prom. Just be-fore the prom dance, Duane asked Joan to marry him. She said Yes, and King Duane whirled her onto the dance floor.
Their love steeped, much like this perfectly prepared tea I’m drinking. When Joan was having a difficult time delivering one of their three children, a relative commented that he had
proof of Duane’s love for his wife. Whereas family members in the waiting room were trying to make the time pass more quickly by reading, Duane was only staring. He held a magazine like the others, but his was upside down.
When asked what has made their marriage work all these years, Duane mentioned that they have shared interests. They both appreciate family, community, education, and love music and travel.
Joan talked about the importance of supporting one another. When Duane started a new venture such as planning a community cabaret, she helped with decorations and anything else that he needed. Likewise, when Joan mentioned during a trip to Australia that she wanted to see sheep, Duane agreed to an eight-hour bus ride so that could happen.
Duane and Joan support one another, but they have separate interests, too. Joan loves to attend her book club, and play the piano and harp; Duane enjoys time in his workshop carv-ing detailed animals and figures.
I swirl my tea. Common interests, mutual respect, and supporting one another—all ingre-dients helping to make the perfect marriage. Joan shows me a framed photo of the two of them on prom night. She points to the image of her engagement ring in the photo, and I ask to see her hand. She’s still wearing it today.
I finish my cookie and tea before taking a final look at the prom photo. Lucky thing that Joan left the tea school for River Falls because if ever two people belong together, it’s this king and queen.