Girls’ Night Out Story #30: Jane Ellen Mark

My story is not deep or poignant or profound—but, like all our stories, evidence of God’s loving providence.  It’s a fun story, one with a happy ending.  It’s about how my husband Bob and I finally got together for life—our “courtship” and engagement.

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Bob and I met in the ninth grade.  (Actually, he claims he saw me in the fourth grade, when my mom and I were turning in Girl Scout cookie money to his house—his mom was “neighborhood cookie chairman,” my mom was our troop leader.  He was in the kitchen, “spying” on me at the front door—brown-haired straight bangs and pony tail, nine or ten years old.)  In the ninth grade Bob had come to our public school from his Lutheran grade school, which ended in eighth grade; we were student council officers together (I know, you’re shocked; Bob’s always been in leadership!).  We had two dates in ninth grade:  I asked him to a senior Girl Scout hayride (the boy next-door, whom I had a crush on, had bet Bob he couldn’t kiss me on the hayride; he won the bet!  I don’t even remember Bob trying), and he asked me to the ninth grade party—a big deal.  The picture of us is pretty funny, both with metal braces on our teeth.

We went to a huge 10-12 high school, over 1,000 students per class, so we really didn’t run into each other our sophomore year, our class paths just didn’t cross.  But at Christmas time Bob was in a different place than usual one day, and we did run into each other—a pleasant meeting.  My brother Tom, who is practically my twin (we’re 11 months apart), was having a Christmas party and condescendingly said to his “little sister” that if I could get a date I could come to his party.  Bob was friends with some of Tom’s friends, so I asked him.  We count that as our first date (yes, it’s true, I asked him)—December 26, 1964.  (“26” has always been a special number to us, and it’s our current house number.)  It was a fancy dinner-dance, and I borrowed a dress and coat (I remember them, the coat was white wool with a leopard fur collar) from my sister-in-law, married to my older brother, Jack.  That began the start of our “going together”—pretty much for good.

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We dated through high school—and talked our senior year, on a mountain hike in Colorado, on a work/mission trip with my church youth group, about marrying someday—and even what we would name our children!  We had read Catherine Marshall’s book A Man Called Peter together and were pretty enamored of Peter and Catherine Marshall; Bob was planning to be a pastor, and those were the children names we chose then (didn’t happen, except for Mary Catherine).

We chose to go to the same college together—Valparaiso University in Valparaiso, Indiana (we grew up in Wichita, Kansas).  We dated all through college—except springtime in horrible-winter Valparaiso was rough, we managed to “break up” every spring.  (We both brought lots of family-of-origin baggage to the party, and we were crazy young, emotionally immature, etc.—there was so much we didn’t know!)  Our break-ups lasted for a weekend our freshman year (Bob asked my best friend out), a week our sophomore year, and junior year we called things off in February—we realized it was time we decided yay or nay concerning our future together, and we each needed time to sort that out.  (We did have one “date” before school was out that year, I invited him out for a drink on his 21st birthday.  Obviously, I hadn’t let go.

Then the fun part of the story starts.  I went to Europe that summer, between my junior and senior years, with a small group of students from Valpo with two professors, one history and one geography.  We were gone two months and in nine different countries; it was a study trip, with lectures along the way and papers to write when we got home.  It was really an amazing opportunity, and crazy inexpensive by today’s dollars.  I flew from Wichita through Chicago to meet our group in New York, meeting a friend for lunch at O’Hare.  She was engaged to a fraternity brother of Bob’s; we had done a lot of things together, and she was a good friend.  At the end of lunch, she said almost absentmindedly, as she pulled an envelope our of her purse, “Oh, I have something for you from Bob.” He had written to me and asked for my summer itinerary.  I don’t remember the content of that letter (though we have them all!), though I’m sure he asked me please to be careful (he does that still), but somehow I got a copy of our itinerary to him before leaving the U. S. (this was before cell phones, email, and texting), complete with dates, cities, and hotel addresses.  Here’s the cool part:  Bob had a letter waiting for me at every hotel throughout Europe for two months!  And the first thing I would do was to ask the front desk for a typewriter, so that I could write to him!  (Those letters are pretty funny to read, but I’m glad we have them—they are a good record of my trip, for one thing.)

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In Rome, staying at the Hotel Majestic, he proposed to me via mail!  (I guess he’d “sorted things out” by then, and he was sure that he wanted to spend the rest of his life with me—and I him.)  I tried calling him from Rome (again, old days—long distance international operator), and after a few seconds of small talk, we got cut off!  But I think he knew my answer was “yes!”  We got engaged on New Year’s Eve of our senior year in college and married in August the summer after we graduated.

We lived in Chicago the first three months of our marriage, then God brought us to Saint Louis.  And Saint Louis has been our home ever since, with the exception of a couple years of our married life that God moved us back to Wichita for a time (another story for another day)—and those were all definitely God’s doing!

I am ever thankful to be married to a really good and beautiful man who loves the Lord and loves me and his family dearly.  It has not always been easy, but we have grown together, and it’s been good—and keeps getting better and better!  We love each other more, are better friends, enjoy one another more, today than ever.  That’s a major blessing!

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So grateful,
Jane Ellen


84110-10505233_766488586727772_7384189286130988956_oI blew in from Kansas (Wichita) but count Saint Louis home–45 years.  I’m married to Bob (also 45 years), we have four married daughters, who are my favorite people, four wonderful sons-in-law (love those guys), and nine awesome grandkids, most all of whom live in Saint Louis, too.  I love my church family as well (Central Pres.) and devote a good bit of time to them.  You will usually find me with knitting AND a book in tow–how to choose?! 


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