Bell Trace Senior Living Community in Bloomington is filled with love stories. Some of them began more than half a century ago while others are just getting started.
The first story is a long one. Ken and Pat Shidler, both 89, have been together for 67 years.
Ken and Pat are from Indiana and met while they were undergrads at IU. Ken was a member of the Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity, and Pat was a member of the Pi Beta Phi sorority. Ken said Pat was the 13th Pi Phi he’d taken out on a date.
Several months in, Ken decided he wanted to give his fraternity pin to her. It was a tradition at the time and a symbol of pre-engagement. His fraternity brothers didn’t think she’d accept the pin.
“I bet you a case of beer she will,” Ken told them.
He got the case of beer that day.
Ken and Pat graduated from IU in 1953 and were married less than a week later.
They’ve traveled the world together and lived all over the country. They’ve been to 48 states together and traveled to every continent but Antarctica — they believe that’s what has kept their marriage strong. They said moving kept things fresh, and they had to lean on each other a lot to adjust to new living conditions.
The advice the Shidlers wanted to impart on young couples was to be tolerant, give space, work together, listen and have fun together.
Bill and Karen Stucky aren’t far behind the Shidlers. They’ve been married since 1957, making it 63 years. They’re both 82.
The Stuckys have been together since they finished high school, but they’ve known each other since they were in first grade.
For a long time, Karen didn’t see Bill as someone she’d date. Their friend groups hung out a lot throughout their time in school, and she finally decided Bill seemed “sorta cool.” They started dating and got married between their sophomore and junior years of college at IU.
The Stuckys said they love to dance together. While they were at IU, they attended dances in the Wright Quad dining hall. They loved to go to movies together and go out to eat. She loves his homemade chili, though he doesn't have a recipe for it, it's all just thrown together. Dancing is difficult now, but they said they still go out to the movies and on dinner dates often.
Every year for Valentine's Day, Bill tries to show his affection by buying Karen flowers and getting up a couple hours earlier than her to hide cards around their cottage at Bell Trace.
He does it to this day, and Karen keeps a drawer full of his cards.
The Stuckys wanted to tell young couples they should try to do things they both enjoy. They encourage giving each other room to do what the other wants to do. Karen has an office where she can read and work, and Bill has a workshop where he makes clocks, model engines and more.
Glenn and Donna Toney, 88 and 78, have been married for 45 years. They met while they were both in the military.
“We’re like a team, and we always have been,” Donna said.
The Toneys were stationed at a military base outside Indianapolis when they met. Donna was walking in uniform to work when Glenn, also on his way to work, drove past and noticed her. He said he stopped and asked her if she wanted a ride to base since he could tell they were both going in the same direction.
Donna noticed his uniform and name tag and figured, why not. That evening they made a date to get coffee together.
Donna said she wasn’t so sure about Glenn at first. She’d stand him up on dates they’d planned, and she didn’t want to confront him over the phone about it.
Glenn said that was the last straw.
He got up the next morning earlier than usual, hoping to get to work before Donna so he didn’t have to see her. Unknowingly, Donna did the same exact thing, and they ran into each other. Glenn told Donna to get in his car. He told her they should probably talk.
Glenn and Donna were married less than a year after they met. Donna was going to be stationed in Germany, and if they were married, they could be stationed together. The assignment was eliminated, but Glenn wanted to get married anyway. She could still be transferred at any time.
“I kinda like you, and I’d hate to see you pack up and leave,” he said.
The Toneys' anniversary is close to Valentine’s Day, so they usually end up having a date for the holiday. This year, they’re going to Hilltop Family Restaurant in Spencer, Indiana with their children.
The Toneys said good relationships are built on trust, respect, caring and concern. Glenn said you also need to be good friends.
“She’s my best friend,” he said.
Harry and June Patton’s story is one of modern love. They’re both 90, but they’ve only been married to each other for four years.
A few months after June moved into Bell Trace, a friend introduced her to Harry, who lived down the hall. The two had previously been married, both for more than 50 years. Both their spouses died in 2007. Harry said he was looking for a good cook, and she is one.
Much of their married life has taken place in Bell Trace. They were married in their apartment living room by a friend. They enjoy watching "Jeopardy!" and "Wheel of Fortune". On Sundays, since they’re unable to physically go to church, they watch a church program together. If they could, they said they’d go on a date to Applebee’s or Cracker Barrel.
Harry said he believes in marrying for love. He said the love they have for each other now doesn’t replace the love they both had for their previous spouses. They still love them, but without them, they were forced to come home to an empty apartment with nobody to spend time with.
Now, Harry and June have each other to come home to.
Their advice for young couples is simple: Know them well, respect them and don’t jump into anything too quickly.
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