Who could have known you would play a pivotal role in an almost 60-year love affair that’s produced 6 children, 6 sons or daughters-in-law, and 13 grandchildren. Goodness, if you hadn’t been at the party that night, I wouldn’t even be here to tell this story…
It was the spring of 1961. Think Mad Men. Dark, single-breasted suit jackets with narrow notch lapels. Crisp white dress shirts, dark ties, and matching slim pants, complete with wingtip dress shoes.
It was the launch of a new season for Jantzen Sportswear. An iconic clothing and swimwear company and Jantzen spared no expense. As all the salespeople were men, who else would they invite to a new clothing launch at the then renowned Heer’s department store in Springfield, Missouri? None other than the lovely, Miss Missouri.
Fresh out of the Air Force, my dad was eager to start his career as a newly minted Jantzen sales rep—he also was keen on ‘meeting special someone’ who would eventually share his life. Walking into the pre-launch party that evening, my dad had every intention of meeting Miss Missouri.
He spotted her across the room and nonchalantly worked his way in her direction. Looking very Sophia Loren meets Annette Funicello…dark hair, captivatingly-sexy brown eyes, and a figure any woman of the day would envy–my dad made his approach. Minutes into their small talk, he realized this “gorgeous woman” was one of Jantzen’s few female marketing representatives at the time. At that moment, he no longer cared if Miss Missouri was even in attendance.
Little did he know he would travel all the way from Furstenfeldbruck Air Force base in Germany to Missouri via Oregon only to meet a beautiful woman who had grown up down the street from him in Portland.
There was just one little problem…she had an engagement ring on her finger.
As dad has often recounted, “She wasn’t married yet.”
So he asked my mother for dinner the next evening…and she accepted. (Which was a little scandalous if I do say so myself.) They both recall having “such a lovely time.” When my dad took her back to the hotel, he made sure to walk her all-the-way-to-her-door. Ironically, in the ultimate plot twist, Jantzen had set my mom up to room with no other than—drum roll please—Miss Missouri.
My dad shrugs dismissively whenever I bring up what it was like to finally meet Miss Missouri? “Well, she wasn’t as good-looking as your mother, that’s for sure.”
Not wanting the date to end and knowing my mother was a devout Catholic, this dapper protestant asked my mom to Mass the next morning…and then to lunch. “I wanted to spend more time with her, and I knew she would want to go to church on Sunday. So, I asked if I could escort her to Mass,” my dad explained with a wink of his eye.
The next day, my mom flew back to Portland, Oregon, with a lot on her mind. For starters, what to do about a fiance. “Such a nice man,” my mom recalls whenever the story surfaces.
A week or so later, my dad flew back to Portland and asked my mom out to dinner—on one condition—she not wear her engagement ring.
In a daring move, my mom took her engagement ring to the jewelry store to be cleaned, and when the jeweler said, “it would only take a few minutes,” my mom replied, “No worries, I’ll pick it up in the morning.”
Needless to say, my mom called off her engagement a few days later, and this week my parents celebrated their 59th wedding anniversary—and the rest is history.
-Dear Miss Missouri, thank you. I’m sure you are a beautiful woman, and I hope you have lived a happy life, but still, I’m grateful it wasn’t you who caught my dad’s eye across a crowded room in the spring of ’61.
Happy 59th wedding anniversary!
With love, your daughter, Lisa (Reinhart) Speers
Lisa hopes to share life’s stories through the ever-changing platform she founded, called The Evolving Nest. She writes and shares insights about her own triumphs and struggles during her 30-year marriage to her husband and best friend. Together they have 3 growing children, two of which live 1,500 miles away most of the year, and an adult son with autism who has the run of the upstairs to himself. Lisa also contributes to Her View From Home, various podcasts, and of course, her own website, The Evolving Nest.
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