Through 58 years, their love ‘never waned’
Mary Ann and Jim Johnson of Lake Forest were married for 54 years before Jim died in 2007. Their story is among those featured in a "love story" display during February. | Special to Pioneer Press
Updated: February 8, 2013 11:05AM
LAKE FOREST — It truly was love at first sight when Charlene Ackerman met her husband-to-be on a blind date in 1957.
Stanley Ackerman had his bags packed to begin his doctoral studies in music the next day, but proposed to Charlene instead.
“He made the decision to stay in the Chicago area and became a member of the viola section of the Lyric Opera,” Charlene said of that fateful date, Sept. 21, 1957.
On their second date, Stanley gave Charlene his college fraternity pin.
“This romance was afire,” said Charlene, a Lake Forest resident. “He met all my criterion: he was tall, dark, handsome and he played the violin. In my family studying the violin was a requirement.”
The couple married on Aug. 23, 1959, and enjoyed 53 years together before Stanley passed away last month.
This Valentine’s Day will be the first in more than 50 years they will not be together, but their love story remains a lasting tribute among those featured this month on the Ruth Fell Wander Community Art Wall at the First Bank of Highland Park, 1835 First St., Highland Park.
The Ackermans aren’t the only couple that experienced love at first sight.
When the Fords of Lake Forest first met at a house party in Evanston, it, too, was destined to be.
“When we met, yes, I knew,” said Mrs. Ernest Ford, who has always gone by her husband’s full name. “I was just determined I was going to have a college degree before I married.”
Two years later, the couple wed in her hometown of Waukegan.
“This was not preceded by a shack up,” Mrs. Ford said. “Nor was it a shotgun affair.”
A childless couple, the Fords nevertheless made children from their church the hub of their life with choir, Scouting and Sunday church school an active part of their 50-year marriage. Mr. Ford passed away more than a decade ago.
For the Gottschalks of Lake Forest, Bud was smitten on first meeting Ann. She, however, took a little more convincing.
The couple first met when Ann arrived at his family farm, approximately 20 miles from her home in Lake Bluff, to pick up Bud’s younger brother, George, for the Lake Forest High School Junior Prom. After the date, George never called Ann again, so Bud decided to go to her house, which he considers the best decision of his life.
“When she came downstairs, I knew she was the girl I wanted,” he said.
Ann still had her senior year of high school to finish, followed by four years at the University of Illinois in Champaign. During that time, Bud made every effort to visit Ann, even though he worked on his dad’s farm and on Monday and Saturday nights would stock shelves from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. at the A&P store.
“Several times I would go to visit Ann on Sunday, after working all night, and return Sunday night, work on the farm all day and stock shelves on Monday,” Bud said. “If that isn’t love, I don’t know what is.”
Ann eventually agreed.
“He was such a hard worker,” she said.
The couple wed July 17, 1954, in Lake Bluff. They still enjoy each other’s company.
“Our love for one another never waned,” Bud said.
Ann believes compromise has a lot to do with their years of happy marriage.
“Don’t fight,” she advises. “I think we only had one disagreement in our lives and it was over something silly — it usually is.”
Mary Ann Johnson of Lake Forest was dating someone else when she first met her husband-to-be, James Johnson, at a Michigan country club in 1953.
“I knew ‘he was the one’ after several dates,” Mary Ann said, even though the first fellow kept calling.
The couple wed in November the same year they met and enjoyed 54 years together before James died in 2007.
“I think our love endured because he allowed me to continue with my interests and travels to Europe on business,” said Mary Ann, a former Lake Forest and Door County shop owner. “We were able to follow our own paths. I think that’s important for young people.”