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When they met in 1963, Jean swiftly dashed David Curtis’s preconceived notions about women. “When I was young, I thought women came in two brands. One was sexy and ditsy, the other was smart but without common sense or the ability to cook,” David said. “Jean had the best of all those traits. She’s pretty and smart, she has good common sense, and she is a great cook.” After 55 years of marriage, he still looks at his wife with complete adoration and respect.

Jean and David were both attending a graduate school program at the University of Denver and met at a residency orientation. David had just returned from traveling in Europe and was exhausted, disheveled, and emaciated. “You’ve heard of traveling Europe for $5 per day? We did for $2.50. I was dirty and had lost a bunch of weight.” When they started to chat, David and Jean found each other to be fascinating. “He was bright, well-traveled, and a great conversationalist,” recalled Jean. “He was just very intriguing. I found my conversations with him to be extremely interesting.”

On their first official date together, they went out for pizza and beer. David remembered things “clicking” for him with Jean. “She was really interesting and nice-looking,” he said. “I told people she was the most interesting person I ever met. And she’s a good kisser.”

Over their time together, David said, “Our relationship just built. We started as good friends and fell in love.”

Jean, who had earned her master’s degree, taught elementary education in University Park for 25 years. David, who continued on for his Doctorate in Public Policy and Higher Education, spent most of his career at Governor’s State University in Illinois. They have two daughters and four grandchildren.

Their relationship has not been without challenges, starting from when they first got engaged. “About two months after we got engaged, David wanted to get unengaged. He got a bad case of cold feet,” Jean said. “My parents were a little annoyed, but deep down inside, I always thought we’d get married.”

David said that he quickly came to his senses and that the situation “strengthened our relationship.” He added, “I had some proving to do.”

The next significant challenge was when they were newly married, and Jean was pregnant. It was during the Vietnam War, and David received his Army induction notice. He was able to join a Naval officer program and was subsequently deployed to the Vietnam area on an ammunition ship. After 2 ½ years, he was stationed in San Diego for one final year. Jean, who’d been living in Oklahoma where her parents were, was able to join him there.

More recently, Jean has suffered some significant health challenges, which David has helped her battle.

The great parts have far outweighed the challenges in their marriage though, and the couple shares a lot of hobbies and interests. “Jean has cultivated my tastes, so they’re like hers,” David joked. They’re avid travelers, and both love theater and movies and have been Cubs season-ticket owners for thirty years.

David attributes their happiness to “flexibility, good communications, and a sense of humor.

Jean added, “We’ve always been open and honest about everything. And trust is important. I have complete confidence in David.”

Jean said, “We live each day to the fullest.” David added, “And laugh!”

Click here to read the story as it appears in Chicago Tribune PrimeTime