Maybe Victor and Joyce didn't set a world record but they came close.
The time that passed between their first kiss and their wedding day? Fifty-five years!
"Should we call Guinness?" Joyce asks.
In the intervening half-century (and then some), Joyce married John Richards, had five children and lost her husband to cancer just six months short of their 50th wedding anniversary. Victor Dye married Judith, had three daughters and divorced.
At 76 (Joyce) and 79 (Victor), they say they feel like newlyweds and they should. Their wedding was just 19 months ago.
"We're still excited to be married to each other," Joyce says.
And, no, neither of them ever expected to marry again.
Considering what Victor euphemistically calls his "repetitive reluctance to be assertive in my relationship with Joyce," it's stunning that they're together now.
As they tell the story of how they (finally) got together, you'll understand what Vic means by repetitive reluctance.
They first met in 1953 at a Methodist church conference in their native Nebraska. It was the summer before Victor entered his senior year at Nebraska Wesleyan and Joyce was to start there as a freshman.
Were there sparks? "Not exactly," Joyce says dryly. Says Vic, "I was pleased that any attractive girl would spend time talking to me."
In addition to their Methodist faith they had other things in common. Both had grown up on farms in rural Nebraska. There were only 10 kids in Victor's Rosalie High School graduation class; 14 in Joyce's at Lynch High School.
While they chatted a bit at the church conference and he got her phone number, "It wasn't like we spent the whole day together," he recalls.
"But he did take my picture," she says.
More than two years passed before Victor called her — when he needed a date forNew Year's Eve, 1955.
She didn't hold the long delay against him. "I said yes. I wasn't doing anything. I knew him and knew he was a nice guy. It was just a date." She taught him to polka and at midnight, they shared a kiss.
Then, once again, he didn't call her.
Six or seven months later, Victor was planning to attend a weeklong rural youth gathering in Nebraska's Ponca State Park on the Missouri River. "I thought it would be fun but it would be more fun to have a girl there — so I called Joyce."
Once again, she said yes.
After seeing each other one more time that summer, Victor returned to grad school in Boston and Joyce to Wesleyan.
They exchanged six or seven letters and, in the last one, Joyce suggested they get together over the Christmas holidays.
Again, the repetitive reluctance. "I didn't answer that letter," says Victor.
"I was basically scared to get involved with anybody. I think I didn't want to get hurt," he says.
But a few months after that, Victor went to a pay phone and out of the blue asked Joyce to come to Boston for the summer of 1957.
For the first time, she said no. "I just got engaged to John," she told him.
"So, that was a blow," Victor remembers. "That conversation was pretty short."
Joyce married John Richards soon after, raised a family, became an IRS agent and ultimately wound up in Dallas.
Victor married Judith, an Alpha Gamma Delta sorority sister of Joyce's. They moved to Evanston. Victor taught in the Chicago city colleges and started a private practice as a clinical psychologist. He and Judith divorced in 1984.
"I adjusted to single life and spent time with my kids. I dated a lot, and I worked a lot," he says. He lived alone in a house in Skokie on a big corner lot with a mammoth maple tree in the backyard.
Then, nearly 25 years after his divorce, on a visit to Nebraska, he had dinner with a mutual friend, Carole Stephens, who had been Joyce's college roommate. Carole and Vic talked about Joyce. Carole mentioned that Joyce's husband had died a year earlier.
After the dinner, "Carole called me immediately," Joyce recalls. "She said, 'We had a nice dinner with Vic. … He's still the same nice guy.' I said, 'Did he ask for my phone number?' "
No surprise here: Carole said no, he hadn't. But, Carole gave Victor's number to Joyce.
"I thought about calling her," Vic says now. "But she lived in Dallas, and I had just ended a relationship with a woman who had moved here from another city and I thought, 'Oh, I don't want to do that
Instead, in keeping with tradition, Victor did nothing.
But Joyce called him. "I thought, what do I have to lose?" After the call they began emailing — sometimes four or five times a day.
Finally, it clicked, Vic says. "I thought I should get together with this woman." They rendezvoused in Kansas City, Mo.
"I shook like a leaf I was so scared," Joyce says of arriving in KC.
"So I just held her," Vic says. Other weekends followed, in St. Louis, Chicago, Dallas. Her kids met him. His kids met her.
She started spending more time at his home in Skokie. One evening in the fall of 2010 they were in the swing Victor made with his grandson that hung from a giant branch of the backyard maple. Then Victor stood up and, Joyce recalls, "He got down on his knee and asked me to marry him like in the olden days."
Their wedding, the day after Thanksgiving 2010, was a joyous one. Almost the whole blended family — eight kids, the spouses, 21 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren — gathered for the big event.
Today, nearly 60 years after he took a picture of 17-year-old Joyce at their first meeting — one he held onto all this time — that very photo sits on his desk at home.
Joyce says her new life with Victor "is like a dream. I feel like the luckiest person in the world. I do."
It took a while, a very long while, Victor says. But now, "It feels like this is how life should be."
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