Camille Frank was definitely, emphatically not interested in finding a husband.
She'd had two of those, neither a pleasant memory.
So when Joseph Einoder sat down at a table next to hers at a Chicago country music joint, she cold-shouldered him. It was early 1978.
"I really didn't feel like the company of men. I thought I was just going to relax and listen to some music," she says. And when Joseph asked to her to dance she tried to foist him off on her girlfriend, Joan. Both women were teachers at Chicago's Morgan Park High School.
"He said, 'I want to dance with you.' He persisted ... I thought, well, he's still sitting here even though I said no. He kept insisting and I finally gave in." At most, they spent an hour together that night but he walked her to her car, opened the door for her and pecked her cheek good night.
Because he'd been a perfect gentleman (and a great dancer), she agreed to write her phone number on a napkin. His "big shoulders and magical blue eyes" also were persuasive.
The very next day Joseph went to a pay phone at Interlake Steel Corp., where he did hot, hard work shoveling coal, and asked Camille out for dinner. He was 33, eight years younger than Camille, divorced and the father of four.
They had pepper steak at Banana's Steak House and then went for drinks to Wrong's Tap in Chicago's Beverly neighborhood, "his favorite hangout."
They played pool and had a few drinks. This is where it got interesting.
"He said, 'Is it OK if I tell people we're engaged?' I said, 'Sure.' He announced to the entire bar that we were going to get married."
To summarize: A woman who had been divorced twice, didn't want to marry again and was intimately familiar with the perils of bad choices in a partner got engaged (for the third time!) on a first date.
"It may sound nuts," Camille says, adding, "I'm the kind of person who is not afraid of destiny and I really feel when you connect with someone and you see something in them that is very good and very kind …" Her voice trails off.
They were married four months later, on Aug. 5, 1978. She carried a bouquet of white roses.
"My friends told me I was going to be sorry … (but) I knew he would be a good husband and father, and he was."
Soon afterward, Joseph's ex-wife died and his four kids — two boys and two girls ages 5 to 10 — moved in with Camille and Joseph and her teenage twin boys. The family tripled overnight.
Still working full time as a chemistry and biology teacher, she remembers "mixing up big pots of soup and spaghetti" for her clan, then "grading papers until 2 a.m." Together Joseph and Camille had a son, Jude. Now there were seven kids sharing the bungalow at 106th Street and South Claremont Avenue. With a ladder strapped to the top of an old two-tone Chevy, Joseph started a successful masonry and tuck-pointing company that bore his name.
And it turned out that the broad-shouldered "man's man" was a romantic. "Every single month on the date we were married — the 5th — he'd give me an anniversary card. And he would buy me flowers every Tuesday. No matter how busy he was, he'd always stop to buy flowers. This went on for 25 years. Wow, that's devotion," Camille says.
"He would bring the bouquet home and I always had the vase on the kitchen table so I could see them all the time," she says. Son Jude, 29, fondly recalls that vase always filled with flowers and the love his parents shared. "You could just tell, without having all the movie cliches, nothing can keep them apart."
Even when Joseph was undergoing debilitating treatments (he battled cancer for eight years), the flower and card ritual continued.
In 2000, after teaching for 35 years, Camille retired from Morgan Park High to care for Joseph and go with him to his medical appointments.
"On our last Valentine's Day together he brought me all of the roses in Steuber Florist," she says. "There must have been 13 or 14 dozen."
Less than three months later, on June 3, 2003, Joseph Einoder died, just a few months shy of their 25th anniversary.
"What a love affair," says Camille, now 75. "Best of all, the seven children we raised are living their lives as a tribute to his."
As for that gamble she took, saying yes to his proposal on their first date, "It's reassuring to know that my instincts were correct … because Joseph was — and still is — the love of my life."
"I learned to trust my instincts," says Camille Einoder, something she'd neglected in past relationships. Joseph wanted to marry Camille the moment he saw her. Their long and loving marriage convinced her that there is such a thing as love at first sight.