Love at last

Joyce Richards and Victor Dye pictured on a swing in their Skokie backyard. Victor proposed to Joyce on that swing (Joel Wintermantle, Photo for Tribune Newspapers / June 17, 2012)

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.