Couple, married 71 years, enjoys 3 date nights a week
KANKAKEE, Ill. — In maybe the best sense of the expression, time has stood still for Kankakeeans Gene and Cecilia Seamark.
Oh, they’re aware of the fact that 71 years have passed since they were married. But they’re still just a loving couple on a date, three nights per week, every week — for more than 30 years.
Gene, who’s closing in on 91, has endured serious heart problems.
In fact, he says he’s worn out three pacemakers. But the Bradley Roper retiree still enjoys a mixed drink and a lively conversation with his girlfriend.
Meanwhile, Cecilia, 89, has survived two brain surgeries and the sudden loss of her twin sister, Sylvia. She’s dressed smartly and sips her chardonnay at the bar with the young man she met at a basketball game in the old St. Rose School gym, all those years ago.
Actually, they don’t need to order those drinks. Every staff member at Paul’s Place, 500 S. Washington Ave., expects them to walk in when 5 p.m. rolls around. And they know the drink order.
Gene gets a Manhattan with Canadian Club. He plays the heavy and delivers his gruff lines with a wink and a sly smile.
“She wants to be cremated when she dies but not me. I’m going to burn long enough where I’m going. No sense starting early.”
“They say my doctor (cardiologist Philip Hays) saved my life. At this age, I don’t know whether to thank him or not.”
“I don’t know if I want you to put this in the paper. They’ll read it as ‘90 years old’ and every undertaker in town will be calling to get my business.”
And Cecilia, with her wine, plays the charmer.
“We call it a date, but it’s also nice when I don’t have to cook,” she said.
“I think the secret (to being married for 71 years) is just being good to each other. Be considerate and be willing to say you’re sorry. We each do that.”
“And we kiss goodnight, every night. I remember my parents never kissed in front of us kids. We made them kiss on their 50th anniversary and it was the first time we ever saw that. Some people just aren’t very affectionate.”
“We aren’t like that,” Gene added. “We’re normal.”
They noted that they have always done things together, but they have their own interests, too. They each bowled, but in different leagues. And they played in a bridge club.
“But all of our partners have died,” she added.
“That’s OK. I always hated bridge,” Gene countered.
In fact, their date night acquaintances at Paul’s are all that pass for friends these days.
“It seems like everybody we ever knew is dead,” she said. “All of my family is gone, and Gene was an only child.”
They still have the family provided by sons Gene Jr. and Scott, but Gene’s old friends from the Knights of Columbus and Cecilia’s former co-workers in the accounting department at Roper are gone.
“It can be lonely, but we have each other,” she said.
And they can count on their date nights every Tuesday, Friday and Saturday.