Couple’s instant attraction leads to a long, happy life together – The Philadelphia Inquirer

The couple still cherishes the long, romantic letters they wrote during their senior-year separation. They are kept in a secret place. “Our kids can read them when we die,” Pat said.
Rob was headed from the showers back to his University of Hawaii dorm room when he saw her — a young woman with long brown hair, gorgeous eyes, and an instant and powerful pull on him.
“I was bedazzled,” he said of that late August day in 1974. “She was gorgeous, but it was not this surface-y feeling, it was a deep feeling.”
Pat, a West Chester University student in Hawaii via a college exchange program, was pretty shocked herself. “Here was this guy walking toward me in a towel — this pretty nice-looking guy with his long legs. I told myself, ‘You’ve got to be cool about this,’ but all I could think was, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m in a coed dorm!’ And then he walked into the room right across the hall from mine.”
Everyone on the floor hung out together. Rob learned that Pat is from Shavertown, Pa., and that she, like him, was studying education. Pat learned that Rob had moved a lot before graduating from high school in Rockford, Mich. And that he had a girlfriend, whom he had dated all summer. She had returned home to Japan, but Rob had not broken up with her.
Pat was returning to campus after a day on the beach when a soldier followed her from the bus back to campus. “I felt like Rob was a really safe guy to ask for help — he had a girlfriend and so he would know I wasn’t just coming on to him.”
“Thank you for your service, but she’s not interested,” Rob told the soldier when he and Pat reached the lobby. “She’s my girlfriend. Leave her alone.”
Rob and Pat were never technically alone, but whenever their group went to Pizza Hut, they sat together and talked the whole night. It seemed Elvis’ “Can’t Help Falling in Love” would play every time.
The gang decided to climb Diamond Head. “The wind was blowing, and you had to hold hands to help each other balance,” Rob said. On the narrow rim of the crater, Pat and Rob touched for the first time. “There was electricity going between us,” he remembered.
“After that, we knew there were definite signs of love,” said Pat. Their friends saw what was going on, and her friends did not like it. “Why are you hanging around with him? He’s got a girlfriend,” they said.
Rob didn’t feel good about himself, either. The jealousy he felt when Pat got a letter from a boy back home led him to the word hypocrite and a decision. “We have to commit to each other,” he told Pat, who agreed.
Rob wrote both the Dear Jane and the Dear John letter, which Pat signed. They kissed for the first time on Dec. 17 — just before parting for winter break.
“I want to marry you,” Rob told Pat during their second semester in Hawaii. “You’re from Michigan, we’re in Hawaii, I’m from Pennsylvania,” she pointed out. “Even though we’re in love, how is this going to work?”
Rob was undaunted by logistics. After spending a few early summer weeks with him at his parents’ house in Michigan, Pat became just as determined.
In early August of 1975, at Pat’s parents’ house in Pennsylvania, Rob gave Pat a diamond ring. “If I’m going to wear a ring, you should have a ring, too,” Pat said. She gave him a silver band.
He returned to Hawaii and she to West Chester for their senior year. “We wrote each other 23-page love letters every single day, full of passion and feeling,” Rob said.
Pat and Rob married Aug. 14, 1976, at the Irem Country Club in Dallas, Pa. They served pineapple coconut cake to their 100 guests and danced to the song they continue to hear whenever they go to Hawaii: “Can’t Help Falling in Love.”
Pat accepted a job where she had done her student teaching — East Goshen Elementary in West Chester. Rob was hired by Lukens Steel Co. For the next 41 years, he worked in sales and industrial relations for Lukens, Bayou Steel, and other companies.
Rob’s sales work required him to move, and for the first seven years of their marriage, move they did. “We lived in Atlanta, Houston, and northern New Jersey, and I would sub and then find a full-time teaching job wherever we went,” said Pat. “We had such a blast — wherever we lived would be our base of travel.”
Then in 1983, their son Robert was born, and Rob told his employer his relocations must end. “I had moved five times while I was in school, following my father’s career,” he said. “We moved to Rockford in my senior year, and that was really hard. It was important to me that my kids stay in one place.”
In 1984, the family moved to Glenmoore, Chester County, to the house where Pat and Rob still live. Son Michael was born the following year. When her boys were in nursery school, Pat taught there. She later followed them to Shamona Creek Elementary, where she taught for 23 years.
Rob, who has an MBA from West Chester, had always been an athlete — he played basketball on the University of Hawaii’s JV team — and he shared that love with his boys. “From the time my kids were 4 years old, I had them in baseball, soccer, basketball, and midget football,” he said. When Mike and Rob were older, much family activity centered around their Downingtown High School football games.
Family trips also started when the boys were small. “When Rob was in fifth grade and Mike in third, we took them to Hawaii,” Pat said. The family returned when the boys were teenagers, and their love of Hawaii was contagious; Mike spent a summer studying there — the perfect excuse for Pat and Rob to make another trip.
Now both 68, Pat and Rob retired in June of 2017. To their delight, their children live nearby. Mike and his wife, Ashlee, have four children: Cade, 8; Rowan, 6; Asher, 4; and Ainsley, 11 months. “They are the spark of our life,” said Pat. To his grandmother’s delight, Cade is about to start third grade at the school where she taught third grade. Frequently, the whole family gathers for Friday night dinners.
The couple still cherishes the long, romantic letters they wrote during their senior-year separation. They are kept in a secret place. “Our kids can read them when we die,” Pat said.
Ask them what they love about each other, though, and you’ll get an inkling of what those notes contain:
“Rob has such a strong sense of character, and I am so lucky to have him in my life,” Pat said. “It took me six years to get through my doctorate degree [from Immaculata University]. There were many times I wanted to quit, but he kept me going. He showed me the path to the finish line. He’s kind and he can speak what’s on his mind. He is handsome and masculine. He checks all my boxes.”
“Her beauty is from the inside out,” Rob said. “She is caring and supportive. She makes me feel good. I can be very sequential — we have to do this, then we have to do that. But she’ll say, ‘Look at how the sun meets the sky, and how the sky meets the water. Look at the colors!’ And I stop making my list. She gives me that.”
Earlier this month, Pat and Rob celebrated their 46th wedding anniversary at her family’s Sweet Valley, Pa., lake house — where they briefly stayed after their honeymoon. Later this summer, they will make their eighth trip to Hawaii.


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