As part of a week-long series alongside Valentine’s Day, we’re featuring stories about UF couples, past and present, called “Findlay Faithfuls.” Did you meet the love of your life on campus? We want to hear about it! Share your story via Facebook or Twitter using #IHeartUFindlay #FindlayFaithfuls.
During the 1960s in America, there were countless examples of uncertainty about social order that led many people to believe that there wasn’t enough love in the world. But for one couple on the Findlay College campus during that time, a love was beginning to blossom, and that love would stand the test of both turbulence and time.
Tom and Andrea (Bennett) Parker both started at what was then Findlay College in the fall of 1967. Tom came from McComb, Ohio to Findlay on scholarship, having been an outstanding academic in high school. “Andee” came by way of New Jersey after learning about Findlay College from a recruitment conference she’d attended. By her own admission, she wasn’t a terrific student, but had dreams of becoming an elementary school teacher.
In a “who-would-have-thought-it?” twist, the two were initially introduced in the Findlay Alumni Student Union by a man that Andee was dating at the time. He knew Tom as a fellow dorm resident, and Andee said, it wasn’t much of a big deal. “To me,” she said, “Tom was a friend of a friend.” To Tom, though, she was an east coast girl who was quite different than other girls he had met.
The hands of fate started to show themselves when Andee was unceremoniously stood up by the man she was seeing, and to make matters worse, he had done so on her birthday. Tom saw his opportunity and swooped in to save the day.
“He came to give me a birthday card and tell me the other guy was not coming,” Andee said. “He and I walked off campus down Cory and Frazer Streets and just talked. We found a small bridge over a creek, and that became a very special place for us because that was where we started getting to know each other better. Neither of us had much spending money,” Andee said, “so walking and talking was how we spent most of our time together.” She said the two also studied together, and, as Tom was an education major like her, had classes with each other. A relationship was taking shape.
But, as the United States was immersed in its second year of involvement in the Vietnam War, the draft notices for the Army’s infantry were becoming much more common. After two semesters, Tom decided to take fate into his own hands, leaving college and enlisting in the Air Force. He was by Andee’s side on leave when she graduated from Findlay College in 1971, but returned to active duty soon after.
After serving, Tom came home to work and consider their future together. The pair came to realize that they had both changed quite a bit in those years apart. “All through Tom’s enlistment, we had planned to marry on August 19, 1972,” Andee remembered. “Instead, that was when we got engaged, postponing the wedding until the next summer. We both wanted a commitment that would be a solid partnership for a family and our life together built on loving trust and hard work to achieve our mutual goals.” They were married, instead, on June 16, 1973, and, rather than re-enlist, the couple decided that Tom should finish college to become a teacher. He started again at Findlay College in the fall of 1974.
Both say that their education and training from Findlay was excellent and that it prepared them equally well for a career in education. Andee had graduated with a major in Elementary Education and a minor in art, and, in 1976, Tom graduated with honors with a degree in Elementary Education.
Just this year, the pair celebrated 46 years of life together. They renewed their vows at University of Findlay’s vow renewal ceremony under the Griffith Memorial Arch on campus during Homecoming last fall. Retired now – Tom having taught Junior High Science and sixth grade for a total of 26 years, along with working at the Putnam County Council on Aging until retirement, and Andee teaching kindergarten, fifth grade and second grade before becoming the Resource Director for Maumee Valley Presbytery in Findlay for many years – the pair have raised one daughter, Sheri, and are now enjoying their two grandchildren, Lily and Cameron. Family connections and faith, they said, have always been an important part of their shared lives, and giving back to their community is very much a part of life together as well.
Their advice to young people in love after making it through the turbulence of the late 60s and early 70s and going on to nearly 50 years of marriage? Don’t expect any more perfection out of your partner than you do of yourself. “Each of us contributes and that takes compromise and generosity from both,” they said.