Growing up, I thought it was a fairy tale. I had heard the story so often that it had become just that in my mind. How Gramma Mary and Grampa Dean met and fell in love.
It was on his 21st birthday, March 8th, 1953; Dean Nevius and two of his buddies were out “cruising the square” in their hometown of Fremont, Nebraska, all piled into his prized possession, his first love, a 1951 red Ford convertible. The boys had made a habit of driving past the Midland University dorms after the 7pm curfew, honking the horn to see if any pretty girls were awake and willing to sneak out for a ride. That night, as they slowly drove past the dark brick building, laying on the horn, a light came on and a freshman girl named Mary Adele Stimpson opened her window, popped her head out, popped her gum, and smiled at the boys.
Mary and her two girlfriends were already in their pajamas but slipped on their bathrobes and out their first-floor window, careful to leave it unlocked for when they would return in the small hours of the morning. The three young girls then hopped into the red convertible with the three charming, Fremont boys and rode off into the night.
Mary Adele grew up on a farm with her grandparents and her aunts in a small town called Mount Hope, Wisconsin after her mother passed away when she was only five years old. When Mary started her teens, her father sent for her to live with him and his new wife in Omaha. She would then live with the nuns and other young girls in a Catholic boarding school while her father traveled for business. By the time she started at Midland University, Mary Adele had already had a lot of life experiences under her stylish belt, but it wasn’t long after they met that she decided Dean Nevius would be her next one.
Dean and Mary actually started dating different people that night in the red convertible, but a few months later Dean spotted Mary out on the town and asked her to a movie. Movies became dances and then swimming at Peony Park. They shared burgers and milkshakes, and more post-curfew rides, and then long-distance love letters. Dean Nevius joined the Navy in the winter of 1954 and was shipped off to the Philippines soon after. Mary Adele would send him letters every week, some with pictures even of Mary up on a ladder picking apples in her fur-lined one-piece! It must have been that picture that inspired Dean to come home on leave in the spring and propose to Mary. They were married two years later on April 6th, 1956.
My Grampa Dean and Gramma Mary raised five children and then 12 grandkids in a home full of a lot of love and even more laughter. This month they celebrated their 84th and 82nd birthdays, and in just a few weeks we will celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary! They’ve had their share of tough times, not every day was a happy one, but their love is stronger than any struggle they could ever face. Dean has become Mary’s hands and feet after she suffered from a stroke in 2012, and as each day passes Mary becomes Dean’s memory as his fades. Together they are stronger than they ever could be apart, truly embodying the scripture “and the two shall become one.” And to think, it all began 63 years ago when a young girl jumped out of her window and into a red convertible with a cute boy.