Epic beginnings and last requests
Eric J. Wedell married Maida McIlroy on February 4, 1967. If you do the math, you'll realize their 50th anniversary is coming up. He missed it by just over three months, but when he died, he insisted she celebrate anyway. I'm going to Cheyenne that weekend so Mom won't be alone, but we also need your help. Let's throw Mom an anniversary "card shower" so she knows just how much she's loved and just how much Dad is missed. If you don't have their mailing address, please message me and I'll get it to you. And enjoy this story of how this lifelong love began, as transcribed from an interview I recorded with him about six weeks before he died. Love you, Dad, and miss you so much.
I was a senior in medical school and I was rooming with Warren Askov. And he had a girlfriend named Nickie Nicholson who was rooming with Maida. And what happened was, Lincoln’s birthday came along, which was the 12th of February. And we got the day off from classes, and so Nickie and Warren and Maida got it in their head that they wanted to go on a bicycle ride on Lincoln’s birthday. This was in 1966. It was a very warm, sunny day, kind of like today. So this was my first date with my future wife. But it wasn’t billed as a date; I was just invited along. There weren’t any stipulations or anything. That was it.
Well I didn’t have anything to do that day. I would’ve been glad to come along. So they went for a ride in the Arboretum. The Arboretum was a large area of trees and wild growth with paths that the university preserved, I guess for students and faculty to enjoy. As I recall, they didn’t reach me before they finished the outing. But what happened was they decided to come over to Warren’s and my apartment after the outing to have some more fellowship.
And by the time they got there, it was time for supper. So they ordered supper in the form of pepperoni pizza. And I had a project of hemming my curtains. Those curtains were made out of burlap, and I was trying to pin them with little finishing nails instead of straight pins. So we used finishing nails as straight pins and loose loops of thread to hem the curtains. And they held very nicely because I can remember coming back to that apartment later on in the season and finding the curtains still there and intact.
Later on, within a week or two, the same group of women were holding a birthday bash for Warren’s birthday, and I was invited because I’d been part of the picture before. And became even more attracted to your mother, and I would say it was more than just love at first sight. She was pretty, she was very well organized, she was smart and kind.
Then there was the Fasching. That was German Mardi Gras. They held it in the student union in the University of Wisconsin, in the Rathskellar. And so we went, and the dance you do there is the polka. Which is a vigorous dance. I had purchased some cheap—and the operative word is “cheap”—dress pants through mail order and was wearing one of those pants. And we did all this vigorous dancing, and after we got finished, we went over to Nickie and Maida’s apartment, and I discovered the pants had split from right up at the waistband all the way down to the crotch. And I mean, it wasn’t just torn; it was GONE. It was just gone. And I was…what was I gonna do?! I was terribly embarrassed. I guess what I should’ve done was said to my date, “Hey, my pants have just torn and I need to go back to our apartment and change pants.” But I didn’t; what I did was take Warren’s car and drive home without telling her, and changed my pants and came back. But in the meantime, poor Mom had no clue as to where her date had gone. So I went back to our apartment and changed pants and came back and told her what had happened. Why I couldn’t screw up my courage before, I don’t know, but that’s what happened.
We were climbing on the rocks at Devil’s Lake State Park, and that’s when I asked her to marry me. I didn’t have a ring; we went shopping for the ring together.
And actually, after the bicycle ride in the Arboretum, there was almost no day that went by without us at least talking on the telephone. We knew. Your mom was it, as far as I was concerned. No question in my mind. Especially as we got into the summer. It was really evident to me that your mother was the one. I make no bones about it: I’d had lots of girlfriends, one I was very serious about. But she wasn’t the one. Nope.
And we were married eight days short of a year after we met. The timing wasn’t intentional; we just wanted to get married. We didn’t want to make it the end of the academic year because that was too popular a time to get married, and we didn’t want to make it the beginning of the academic year. And we organized it all ourselves. And we knew that Grandma and Grandpa didn’t have a lot of money, so they weren’t going to be able to help us out a lot. So it was very simple. And it lasted almost 50 years.