MINOOKA – In 1963, a New Jersey city boy with an assignment to serve our country in France swept a small-town West Virginia girl off her feet and invited her to see the world.
“When we fell in love, it was a romantic love like in the movie ‘An Officer and a Gentleman.’ I love him more today than then, and it’s a different kind of love,” said Terri Parrish of Minooka.
Dick and Terri Parrish have lived in Minooka for 12 years, the longest amount of time Dick has ever lived in one place during his entire lifetime.
Back up to 1963, when Dick, from New Jersey, visited his parents, while on break from college in Kansas, after they recently moved to West Virginia. That May, he decided to not return to college, but move with his parents and work at a local grocery store.
One evening, he attended a high school party, where he heard a voice that intrigued him.
“She had the most unique voice I had ever heard. It was something I had never heard because I was used to the New Jersey accent. It got my attention,” Dick said.
Terri said she noticed Dick because he was different from anybody in her small town.
“I was used to the people in my town; most of us live the same kind of life. Dick lived all over the country and was from New Jersey, I had never been to New Jersey,” Terri remembered of their first meeting.
That night, Dick ended up asking Terri out on a date, but the cautious 17-year-old wasn’t sure she should go out with a 20-year-old, and she stood him up. It wasn’t long after that she reconsidered, and they dated over the summer of 1963 until Dick, who joined the Air Force with a friend, had to report to Colorado for training.
The two wrote letters back and forth those months Dick was away, and most of the letters the two still have in boxes in their Minooka home. Over mail correspondence, the couple spoke of marriage, even though Terri was still in her senior year of high school. Dick knew he only had 30 days of leave before he had to take an assignment.
“I figured we should be engaged for a few months before we got married. You know, small-town gossip,” Dick said. “I went to the base exchange and put a down payment on a ring. Each month I got a paycheck, I put money down on the ring.”
Terri said that one day she received a metal container usually meant to store eggs in the mail.
When she opened the lid, there was the ring and a proposal note from Dick within.
“I was blown away, I thought, ‘oh my God, I’m engaged.’ I knew he wasn’t going to do it in person because there wasn’t enough time, but I didn’t know when. My parents never said don’t do it, but they never could have because my sister married at 17,” Terri said.
The couple married in West Virginia on April 25, 1964, just after Terri turned 18. While she finished high school, Dick, who was discouraged from having his young wife join him on assignment, did so anyway and secured a 1900s wartorn apartment, which housed bullet holes dating back to World War I.
“With military services on base, I got the apartment all done and it looked nice. There was no heat or air conditioning, no shower or bathtub, but we did have a toilet. I bought a plastic tub for Terri, I took showers on base,” Dick said.
Terri graduated from high school in May and met Dick where he was stationed in France in June. Terri said she was a fish out of water when she went on her travels. She was 18, newly married and had never traveled alone. She thought back and said that this was a time vacant of technology, so there was no way to communicate if plans went awry.
And plans did go awry. She missed her connecting flight from Pittsburgh to New York City and tried to get out that day to France.
“I got a seat on a plane at 10 p.m. I was the last person on, the last seat, between two guys who drank the entire flight. We were supposed to stop in Luxembourg but this plane went to Brussels. I sat all day in the airport alone with no luggage, telling myself I can’t wait to get to Luxembourg on the plane,” Terri recalled.
Terri was scheduled to meet her husband in Luxembourg because of its proximity to the base. Dick drove to the airport, but no Terri.
She took a train, which got off at midnight, to Luxembourg. Unsure and unable to call, she found a hotel for the evening. On Day 3 of her travels, she took a taxi to the airport and back in hopes she would bump into Dick.
“The weather was nice so I thought I would sit at an outdoor café and have a Coke when all of the sudden Dick walked up,” Terri said.
“Where in the hell have you been?” Dick said
The couple thrived in France, traveled all over Europe and enjoyed many years while stationed there. After returning stateside, the couple has lived in Florida, Kansas, Delaware, Massachusetts, West Virginia, Virginia, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, New York – and finally Minooka.
The couple has three children. Jeffrey and Jennifer reside in Minooka, and the youngest daughter, Jamie, who lives in Ohio. Dick is a trustee on the Village of Minooka board and member of the Minooka Citizen’s Police Academy while Terri is a member of the Minooka Women’s Club.
When asked what the secret was to a long marriage, Dick said tolerance.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better mate; Terri usually took the back seat to what I was doing. I listen more than I did in the beginning and she’s always been my all,” Dick said.
Terri said patience has kept them in love for the past 53 years.
“People have different views and we need to accept them. Patience has taught me not to jump the gun. Think about the other person,” Terri said.
Terri and Dick’s daughter, Jennifer Simios, said her parents taught her that love is endurance.
“It’s a commitment even when you want to run away, and lots of patience. It’s so easy to give up when times get tough, but so worth it to fight through to see where the next chapter brings you,” Simios said.