She was editor of the college newspaper, he was a junior in college as well. By luck or fate, his college roommate introduced Floyd to Mary Lou and the rest, as they say, is “history.” Today, the Willisons celebrate more than six decades of marriage from their home at The Terraces in Bonita Springs, where Floyd lives in the independent living section, while Mary Lou resides in assisted living. Listening to Floyd’s sure and clear account of their lives together, it’s evident that their love is still going strong.
Back to April of 1958 after Mary Lou completed her Master’s degree and was teaching high school: Floyd came home from Ft. Benning, Ga. to marry Mary Lou – of course the roommate was the best man. From there, the early days were like a whirlwind travelogue, a deployment to Germany, and Mary Lou got to go along and teach GI’s so they could earn their GED. They traveled throughout Europe, then returned to New York, and ultimately to Madison, Wisconsin where Mary Lou taught high school English and Floyd started his career with Pfizer.
The adventures continued when Floyd got recalled to the army base in Fort Lewis, Washington with a return to Wisconsin when his service was over. As he rose up the ranks at Pfizer, the couple travelled all over the U.S. It was in Chicago where they adopted two children: first a son, and two years later, a daughter. Fast forward two years to a move to New York – and surprise, a pregnancy, that resulted in their third child – their second son.
The family settled in Chappaqua, New York for 10 years, then moved to Seattle for 20 years, and to Florida in 1999. It wasn’t until more than a decade later that Mary Lou’s forgetfulness began to be noticeable. They tried a move to Seattle to be near the children and grandchildren, but Mary Lou missed her friends and hated the weather.
Soon it was time for Floyd to make a decision – The Terraces at Bonita Springs provided the best solution. The luxury senior living community offered the perfect continuum – active, independent living with the ability to move to Renaissance assisted living under the same roof when it became necessary.
Eventually that did come to pass. When Mary Lou required more medications for her condition, they thought it best for her to move to assisted living. During her first night there, Floyd got a call in the middle of the night that Mary Lou was not sleeping, instead she was looking for him. The next night, the same thing occurred. And the night after that. Finally, the staff decided that the best course of action would be to allow Floyd to stay with Mary Lou overnight, and then leave in the morning. Sweetly reminiscent of the film The Notebook, that is their routine to this day. Floyd spends his active mornings in independent living, engaging with Mary Lou in the afternoon. They have dinner together in the main dining room which provides Mary Lou with an outside activity, and then retire to her room in assisted living.
When asked about the secret to a long and happy marriage, Floyd replies wryly, “Two words: yes, dear.” Two words that symbolize his lifelong devotion and his continued commitment to Mary Lou’s happiness. Valentine’s Day and every day, theirs is truly a love story to be remembered.