Personal love stories bring women together

Bethany English

All card games involve a lot of numbers, but Fan-Tan, a card version of Dominoes, has one important number.

All card games involve a lot of numbers, but Fan-Tan, a card version of Dominoes, has one important number.

All card games involve a lot of numbers, but Fan-Tan, a card version of Dominoes, has one important number. It always starts with a seven. But this particular game had more specific numbers: four players with four love stories as different as the cards each woman held in her hand.

The ladies lingered for a post-party game Friday at the Portage County Senior Services Center. The room was subdued now that the Kent State honors student volunteers had left and the music, dancing and singing were over.

“We have to put a carrot in front of them and get them to come out and have fun,” said Sally Kelly, director of Portage County Senior Services.

Several people took that “carrot” Kelly offered, including these women. As they sat together, they began to tell their personal love stories. Though they often get together, many of the women didn’t know the others’ stories.

Betty Schwinn, 73, first saw her husband when she was a junior at Ravenna City High School. After lunch, she and a friend walked through town, and she spotted him in a window hanging up advertisements for a store.

“I said ‘I’m going to marry that man,’” Schwinn said.

At the time, she worked at the Ravenna Theater, and Darl, the man from the window, occasionally stopped in. One day, he came into the theater and asked her out. She said yes.

The couple went to Kent Downtown Theater for their first date and saw “Lady and the Tramp” in 1955. Two years later, Darl proposed in his car to Schwinn. Again, she said yes.

After nearly 35 years of marriage, Darl died at 57 of a brain aneurysm, leaving behind Schwinn and their two sons, Mark and James.

As to how she met her husband, Schwinn summed it up in one sentence: “I knew a good thing when I saw it.”

Hilda Kilingler, 73, who sat across from Schwinn, used to work with Darl at Acme. Kilingler met her second husband in a cab she took to and from work.

Kilingler met Frank in 1953. Her first husband, who she married in 1949, left her and her daughter when he returned to the navy.

After a year of daily cab rides and dating, Frank asked Kilingler to marry him while they had drinks at Mayfair, a bar in Ravenna. She agreed, and the two spent 51 years together, until Frank died in 2005.

“He never missed a Valentine’s Day,” she said.

Further down the table, Cora Corpita, 89, joined in. Corpita first saw her husband Harry when he drove past her family’s grocery store. He worked at a lumber store nearby, and she said he would drive by and honk the horn, and she would wave back to him.

At a Polish dance one night, Harry asked Corpita to dance with him. She agreed, and the couple went to dances all the time after that.

He asked her to marry him one night after a dance as they sat in his “big old Ford.” Just like the other ladies, Corpita said yes. They married in 1940 and had six children.

The couple owned a bar, Jolly Time, which Corpita referred to as a “beer garden,” for 15 years. Kilingler remembered the bar, which she used to sneak into when she was 18.

“Then one day your husband told me ‘Cokes for you from now on,’” Kilingler said to Corpita. “I knew someone had squealed on me.”

Three months shy of the couple’s 60th anniversary, Harry passed away.

Irene Ruggles, the fourth woman, brushed quickly over her first marriage to Tom Savoda. Her story came from her second marriage to Cecil Ruggles.

Ruggles worked with Cecil’s first wife, Nelly. The two were friends, and they often went out to lunch together. Some days, Cecil dropped in to take Nelly for lunch, too.

In 1987, Nelly died from a brain tumor. Savoda had died the year before. Both Ruggles and Cecil found themselves alone. Cecil started dropping by to visit and asking Ruggles to go to dinner with him.

Though Cecil was 14 years older than Ruggles, the two were friends, and one day as they watched a movie, he proposed.

The two were married in December 1989 and spent 19 years together until Cecil passed away in 2008.

As the women told their stories, people sitting around the table chimed in with memories of their own. They remembered where shops used to be and old neighbors.

“Most of our people live alone,” Kelly said of the members. But, for a little while every now and then, a game of Fan-Tan can bring people together and sharing their stories can get them talking.

Contact honors and international affairs reporter Bethany English at [email protected].