Marianne Kaiser moved to Evanston to attend Northwestern University in 1969, fell in love with this town and never left.

Steven Clark is a native Californian and still owns a home steps from the Pacific Ocean.

Marianne Kaiser and Steven Clark were married Aug. 20 at the Woman’s Club of Evanston.

Through their work for the General Services Administration, the two met in 1998 and became friends at annual work conferences. One night, while Marianne was out with colleagues in Washington, she happened to sit near Steve while they were listening to a big band and they started singing together. 

Back then, both were happily married to other people. And following their initial meeting, the two became good friends.

Their friendship became so solid that Steve once toured Marianne, her husband and their children around his then-home of San Francisco in 2006. Marianne has three grown children and one son-in-law.

Marianne’s mom, Pat Grogan (now 94), also met Steve many years before her daughter started dating him. “My mom would sometimes come on business trips with me,” Marianne said. On one specific trip “she happened to sit near Steve and they started to talk about music and sing together.” Marianne had also met Steve’s parents before dating. ”She connected with my parents, I connected with her mom. It enhanced our friendship,” Steve said.

Sadly, both Marianne and Steve lost their spouses to illness; hers in 2008 and his in 2012. By 2011, Marianne was ready to start dating, but had little luck. She resigned herself to a possible life without a partner.

Steve eventually stopped working to take care of his wife, who was sick for many years. Upon hearing the news of Steve’s wife’s death, Marianne sent him flowers to express condolences. “I was so touched that she reached out, so I called her,” said Steve.

Sharing the sadness of their respective losses, Steve and Marianne began speaking on the phone fairly regularly. After several months of phone calls, “I started to feel connected to him,” Marianne said. Steve felt the connection as well and suggested meeting in person. “He came to visit and it felt like it was meant to be,” Marianne said. 

During 10 years of dating, Marianne, now 70, and Steve, 72, have done many things together, all while maintaining two residences; one here in Evanston, and another in California. “We go back and forth between the two houses,” said Marianne. “We’re together more than we’re apart.”

Their love for travel has taken them to Ireland, Italy, England, on a jazz cruise and of course, back and forth to California. “We fit together so well,” Steve said. “Spiritually, emotionally, intellectually.”

Music is a central theme to this couple’s relationship. One song in particular is Route 66, which Steve and some colleagues played back in 1998 when the couple first met. “Now that we have gotten together, it has become our song,” said Marianne. “One of the lyrics is, ‘It winds from Chicago to LA.’ I was born in Chicago and Steve was born in LA, and we met in a city on Route 66.” Kismet.

As with many couples, “COVID threw a wrench into our situation. Steve had to have knee surgery and we were apart for three months prior to that,” said Marianne.

“I didn’t like those long separations,” said Steve. He had wanted to marry Marianne for a long time, but “I was the one holding back,” said Marianne.

His proposal came as a complete surprise. Eight days before Christmas in 2021, Marianne asked Steve what he wanted for a gift. “The only thing I want for Christmas is for you to be my wife,” he recalls telling her. “She said ‘yes’ immediately.”

Steve then asked Pat, Marianne’s mom, for permission to marry her daughter. Pat, of course, said yes. “That’s good,” Steve said, “because I already asked her, and she said yes!” Pat was excited to be what she claimed was “the world’s oldest mother of the bride and the oldest matron of honor,” Marianne said.

Steve and Marianne were married Aug. 20 in front of 90 guests at the newly remodeled Woman’s Club of Evanston. Geraldine Brown, a retired federal magistrate judge and good friend of the bride, officiated at the ceremony. “When I told my California friends that Jerry Brown [former governor of California] was marrying us, they were very impressed!” joked Steve. 

The couple used local Evanston businesses to help them celebrate. They purchased their wedding rings at Christopher Duquet Fine Jewelry and Saville Flowers provided a beautiful backdrop for their ceremony and reception. The Woman’s Club “looked stunning. Everyone was raving about it,” Marianne said.

Steve and Marianne took a few days to honeymoon in Door County and plan a trip to Europe for spring 2023. They are having a second wedding celebration in California in early October with Steve’s West Coast friends..

As they begin this new, yet very familiar, chapter of their lives, Marianne and Steve are ecstatic to be together forever. “We both feel liberated that we had another chance,” Steve said. “To find this growing friendship is wonderful. For us to find love at this age is beautiful.”

Editor’s note: The Evanston RoundTable is pleased to present “They Do,” a glimpse into the love stories and commitment celebrations of local readers and their relatives. 

Getting married? We want to hear all about your love story and share it with the RoundTable community. This is a free service of storytelling by the RoundTable. Please contact us if you have a wedding announcement you’d like to share, and include your name, the name of your partner and an email address. We’ll be in touch to spread the love.

Elizabeth Handler Krupkin

Elizabeth Handler Krupkin covers the local wedding scene for the Evanston RoundTable. Elizabeth is a lifelong Evanston resident and ETHS grad. When she is not teaching preschool you can find her running...

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