Julia Freeman and Blaise Filippini met as juniors at Evanston Township High School, while they were both taking two of the same classes.
But it was in Teresa Granito’s AP Biology where they ended up in the same lab study group and first started getting to know each other.
“Funny thing,” said Freeman. “You can go all through ETHS and make it to junior year and have so many people still be strangers.”
It was Filippini who made the first move. “I asked her out after the lab,” he said. “We were both shy and I thought we could get along pretty OK.”
Freeman was a bit hesitant at first. “After he asked me out, I was surprised. As a shy person, I had not been asked out before. I told him I had to think about it,” she said.
It was a weekend away at a friend’s lake house that convinced Freeman to take a chance and accept Filippini’s invitation. “Some of my friends had known him from elementary and junior high school,” she said. Her friends told her “he was shy but that he seemed nice,” Freeman recalled. “I kind of figured, if you know someone from junior high, no news is good news.”
Filippini was surprised by her acceptance. “I thought she meant ‘no’ when she told me she had to think about going out with me,” he said. “So when she came back on Monday and said ‘yes,’ I was stunned.”
The first date
Freeman is the daughter of Sharon Smaller and Joel Freeman, of Evanston. Filippini is the son of Anne Wetterlund of Evanston and Matt Filippini of Chicago. The couple graduated from ETHS in 2015.
Freeman and Filippini’s first date was to see a movie and then get hot chocolate at the bookstore in downtown Evanston. As they were too young to drive, they were dropped off at the movie theater.
Nerves played a big part that night.
“Neither of us was brave enough to hold the other person’s hand,” Freeman recalled. “But we were each placing our hands close enough so they could touch but neither of us held the other’s hand.”
Their status as a couple soon followed. “I don’t remember when we decided we were girlfriend and boyfriend,” said Freeman. “Neither of us had dated other people, so it felt pretty natural to be a couple at that point.”
Following high school graduation, the couple dated long-distance for the four years they were in college. Freeman went to Earlham College in Indiana and Filippini to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Making plans to see each other as often as possible was a bit difficult.
“It definitely was logistically challenging, because we didn’t own cars,” Freeman said. “We had to take long Greyhound bus rides to see each other.” But a bit of good fortune hit when a fellow student transferred: “I lucked out. My good friend Molly transferred to Earlham and she was from Champaign, so I would get rides with her pretty regularly.”
The couple’s only extended time apart occurred the semester Freeman studied abroad in New Zealand in her junior year.
Filippini was a bit sour on the bus experience. He had ”four bus breakdowns over four years of dating,” he recalled. “They don’t give you anything when the bus breaks down, they just make you wait five hours.”
Freeman and Filippini couldn’t attend each other’s graduation ceremonies due to overlapping time frames, but as soon as they walked across their respective stages and collected their diplomas the two moved in together in Urbana that same weekend.
Freeman works as an interpretive planner for Taylor Studios, a company that designs and builds museum exhibits. Filippini is a massage therapist at Bodywork Associates in Champaign.
Heading to New Zealand
The couple will soon experience their second long separation in January. Freeman is leaving her current position and “going back to New Zealand to be an assistant on the study abroad program that I went on in college,” she said, excitedly.
“This time, Blaise gets to come with me for a couple of weeks.” They leave together in early December and Freeman will return home in mid-May.
When it came to marriage, Filippini was all-in from the beginning. “I was down to get married after college, but Julia wasn’t ready. So I said, ‘Whenever you’re ready, let me know.’”
The couple bought a house together in December 2020. It was that purchase that helped Freeman warm up to the idea of marriage.
“Buying the house was such a turning point for me. It was a big and stressful accomplishment for us. It felt like we did it with a strong and even partnership and we worked well together,” she said. “It felt like the biggest and most complicated thing we had done together and it made me feel like we were ready, since we accomplished that together.” By March 2021, Freeman was ready for marriage.
Around the same time, Filippini’s aunt offered him an engagement ring that had belonged to his grandmother. While Freeman knew the ring was being sent in the mail, it was a postal delay that threw her off for a few days. Filippini proposed in the couple’s house. “We were on the couch after dinner, two days after I got the ring in the mail,” he said.
The couple were married on Oct. 23 at the Winnetka Community House in front of 105 guests. Amy Memis-Foler officiated at the ceremony. She is a former rabbi at Temple Judea Mizpah in Skokie, where the bride was a congregant. “She very kindly came back to Evanston [from New Jersey] to marry us,” Freeman said.
Guests dined on food catered by Froggy’s Catering for the daytime wedding. Due to the groom’s allergies, wooden flowers from Sola Wood Flowers were used as decorations. Board games and art activities were available for use. “We had some simple frame looms set up,” said Freeman. “People could pick colored yarn and weave it into a loom. The seven yarn colors each represent a blessing.” The bride used her own weaving skills to finish the project and turned it into a small wall-hanging for their home.
Following Jewish wedding traditions, the couple stood under a chuppah, this one made by the groom. “Blaise made poles from a maple tree that had been in my backyard growing up. He was trying to use the wood as much as possible for the Evanston connection,” Freeman said. “He also used wood from an osage orange tree from Urbana,” connecting their current home with their hometown.
As a show of love and support for the union, the couple’s parents wrapped them in a prayer shawl as the seven blessings were read aloud. The blessings include love, good health, art and beauty, humor, play, wisdom and a loving home. “It felt like we were wrapped in their love before they were wishing us these beautiful things. It felt so special,” Freeman said.
As for the match-making they assume took place back in AP Biology, Freeman feels confident that Granito, their teacher, had something to do with it. “She mixed up other people’s lab groups but never separated us the rest of the year.”
The bride and groom enjoyed a honeymoon to New Orleans.
The Evanston RoundTable is pleased to present They Do, a glimpse into the love stories and commitment celebrations of local readers and their relatives. 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.