DeKALB – Barbara Heimerdinger remembers watching from the sidelines as a cheerleader as her husband, Bob, played football at Northern Illinois University.
By their senior year of college, they got married because they got tired of leaving each other, even just for a day, Barbara said. She said sometimes during the games he’d get knocked down on the field and she would just cringe.
“I would just think, ‘I hope he gets back up,’ ” Barbara said.
Bob, 86, a former NIU Huskie All-America quarterback and local football coach, and Barbara, 83, a former instructor at NIU for almost 40 years, celebrate 63 years of marriage today. They’ve lived in DeKalb since they were college freshmen in 1948, Bob having returned from the Navy and Barbara just out of high school. Since their wedding, they have five children, 15 grandchildren and one great-grandchild, with another on the way. They’ve spent their retirement by filling their schedule with family activities, mostly sports.
Barbara said football has been a big part of the family’s life.
“That’s what 63 years of marriage gets you, memories,” Barbara said.
It was called Northern Illinois State Teachers College when they started school, Bob said. They met at a freshman orientation dance. Barbara said dances were held regularly then.
“On Friday night they’d had a dance and so he looked across the room and he said, talking to his friends, ‘I think I know that gal right there,’ “ Barbara said. The two had briefly gone to high school together.
“Beside me was my roommate, who was a beautiful blonde, just gorgeous,” Barbara said. “They all wanted to meet the beautiful blonde, so he came over and said hi to me and I knew him because in high school I was at Riverside-Brookfield High School, and so was he.”
Bob remembered Barbara because she was such a good dancer – at high school dances, she would dance while he watched off to the side.
“Sure enough when [college] orientation was over I went over with a few of my other friends ‘cause we were looking to see if we could find some young ladies someplace,” Bob said. “We went over and I started talking to Barb and I asked her for a date that Friday night.”
Bob took Barbara to a high school football game.
“That’s the way our life has gone ever since,” Barbara said. “Football.”
After college, Bob’s life followed a football path. He coached at DeKalb High School, as well as freshman football at NIU. After he retired, he “drove Barb crazy,” so he took the job as the Huskies’ equipment manager for six years before retiring again.
Barb spent 38 years at NIU, first teaching dance, including “square dancing, modern dance, all of them,” then moving on to supervising student teachers. The two have no plans to leave DeKalb any time soon.
“The community has been very good to us, to our family,” Bob said. “It’s been a great place to raise our kids and to them, it is still home and always will be.”
For their anniversary, they plan to go out for lunch and just enjoy each other’s company. Barbara said they traveled much of their married life, so they are content with just spending time at home.
“Our family is so active, they’ve got us on the road all the time,” Barbara said. “I think for 63 years of marriage, we’re still trotting.”
Barbara said although the two have been together a long time, it’s hard to give advice to other couples. She said it’s important to realize there are good and bad with everything, but people just need to stick through it. Bob agreed.
“Not everything comes easy,” Bob said. “If you’re hanging together you can work through it, work it out.”
Bob also said, with a laugh, that it helps if the couple likes each other.
“You don’t always like each other,” Barbara said. “You always love each other, but you don’t always like each other. But you have to be nice when you don’t like each other.”