After decades apart, couple reunites in Salem – he’s 101, she’s 99

Love stories permeate movies, novels, and magazines, but occasionally there is one that is truly astonishing.

Marge French and Sid Tice worked together 81 years ago on the freshman class steering committee at Aurora College, a liberal arts school in the Chicago suburbs. French describes it as a small, intimate college where most students knew one another.

Now 99 and living in Salem, she recalled thinking at the time, “I wish Sid would ask me out.”

Tice, who recently turned 101, was dating someone else but he recently explained that “I always thought she was a special person.”

Now, they are together again, sharing a home in Salem.

Until recently, they hadn’t seen each other since those long-ago college days.

The year after the U.S. entered World War II in 1941, Tice joined the Navy, serving in the Pacific Theater. French, whose maiden name was Bowden, took a year off from school and when she returned to school, Tice was gone.

After that, neither thought much about the other.

Their story paused for the better part of a century.

“This is Sid Tice. Do you remember me?”

-Sid Tice in call to Marge French

Tice married another Aurora student and had two children. He married a second time, then served a year in the Peace Corps where he worked with indigent teens in the Philippines. He was a juvenile probation officer, then in 1955 got a master’s degree in social work, serving as a counselor and mediator for much of his career.

His wife died 10 years ago.

French graduated with a master’s degree in education and married an Aurora alumnus. The couple had two children.

Later she moved to Salem to teach English as a second language at Chemeketa Community College. She also divorced, and while attending the Unitarian Church she met Dick French, with whom she spent 39 years until his death in 2016.

Their story jumps from 1942 to October 2022.

By then, Tice was 100, residing at an assisted living facility near Los Angeles, and French was 99, still living in her own home.

He noticed French’s name in the Aurora University alumni newsletter. He mentioned her to his daughter, who found the phone number for French. Tice was planning a Thanksgiving trip to visit a granddaughter in McMinnville and thought about visiting French in Salem.

He called her.

“This is Sid Tice. Do you remember me?”

She did.

“The day after Thanksgiving his granddaughter brought him to Salem, where we reminisced over an old college yearbook,” French said in an interview. “It was strange realizing that among our mutual friends, we were the only ones still alive. He came back the following day. I was so happy and so comfortable with him, and as we were sitting in the back seat of his granddaughter’s car, I felt like he should be holding my hand.”

“I didn’t want to be forward,” Tice explained.

But at the end of their second day of visiting and as they were saying goodbye, Tice reached over and gave French a kiss on the cheek.

For the next three months the two spoke every day by telephone for two hours. They agreed to a second visit in January, but this time Tice stayed with French. After a couple of days, he announced his intention to move to an assisted living facility in Salem.

They toured several, and before he left, French said he should move in with her instead. They picked out an apartment at Boone Ridge Senior Living in south Salem.

“The wait was torture,” French said. “Five weeks was almost too much to bear.”

They moved in March 19.

“It’s amazing to me that she’s as excited as I am,” Tice said. “I really like that.”

Tice said that his friends all thought moving in with French was a great idea.

“One told me, ‘I hate to lose you, buddy, but I think you’re doing the right thing,’” Tice said.

One of French’s daughters wasn’t so sure.

“But she’s on board now – she was just looking out for her mom,” French said.

Four days after moving in, Tice celebrated his 101st birthday with French and friends.

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Eric Schuman of Salem is a retired physician associate whose interests include pet therapy and photography.