Fran and Tom
Tom had recently arrived in Canada from a farm on Northern Ireland. He came to Brockville, Ontario with a high school education and $38.65 in his pocket. Tom was at a party and as he was making his way up a set of stairs Fran grabbed his tie. Every province in Canada has a tartan associated with it and Fran, who had recently moved from Prince Edward Island to Ontario, saw the tie and thought he was a fellow Islander. She was thinking it would sure be nice to meet someone from the Island. Tom didn’t know what she was talking about when she asked if his tie was the PEI tartan. Tom claims she wasn’t looking at his tie.
It was a Sadie Hawkins party which meant that women ask men to dance rather than the custom of men typically asking women to dance. It’s based on Al Capp’s hillbilly comic strip Li’l Abner. Fran asked Tom to dance as an apology for grabbing his tie. Turns out they were both excellent dancers and continue to dance whenever the opportunity arises.
Tom was actually at the party with another young woman who was expecting to marry him. They weren’t officially engaged but they had discussed marriage and she was willing to change her religion for him. She was Dutch Christian Reform and Tom was Catholic and was not willing to give up his religion, so she had agreed to take lessons in Catholicism. Despite this detail, Tom asked Fran out on a date the following Tuesday. He drove his then girl friend to teacher college out of town and proceeded to date Fran.
On their very first date, they took a ferry from Prescott, Ontario to Ogdensburg, New York and attended a movie together. To Tom the date with Fran was just window shopping at first. Fran knew he had another girl friend, but she thought she was quite young and that it wasn’t serious. Fran was quite independent–she was a Home Economist for two counties and used to go to Montreal on the train. One day she even received a proposal on the train whilst knitting. Fran jokes that her government car and credit card were a big part of the attraction.
The night of their first date, Fran read Tom’s palm. Fran reported back to her roommates that she liked what she saw in his palm and she was going to marry him. A few nights later he met her roommates and they told him what she said, so Tom says
“Fran has a way of telling you things without ever saying them.” Tom knew that Fran was interested but at first, he thought it was just a passing interest. Tom said, “Fran had everything I wanted in a woman. Fran has a big personality, a great sense of being, and a good sense of humour.” This last quality was possibly the most important because she got Tom’s jokes. Other women he had met previously many of whom had just immigrated as well from different cultures, didn’t always understand them.
Tom knew quite rapidly that Fran was the one but he had a problem because he was dating another woman. In the small town where they lived, it wasn’t long before people reported back to his girlfriend that they had seen Tom with another woman. He had to break things off with her.
Three months after they had started dating, Tom came by Fran’s office at lunch time on her birthday. Tom came to her desk and said he thought she would look better with an engagement ring on her finger. She made him repeat it and then said “yes” Although he did not take her out for lunch, they celebrated that evening at dinner. Tom jokes that although it wasn’t a terribly romantic proposal, it was much better than a popular marriage proposal in Ireland, “Would you like to be buried with our folk?” This was better. They were engaged and married within the year.
Shortly after the proposal, Tom had his appendix removed and Fran drove him to Prince Edward Island and dropped him off at her relative’s home. He recovered for six weeks with Fran’s family while she returned to her job. They wrote love letters to one another during this time. Tom kept the cards and letters and one in particular that started with “Ever since your first touch sent a thousand tingles through me.” According to Tom, Fran is not as forthcoming with her affection nor as romantic as he is and so this card meant a lot of him. They still make each other tingle, 60 years later.
In the days of social media where people can hide behind a false persona, it is so important that you let the other person get to know who you really are and not the person you might be projecting on your profile. You have to communicate with one another or you’re never going to get to know each other and your likes and dislikes. Tom says he was always himself and had a good sense of humour and Fran knew what she was getting into—she loved his quick wit. They were open and honest with one another right from the start. They became comfortable with one another and it was like they had been together for years even though it had only been nine months or so before they were married.
Fran says you have to hang in there. They have been through a lot of things together—they have five kids and 12 grandchildren and they have had to work together. It never seemed like that much extra work when another child came along. “We made sacrifices and it’s not as expensive as people think it is.” Tom taught himself how to do different things like electrical, carpentry, and plumbing. He never employed anyone to do work—if he couldn’t figure it out, he’d ask someone. He once asked the man in front of him at the bank if he was a plumber and he said “Yes.” Tom asked him how to do something and the plumber took him to the side and told him what to do and it worked perfectly. This is how he was able to build a big addition on to their home.
Over the years, they discovered each other’s strength and weaknesses and worked out who does what. Tom is more of a perfectionist than Fran. He’s good at mechanical and fixing things—it has to be his way and just so. Fran’s not as concerned. She does some things better than him and he does somethings better than her.
They have encouraged each other to do new things. Fran gave Tom an accordian one year because she found out he could play a harmonica and told him, I think you should play. Within two years he was playing in a band and continues to do so.
Broadcast Love wishes Fran and Tom many more decades of happiness and joy as they continue life’s journey together.