A Romance That Began With A Mistake

Feb 10, 2017
Originally published on February 10, 2017 12:49 pm

It was June 1973.

Claudia Maraviglia was working at a bank. Bill Dewane, a bank customer, had recently suffered a serious spinal cord injury that left him partially paralyzed.

"I was a teller, and you came in to cash a check and you had like, a denim shirt on, and it was partially open, and you had this nice long hair. You were so cute. And I remember I gave you too much money, 'cause I got so flustered," Claudia says. "But then you came back about an hour later, and you said, 'You gave me too much money. Do you want to go out with it tonight?' and I said, 'Well, then I'll get in trouble, so let's go out and I'll pay for it.' "

Bill says he didn't let her pay. They got engaged about three months after they started dating.

"For me it's just a very physical thing," says Bill, 67. "I mean, my skin would get all tingly, and you made me happy. You still make me happy."

"Were you worried at all about marrying a man with a disability?" he asks Claudia, 66.

"I really wasn't. I just felt like you were still you. Your accident was pretty traumatic and you've always said you've changed after that," she says.

Before his accident, Bill says, he wasn't very nice.

"I was a hard ass," he says. "I was not the type of person that I think you would have wanted to meet. But you get a chance to lay in bed for six months and re-evaluate who you are. It was ... an opportunity to change the way I was."

"Your most enduring trait to me is your determination. You just will not give up," Claudia says. "I notice our daughters have that, too."

Bill says he suspects Claudia puts him first.

"No, I put us first," Claudia says. "What's best for us."

"You've said that, but my disability, it's getting worse. You should opt out," he says.

"That's what for better or for worse means," she says. "What are you hoping for us as we enter this final chapter?"

"The little pillow that you have that says, 'If you live to be 100, I'd like to be 100 less one day,' " he says.

"Yeah, but I don't want that," she says.

"Well, I'm sorry. You look at the mortality tables," he says.

"You statistician you," she says, laughing. "You've very loved. I hope you know that — even though you are sometimes a pain."

Audio produced for Morning Edition by Kerrie Hillman.

StoryCorps is a national nonprofit that gives people the chance to interview friends and loved ones about their lives. These conversations are archived at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, allowing participants to leave a legacy for future generations. Learn more, including how to interview someone in your life, at StoryCorps.org.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

It is Friday, and it is time for StoryCorps. And today we hear about a romance that began with a mistake back in 1973. Claudia Maraviglia was working at a bank. Bill Dewane had recently suffered a serious, spinal cord injury that left him partially paralyzed. At StoryCorps, they remembered how their paths first crossed.

BILL DEWANE: You and I met by happenstance.

CLAUDIA DEWANE: I was working in a bank. I was a teller. And you came in to cash a check. And you had, like, a denim shirt on. And it was partially open. And you had this nice, long hair. You were so cute. And I remember I gave you too much money because I got so flustered. But then you came back about an hour later. And you said, you gave me too much money. Do you want to go out with it tonight? And I said, well, then I'll get in trouble. So let's go out, and I'll pay for it (laughter).

B. DEWANE: But I didn't let you pay.

C. DEWANE: Yeah. It's amazing that we decided to get married after only dating about three months.

B. DEWANE: For me, it's just a very physical thing. I mean, my skin would get all tingly. You made me happy. You still make me happy. Were you worried at all about marrying a man with a disability?

C. DEWANE: I really wasn't. I just felt like you were still you. But your accident was pretty traumatic. And you've always said you've changed after that.

B. DEWANE: I did. I was a hard-ass. I didn't treat people nice. I was not the type of person that I think you would've wanted to meet. But you get a chance to lay in bed for six months and re-evaluate who you are. It was an opportunity to change the way I was.

C. DEWANE: Your most enduring trait to me is your determination. You just will not give up. I notice our daughters have that, too. And that's why I always said, don't marry anybody unless he's as good as your dad.

B. DEWANE: Oh, so that's what their problem is now.

C. DEWANE: I think that's why they're not married. They haven't found (laughter) anybody as good as you yet. It's a high standard.

B. DEWANE: I get the feeling you always put me first.

C. DEWANE: No, I put us first - what's best for us.

B. DEWANE: You've said that. But the disability is getting worse. You should opt out.

C. DEWANE: Well, that's what for better or for worse means. What are you hoping for us as we enter this final chapter?

B. DEWANE: The little pillow that you have. And it says if you live to be 100, I'd like to be 100 less one day.

C. DEWANE: Yeah. But I don't want that.

B. DEWANE: Well, I'm sorry. You look at the mortality tables.

C. DEWANE: You statistician, you. You're very loved. I hope you know that, even though you're sometimes a pain.

(LAUGHTER)

GREENE: Bill and Claudia Dewane at StoryCorps in Camp Hill, Penn. Their conversation will be archived at the Library of Congress. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.