Ron Baker's phone rang on a winter day in 1964.
It was one of his best friends calling from an Omaha bowling alley.
The friend knew that Ron, 21 at the time, was looking for a girlfriend. So he told Ron about a cute girl he spotted at the Ranch Bowl.
Her name was Barb Fahey, and that phone call led to a marriage lasting more than 48 years.
Barb, 22, was watching her girlfriends bowl in a mixed men's and women's league on that Sunday afternoon.
Ron took his friend's advice and drove his 1961 Chevy convertible to the Ranch Bowl. His friend introduced him to Barb.
She was talkative and seemed fun. He liked it when Barb playfully rolled a bowling ball with her feet.
Ron's friend was right. She was cute, with blue eyes and dark brown hair that was “frosted,” a popular look in the 1960s.
Ron asked Barb if he could give her a ride home, but she said no thanks. If he showed up at the Ranch Bowl the next Sunday, she said, she'd think about it.
He did, and when the bowling ended, he gave her a ride home. But before dropping her off, they made a stop.
Both were Catholic and neither had been to Mass that day, so they stopped for an evening service at a downtown church.
They started dating and found they had similar backgrounds.
Ron was the oldest of five boys. Barb was the oldest of five girls. Both were raised in Omaha and didn't grow up with a lot of money. Her dad filled cigarette machines, and his father was a foreman at a mattress factory.
Three weeks after they met, Ron proposed. He knew she was the right one and didn't want her to get away.
Barb said yes, and they told their families about the engagement.
But they didn't tell them about the ceremony.
Ron, a mail carrier, knew he would soon be called to active duty with the National Guard. Both wanted to get married before he left and knew their parents wouldn't be happy about such speed. And they didn't want their families to pay for a big church wedding.
So they eloped, reciting their vows in front of a Sarpy County judge on June 19, 1964.
Ron left in August for boot camp at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri. A month later Barb told both their families they were married.
Their parents initially weren't thrilled but over time accepted the marriage when they realized Barb and Ron were so much in love.
In September 1964, Barb and Ron renewed their vows with a Catholic priest in a chapel at Fort Leonard Wood.
After his military service, Ron and Barb eventually bought a house near 49th and Hickory Streets in Omaha's Holy Cross neighborhood. They had three children and now have nine grandchildren.
After the kids were raised, Barb became a teacher aide in the Omaha Public Schools. It seemed wherever Barb went, children who knew her from school would spot her and say, “Hi, Mrs. Baker.”
Ron worked 35 years for the Post Office, retiring in 1998, and now works part time as a courier for a group of local medical clinics.
Each had their hobbies. Ron loved golfing, and Barb tended marigolds and other flowers at home.
Both loved watching stock car races at the I-80 Speedway and dining at Piccolo Pete's Restaurant. But their favorite activity was watching their grandkids in baseball games, dance recitals and other events.
Ron and Barb stayed active, but that changed in fall 2011. Barb's leg's started swelling, and she became so weak she could hardly walk. Doctors eventually discovered she had liver problems.
Last summer, at age 70, she died of liver failure.
Before her funeral, Ron wrote a letter to Barb to read at her service. Ron knew he couldn't get through it without breaking down, so their son spoke the words.
“We started our life together by eloping. It was a marriage people thought would not last. Well, Barb, we proved them wrong. Take care of me from up there. I know you are an angel in heaven. I love you, beautiful bride.”
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