By Kelly Lafferty
---- — Bill Jones thought he was a confirmed bachelor for life.
“I never wanted to get married,” he said. “It just wasn’t my thing. Not until I met her.”
“Her” was Nancy Dezelan, and they met at Riverside Park’s skating rink in Indianapolis in the late 1950s. Their relationship started out as just friends.
Bill worked there as a floor guard and Nancy came in with a group of friends. She always liked skating with him. He was a good skater, and he made her laugh a lot.
She started to like him, but he didn’t want to go out with her at first because of their age difference. He was 12 ½ years older than she was.
The two took skating dance lessons together. Bill would pick Nancy up, and he paid for the lessons, but it was not a date. He knew she didn’t have a lot of money.
“At that time I made 92 cents an hour so I had all kinds of money,” Bill said, with a laugh.
They spent so much time together that their friends thought they were already dating. They didn’t believe the relationship would last, though, because of their age difference.
The fact that they thought those things convinced Bill to ask Nancy out. That, and he just fell in love.
“I felt like she was more of the marrying type than anyone I ever went out with,” Bill said. “I felt like if I’m ever going to get married, she’s the one I want. I fell in love with her.”
They dated for about a year and a half, and they enjoyed being together. Nancy really liked Bill, but she wasn’t sure if he was as serious about her.
“I always did think he was the one,” she said. “I wasn’t going to push him into anything, though, because that wouldn’t work.”
She was graduating high school and had put in an application for nursing school.
“I didn’t think he was serious and I needed to move on a little bit,” she said.
When Bill popped the question and gave her a ring, she didn’t see it coming.
“I was completely taken by surprise,” Nancy said. “I thought ‘Oh my, now what do I do?’”
She said yes and wore the ring around her neck on a necklace. She waited a little while before she told her parents. She knew they wouldn’t approve.
When she sprung the engagement news on them, they tried to talk her out of it.
“They brought up all the negatives,” she said. “The age difference and they wanted me to go on to school. I told them I respected what they said, but I love him and I have to follow my heart.”
Since they couldn’t get through to Nancy, they wanted to talk to Bill.
“I was an enemy,” Bill laughed. “They couldn’t talk her out of it, so they tried to talk me out of it. I was afraid to go in there at first, but it was gonna happen so I had to face it.”
While he was talking to them, he started wondering if perhaps her parents succeeded in talking Nancy out of marrying him. He wasn’t sure.
“I was kind of upset at them giving me all the negatives,” Bill said. “So I said, ‘If you want to get married, I’ll be out in the car.’”
Nancy came out to the car and the couple talked before she went back in the house to talk to her parents.
“Even though my dad got angry he knew me and knew I didn’t do things on a whim,” Nancy said. “From that time on, they accepted it.”
Bill and Nancy were married at the Justice of the Peace in Indianapolis on May 27, 1960, when Bill was 31 and Nancy was 18.
“We had a lot against us, but 54 years later, here we are,” Nancy said.
It didn’t take long for her parents to warm up to Bill. Nancy’s dad made only one request, asking that they go to church each Sunday. Bill had started going to church with Nancy while they were dating, and it continued on through their marriage.
“He ended up being my dad’s best friend,” Nancy said. “They thought he was the greatest thing ever. That’s how he won my parents over.”
Bill and Nancy moved to Kokomo after Bill got a job at Chrysler. After having their six children, Bill understood why Nancy’s parents reacted the way they did to his and Nancy’s engagement announcement.
“I never knew how they felt until we had our girls,” Bill said. “If somebody 12 years older wanted to date them, I’d probably get a shotgun out and shoot ‘em.”
At the start of their marriage, it was more of an adjustment for Bill, who was used to having his freedom and not having to come home after work every night.
“I thought I was going to change her to be rowdy like me and do things on the spur of the moment, but she changed me to be a better person,” he said.
Money was tight too, but the Joneses both worked a lot; Bill is retired from Delco Electronics and Nancy from Duke Energy. Their determination got them through those tough times.
Bill considers marrying Nancy the greatest thing he ever did.
“I love her more now than when we got married,” he said. “She’s got a way about her; you can’t help but like her.”
They’ve been married nearly 54 years, and it’s surreal to them how fast that time has gone. All of it seems like yesterday.
“Our marriage hasn’t been all peaches and cream,” Bill said. “We’ve had our ups and downs, but we’ve never broken up.”
“There’s always light at the end of the tunnel when things get rocky,” Nancy said.
They say that although sometimes marriage isn’t fun, it’s always fun to make up. They’ve never left the house without kissing goodbye.
“I just think it’s important because you’ll never know when it’ll be your last time,” Nancy said.
They both have made efforts during their marriage to avoid conflict by respecting each other. They agree that good things happen when you work at them.
“You have to persevere,” Nancy said. “You have to work. Too many people give up. It’s too easy to give up.”