By Kelly Lafferty
---- — Carol Thornton had three criteria for her dream man.
“If I could find a guy with a letter sweater, someone who would truly like me, and while we’re at it, if he had a car,” she said to her girlfriend in the mid-1940s. “About a week later, that’s when I met Bill.”
They were high school sophomores in Terre Haute, and on the first day of their term, Carol arrived to English class early. She was the only one in the room. She looked up as William “Bill” Jewell entered the classroom and watched as he looked at all the empty chairs before sitting down right across from her.
“I thought, ‘Hmm that’s strange,’” Carol said. “He didn’t say a word the entire time and neither did I.”
Even though they didn’t speak to each other that day, Carol remembered who Bill Jewell was. In fact, she remembered that they had shared a kiss the year before when a group of teenagers played spin the bottle at a kissing party.
Bill didn’t remember the kiss, but he knew he wanted to get acquainted with Carol.
“I looked in there, saw her, and I had to go over there,” Bill said. “So I went over there. She was just somebody I had to get to know.”
Carol knew what kind of person Bill was. He had good character. He never flirted around a lot with other girls like so many boys in school did. She also knew that he had three letter sweaters, and he even had a car. He exceeded her dream man criteria.
“I knew what kind of person I wanted and he fit the bill,” she said.
Months later, Bill took Carol home from a sock hop and they started going on a few dates. On school days, when Carol went home for lunch, she would ride back to school with whoever picked her up first. Some days it was Bill, and other days it was another guy.
“I wasn’t going steady with either one of them, so I didn’t see anything wrong with that,” Carol said. “I was just having fun.”
Bill didn’t like the idea of Carol with another guy. He wanted their relationship to be exclusive.
“I just knew I loved her and I didn’t want to share her with anybody else,” Bill said. “I’m just a one woman man.”
He talked to Carol about it and gave her a choice.
“He said, ‘You’ve gotta make up your mind. It’s either him or me,’” Carol said. “And he meant it. I could tell. You didn’t mess around with Bill Jewell.”
In 1945, when they were both 16, Bill and Carol started going steady. They’d go to movies and take trips to Turkey Run and Shakamak State Park. They’d talk on the phone for an hour every night, and they’d make eyes at each other during school, since they weren’t allowed to hold hands in the hallway.
“He just had these big blue eyes,” Carol said. “He would just look at me at school so lovingly and I just felt like I could melt,” she said.
They dated for two years, and whatever they did, they did together. During that time, they realized that they couldn’t spend the rest of their lives without each other. They never had any doubts about their love.
Bill gave Carol a ring when they graduated, and when they were both 18, they were married at United Brethren Church in Terre Haute on Nov. 6, 1947.
They lived with Bill’s parents for a little while at the beginning of their marriage. They had their first child there.
“It was just a big change in our lives that we both enjoyed,” Bill said. “So many of our friends divorced and that was never a part of our life.”
After moving multiple times due to Bill getting new jobs, they settled in Kokomo in 1963 when he got a job at Delco. Carol got a job at Delco too after their three kids got a little older. They both retired from there.
They consider their life together blessed and always felt stable and secure in their marriage. Their faith and open communication has helped their marriage last.
“When you’re young you feel so deeply and you’re madly in love,” Carol said. “Over the years, you just grow and mature. You still love each other, but it’s calm and comfortable. It’s enduring.”
They said that during their marriage, they never went to bed mad, except once. Now, they can’t even remember what the fight was about, but they remembered that they’d argued and Bill was tired so he went to sleep.
“I was mad that he was able to sleep through it and I couldn’t,” Carol said.
She brooded until 2 a.m. and kicked him awake, causing him to land on the floor. She remembers standing over him and telling him she wanted to resolve the argument. Bill laughed, and they made up.
“It’s not always been perfect,” Carol said. “Once in a while you gotta kick him out of bed, I guess,” she laughed.
They’ve learned to not brood about things and to not let resentments build up. The best way for Bill and Carol to resolve an issue was to face them head on and work them out by meeting each other halfway.
“Nobody’s perfect,” Bill said. “We had to adjust to each other. You gotta be able to give and take. I respect her feelings, and she respects my feelings.”
The Jewells have celebrated 66 years of marriage, and they said that even though everyone says it, the years really have gone by fast. They wouldn’t change anything about it.
“Am I a keeper?” Carol asked Bill.
“Yeah, he laughed. “You’re a keeper.”
“You are too,” she said.