Impact Feature Issue on Sexuality and People with Intellectual, Developmental and Other Disabilities

Eighteen Years and Counting:
Tom and Maureen's Story

On June 27, 2010, Tom and Maureen Marolt marked their 18th anniversary. In July they sat down with Beth Fondell and Vicki Gaylord of the Institute on Community Integration to talk about their journey together through love and life.

Q: Maureen, can you tell us where you met?

Maureen: We met on a blind date. A mutual friend fixed us up. I was living at Clara Dora Residence [an ICF-MR], and I was working at Opportunity Workshop. The friend said there's this guy I want you to meet. I was kind of leery at first. She brought him to the lunch room and he sat down. He imitated W.C. Fields and then Mae West. His first line was...Do you remember what you said, as W.C. Fields?

Tom: Yes indeed my little chickadee. Yes indeed, yes indeed.

Maureen: [laughter]. And then he did a Mae West impression...

Tom: Come up and see me sometime.

Maureen: [laughter]. He had me rolling on the floor and I knew from that point on he was the guy for me.

Q: How long did you date before you got married?

Tom: 16 years.

Maureen: We met in the summer of 1977 and at the time dating between kids with disabilities was kind of unheard of because the guys were separated from the girls. People thought that people with disabilities should not date. But we are human.

Q: Did people say things to you to discourage you from dating?

Maureen: Counselors gave you a look.

Q: How did your families feel?

Maureen: First, they weren't real pleased. Well, I think they were afraid of the fact that he had seizures, so they thought financially we would not be able to support ourselves.

Q: Did your family like Tom?

Maureen: First, my grandmother met him and thought he was okay. She said if she was 20 years younger she would have...[laughter].

 Q: And other family members?

Maureen: Tom made the mistake of discussing politics with my father. My dad at that time was the mayor of my hometown.

Q: So there you are, Tom, this young guy dating the mayor's daughter, discussing politics with him. Did you think that was a good move?

Tom: [laughter]. He was the one that liked to talk politics. Then I don't know how I got into it.

Q: Tom, what did your family think about Maureen?

Tom: My dad had died on May 15, so she didn't get a chance to meet him. When he was alive I asked if I could bring her up for him to meet, and he said, "Yeah, that's cool." But then he died. When the funeral and everything was over, I later called up my mom and asked, "Is it still okay to bring Maureen up?" And she said, "It's okay," so I brought Maureen up and they hit it off really good. My brother, Don, used to play football for the Mesabi Junior College, and one year I asked Maureen if she wanted to go to the game. So that's where she met Don, and he liked her.

Q: I'm wondering what you saw in each other that made you think he'd make a good husband or she'd make a good wife?

Maureen: Well, in Tom I could see he was hard-working, and he made me laugh. The laughter keeps us together. You have to laugh at each other once in awhile. And I knew that he would be a good provider.

Tom: She cooks really good and I like her cooking. She works hard also. I've seen her at work and she works really hard. I don't know how she does it. Then every once in awhile she'll say, "Let's take a break and go out somewhere," and then we'll come back home and relax and joke around. She's all around a good wife.

Q: One of the things I've noticed about you over the years is that you're very thoughtful about each other, very considerate.

Maureen: Yes, we are very thoughtful toward each other. That's important.

Tom: Yes, it is.

Q: I'd like to hear more about the marriage proposal.

Tom: It was on St. Patrick's Day, and we were out somewhere and I said, "Mo, how'd you like to marry me?" And she got this big glow and said, "Okay."

Maureen: He gave me this cocktail ring, a green stone with stars around it.

Tom: Do you still have that? How come you don't wear it?

Maureen: And then later we got our gold wedding bands.

Q: Who were the people who supported you to get married?

Tom: My mom of course, and my brothers, my sister, our pastor at St. Richards Catholic Church, some people at the Arc.

Q: Who helped you with the arrangements or did you do it all yourself?

Maureen: My older sister went to my parents, and kind of went to bat for me. She said, "Dad and mom, she's ready to get married." At first they didn't want to let me go. But I had a lot of good support. My aunt, Sal, was very supportive, and my counselor at Arc was very helpful. We had premarital counseling through Arc, it was a program for about 8 weeks. Also at St. Richard's we worked with the wedding coordinator. I have a friend who owned Mary Kay Bridals, and she got me my dress.

Q: Did you have any attendants?

Maureen: My best friend, who was one of my roommates, she stood up for me. And then another friend was my maid of honor. I didn't want to play the favorite sister game. I have five sisters and I didn't pick any of them because I didn't want anyone to be left out and feel bad if I didn't choose them. So Tom and I tried to involve as many people with disabilities as we could in the wedding.

Q: And who stood up with you, Tom?

Tom: There was my brother, my sister, two of my buddies that I grew up with, they stood up. And my mom was there.

Q: When you look back on your wedding day, what stands out most?

Maureen: The thing that stands out most is that both parents walked me down the aisle and did it to the prelude from The Sound of Music.

Tom: We sent out about 80 invitations and 75 actually came. We figured not too many would come because, you know, they're getting up there in age. But it was a beautiful day. One thing she forgot was to throw her bouquet. No one gave her a cue to do that.

Maureen: I thought with five sisters one would give me the cue. Eventually as we were leaving the reception to go to the hotel I did throw it and I believe my sister Sheila caught it.

Q: Tom, anything else stand out about the wedding day?

Tom: I think, correct me if I'm wrong, that a friend used to drive limousines so he drove us to the hotel in the limousine. That night I didn't know what got into me. At the reception everyone was asking if I was okay; they said I looked flushed. I felt okay. Of course I'd never been married so it must have been nerves.

Q: What do you like most about being married?

Maureen: We take the good with the bad. We've had our ups and our downs. It's give and it's take. But I'm so happy we've made it this far. We had a tough patch where it was rough. There were times when he was out of a job and a lot of times he would get frustrated.

Q: Tom, for you what's the best part of being married?

Tom: For me the best part is you can count on each other. Whereas if you're single, you're the only one you can count on. So it's nice that you can have somebody to come home to or talk to if you're tired.

Q: Just about a month ago was your 18th anniversary. Did you do something special?

Maureen: In the morning I took him golfing, and then that afternoon our friends took us up to Stillwater to a German restaurant.

Tom: I did plan something for that night, but that didn't work out so some friends of ours took us to Stillwater to that restaurant.

Q: For your 17th anniversary, that was really special. What did you do?

Maureen: That was Maui.

Tom: We went with a group called Off the Beaten Path. They give tours with people with special needs. What happened was the first time I went to Hawaii, after I came back she saw the photos and said, "Man I'd love to go there sometime." So we went and had a good time. She wants to go back.

Q: Anything you want to say about what you've learned from 18 years of marriage?

Maureen: You have to give and take, and take the good with the bad, and you work through difficult periods. In our difficult period we asked for help.

Tom: I want to let people know that it takes a lot of hard work and I think communication's number one, and making sure you're both right for each other in the first place.

Q: You haven't said too much about love. Are you still in love?

Both: Oh yeah!

Maureen: Yes, we do love each other and very, very much.

Tom and Maureen live in St. Louis Park, Minnesota. She works at PetSmart, and he at the new home of the Minnesota Twins, Target Field in Minneapolis. When they're not working they volunteer for a number of community organizations, go to sporting events, golf, bowl, and work on their condo.