Vickroy: 40 years later, couple make good on promise to wed
BY DONNA VICKROY email@example.com Twitter: @dvickroy November 23, 2012 2:30PM
Cindy Langwell and Bill Hale. | Supplied photo
Updated: December 26, 2012 6:03AM
True, there are those who share a romance that pretty much goes by the book. They meet, fall in love, get married, live happily ever after.
And then there are the rest of us.
Life is messy and things rarely go according to plan. But even through the most chaotic of times, love has been known to endure.
No one knows this more than Cindy Langwell and Bill Hale.
The first time Hale announced his intentions to wed Langwell was in 1968.
“I was sitting on the curb watching her play softball with some of her friends in the street. I turned to my buddy Bruce and said, ‘Someday, I’m gonna marry that girl,’ ” Hale said.
That girl was 14 at the time. And someday? Well, that came this past August.
“It’s just a fairy tale,” Langwell said. “A fairy tale that has finally come true.”
Long road to happy ending
Back then, Hale and Langwell lived just around the corner from each other in Alsip. Hale is four years older. Both are Richards High School graduates.
Hale waited two years before he asked Langwell on a date. They went downtown to see Buckingham Fountain and take a carriage ride around the Loop.
“We got along great, we had so much fun,” Langwell recalled.
After that, they became inseparable. Langwell said her father allowed her to date the then-20-year-old gas station mechanic because he lived nearby and he liked him. Little did her father know that Hale had secretly proposed to his daughter and that she had secretly said yes.
But life has a way of interfering with the best-laid plans.
The following year, Hale’s number came up in the draft. Soon after, he left for boot camp and then went on to join the Army’s Infantry Division.
Three times, he received orders to ship out to Vietnam. Each time, the order was canceled.
Langwell was a high school cheerleader then. At Hale’s insistence, she started dating other guys. Prom was coming up. High school should be fun, he figured.
“We kind of went our separate ways,” Hale said. “I’d come home on leave and she’d seem happy.”
He let it go. The military, he said, changes you.
“But I continued to think about her,” he said. “I thought about her every day.”
Unbeknownst to him, Langwell was doing the same about him.
Even after both married other people and had children, they still wondered what had become of their first true love.
“He was the love of my life,” Langwell said. “There was no doubt in my mind that he was the one, and I’d lost him.”
Years later, Langwell would learn that Hale used to drive past her house, hoping to catch a glimpse of her.
“I’d see her out front with little kids and a stroller, and I’d think her life was good,” Hale said.
Like ships in the night, Hale and Langwell spent 40 years passing each other unknowingly, all the time wondering what the other was up to and if the feelings that refused to die were mutually felt.
Little did he know, by 1978, the year he got divorced, she was getting separated from her husband.
Both worked for a time for Panduit, he at the Tinley Park location, she in the Burr Ridge office. Langwell once sent an interoffice note to Hale but it came back as undeliverable. She figured she’d made a mistake.
The years tumbled by. Langwell’s father died and her mother moved to Arizona. Eventually, Langwell followed.
Hale married again, but again the marriage wasn’t working.
Then, one day in 2007, Langwell received a letter.
At long last, a reunion
In the note, Hale told her that he’d always carried her in his heart. He said he was living in Crete and wanted to know if they could at least be friends. He wondered if she’d like to meet.
“I just started tearing up,” Langwell said. “I’d always carried a torch for this guy.”
That Christmas, Langwell flew back to the Midwest and met Hale at her sister’s house in Porter, Ind.
Her heart still skips a beat at the memory of that first reunion.
“When I saw him get out of his truck, I just ran to him and threw my arms around his neck,” she said. “I said, ‘You’re never leaving me again.’ ”
He responded, “I promise you’ll never stand alone again.”
It took some time for Hale to wrap up his second divorce and settle a custody battle, but once he did, the two were free to be together.
On Aug. 11 this year, they finally had that wedding.
At the insistence of Langwell’s mother, the bride wore a white gown.
“She said, ‘This is the wedding you were supposed to have,’ ” Langwell said.
They wrote their own vows and exchanged them in a public park in Porter.
“Bill wore a black suit and was as handsome as ever,” she said.
Though they are together in spirit, they still are not physically together, at least not year-round.
At 61, Hale is nearing retirement at his job at Calumet Harley-Davidson. Until he can take an early retirement next month, he will continue to live in Crete.
Langwell, 57, is suffering from fibromyalgia and can’t tolerate the cold. Though she spent the summer here, she moved back to Arizona a few weeks ago.
Hale hopes that by February, both will be permanent residents of Phoenix.
“The absences have brought us closer,” Hale said. “They’ve made us stronger. Neither of us ever forgot about the other.”
Sadly, Hale’s friend Bruce has passed away.
“I can’t tell him the good news; that I finally made good on my promise,” he said.