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Marry Me, Marylou

Where it all began

Gene and Marylou Habecker met at Taylor. Above they are pictured as newlyweds.

Gene and Marylou Habecker met at Taylor. Above they are pictured as newlyweds.

By Brianna Kudisch | Echo

It all started with an open seat at dinner.

One open seat that would lead to 48 years of marriage filled with love, laughter, tears and the mundane circumstances of life.

Marylou (Napolitano) Habecker (‘68) first met Gene Habecker (‘68) at Taylor, when he sat down in the open seat next to her during dinner. It was tradition for the women to enter the space first and sit down, leaving every other seat open for the men to choose.

Gene didn’t skip a beat: later that week he took the opportunity to ask her out on a date.

“I (wasn’t) interested in him other than for a friend, (but) he was very interested right away,” Marylou said.

On the other side, the initial thoughts were very positive.

“(My) first impression of Marylou was (that) she was beautiful and I wanted to get to know her,” said Gene.

They continued to go out on dates over the next few months. Marylou still viewed them as just friends.

Then one night, Gene pulled out the “infamous letter” detailing his love for Marylou and how he believed she was the one God wanted him to marry.

But according to Marylou, “God had certainly not told me that!”

Marylou ran in the opposite direction for quite some time.

That was difficult for Gene, as he wished to marry Marylou, but only if it was God’s will.

“We went through three breakups, and each time was so hard,” Gene said. “I had to be willing to give Marylou back to the Lord and, if we were to be together, God would have to change her heart. I couldn’t do that.”

Gene’s patience and willingness paid off, as Marylou began to feel differently their junior year. She realized she was caught up in the fantasy of waiting for her Prince Charming to come and sweep her off of her feet.

Instead, God was creating a bigger story than Gene and Marylou could ever dream of.

On July 27, 1968, the two wed in Detroit, Michigan.

Taylor University heavily influenced the Habeckers’ relationship, from the start to the present.

“Taylor has its imprint on our lives (and) it was here that we learned to trust God. He was sufficient,” Marylou said.

Gene agreed, attributing their relationship’s growth to Taylor.

“Taylor was instrumental in that I was able to talk with mentor Resident Directors and faculty friends about our relationship,” Gene said.

They both arrived at Taylor with preconceived notions of how life would be, but those ideas changed when both Marylou and Gene, separately, gave their hearts over to God and fully trusted in him.

Taylor has also impacted them in their careers. The two are retiring this year from their positions as president and first lady of Taylor. In April, they will celebrate their 10th anniversary as Taylor’s first couple.

Marylou offers some advice to those involved in a relationship, emphasizing prioritizing the right things as spoken in Matthew 6:33 (ESV), which states, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

The Habeckers highlight nine words that have been crucial in their relationship with one another, their families and others. According to Marylou “I love you. I am sorry. Please forgive me” were essential to their marriage.

As the presidential couple prepares to leave Taylor at the end of May, they have mixed emotions about moving on from the place where their life together began.

“Gratefully, we have so much to look forward to as we look to the days ahead together,” Gene said.

Since sharing a meal with the pretty girl in the dining commons, much has happened in their love story. They’ve shared many more meals and a lot of life in between. All because he refused to let her walk away.

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