News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Local & Bistate

September 22, 2013

Finally together: A wedding 62 years in the making

High school classmates tie knot decades after 1951 first kiss

TERRE HAUTE — In 1951, Jane Dusanic and Jim Thorp shared a first kiss as teenagers.

At Central High School in Kansas City, Mo., they attended some of the same classes, including Spanish and physics, and joined some of the same organizations.

“We didn’t develop a huge relationship in high school, but we were in many things together, and we were friends,” Thorp recalled.

Then, after graduation in 1954, they went their separate ways, Thorp to Cornell University on a full scholarship, and Dusanic to Kansas City University (later the University of Missouri at Kansas City).

Both married and had families and didn’t see each other again until a high school reunion in 1989. Dusanic eventually settled in Terre Haute with her husband, Don, a professor at Indiana State University, while Thorp became a faculty member and department head at Cornell and later Virginia Tech.

But their story wasn’t over.

In 2012, they began emailing each other, infrequently. Thorp was no longer married, and Dusanic’s husband, Don, had died in 2011.

This past winter, when about 12 inches of snow had fallen near her home, Dusanic kidded Thorp, “Do you want to come visit?”

In May, he visited for three days. The emails increased, and Thorp came back in July. Soon after his return to Virginia in late July, he emailed Dusanic and “suggested maybe we should get married … It seemed like a good idea,” Dusanic said in an interview last week.

On Saturday, 62 years after that first kiss, Jane Dusanic and Jim Thorp married at her lakeside home in southern Vigo County. She is 77, and he is 76. “We’re very happy,” she said Friday, “and we’re really good friends.”

Their respective children and step-children planned to attend the ceremony.

There is an 11-month age difference, Dusanic notes. When they first kissed in 1951, “I robbed the cradle,” she laughs.

She and Dusanic share many interests, including music, art and politics; he is teaching her about opera. The wedding ceremony Saturday included “Song to the Moon” from the Dvorak opera, Rusalka.

“We’re both pretty intelligent; he is brilliant,” said Dusanic, a talented artist who has long been involved with the Wabash Valley Art Guild.

She likes to do watercolors featuring water scenes and cats. He’s been told his paintings resemble those of Jackson Pollack.

In 2005, when he had moved to Blacksburg, Va., he asked her to create a painting for him — and it’s still on his kitchen wall.

They also enjoy conversation. “We can talk about anything and there have been times where we almost forget to go eat dinner because we’re just talking,” she said.

As Thorp describes it, “We fit together like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle.”

Neither anticipated things would progress so quickly, but both wanted to travel together and decided not to wait. They chose not to live together. “We’re old fashioned,” she said.

According to Thorp, “They advise people our age to live together because it will cost you a lot of money to get married. Well, that’s not how we look at the world. I’ll be a patriot. I’ll pay more taxes.”

This week, the newlyweds will be off to Blacksburg, Virginia, where Thorp has a home. His background is in electrical and computer engineering, and his expertise in issues related to the power grid has been in much demand the past decade.

He is an emeritus faculty member at both Cornell and Virginia Tech but still obtains grants and does research.

But he intends to “slow down a lot more” and spend time with his bride.

When they told people they were getting married at ages 77 and 76, “Everybody says, ‘You’re crazy.’ I don’t feel crazy,” Thorp said.

“I think we feel very lucky,” said Mrs. Thorp.

Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or sue.loughlin@tribstar.com.

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