Surf's up

A high school algebra class leads to a 50 year relationship.

If 14-year-old Randi had her way, she never would have met Bill.

Back in 1975, she was upset to learn that her family was moving after her freshman year, forcing her to switch high schools and leave her friends behind. But a few days into the new semester she met Bill.

By the time her 18th birthday rolled around, they were married.

The couple are often asked how they’ve made their relationship work for so long. They tell Meet Cutes NYC that the secret to staying together for nearly 50 years is simple: they care about making each other happy. 

With the 50th anniversary of their meet cute just around the corner, Randi told us she wanted to make one thing clear: She forgives her parents for moving.

Here’s their story.

How did you two meet? 

Randi: Between my ninth and 10th grade, my family moved from Huntington Beach to Newport Beach. I had a little bit of a fit because all my friends were in Huntington Beach and I was a freshman in high school and didn’t want to leave.

The first few days I was in a math class, but it didn't suit me. So on my third day of my sophomore year at my new high school I switched to a new class, Mr. Rutledge’s algebra class. And the second day of that class, when the teacher came around to check the homework, the boy behind me patted me on my shoulder and said “Can you pass me your homework when you're done so I can copy it?” And I said, “Okay, I will.” I thought he was cute. I thought he was a little bit goofy, but I liked his boldness. Those were the first words that we exchanged. 

Bill: I’m surprised you remember Mr. Rutledge’s name! But yeah, I remember this cute girl sitting in front of me who was new to the school. I definitely wanted to get to know her. We started talking and we had a lot in common. She lived at the beach and I had a surfboard and needed a place to park it on the weekends. It was perfect. 

Randi: I remember he wasn’t like most high school boys. We went to Newport Harbor, so there were a bunch of surf dudes, and he wasn’t like that at all. You could just tell he was kind and nice. He still had his eye on girls, but I found him to be a gentle person. 

When did you realize you liked each other? 

Bill: Over time we got to talking. We met during lunch breaks and we were able to adjust our schedules so we had other classes together like ceramics and biology and cooking class. 

Randi: When I met Bill in 1975 I was still 14. I was kind of a younger sophomore, so I didn't drive. And he’d just gotten his license.

He knew I didn't like taking the bus to school and he would drive all the way from the Back Bay, which was probably a good 15 minutes away, to come down to my house and drive me to school pretty much every day.

He managed to make a deal and leave his surfboard at my house so when he came to surf he could pick it up. That cemented his kindness and his eagerness to spend time with me. And that really made us into best friends. I think the rides to and from school really helped us get to know each other.

Randi and Bill got married in 1979.

How did you get together? 

Randi: I was on vacation in Hawaii with my parents. 

Bill: And I called her on the phone. Her parents didn’t really like that, a boy calling their 15 year old daughter. But we were just friends at that point, maybe going a little further. 

Randi: We knew we liked each other. Nobody really wanted to say it. But when he called me, I think at the end of the conversation he said “We really should get together when you get home, because I really miss you.” And that did it. 

What was your first date? 

Randi: Our first date was at a drive-in movie theater. But we had our first kiss before that. I was baby sitting, and he was supposed to be watching his little brother, who’s 10 years younger. So he came where I was babysitting with his little brother, and when the kids fell asleep we had our first kiss. 

Bill: After that we went to two proms together. And then to college. And the rest is history. 

Randi: We decided to go to the same college together. And on my 18th birthday he proposed. That was pretty young, we were still in school. Three months later, in February of 1979 we got married in front of 175 people. My parents were thrilled. His parents were thrilled. They knew what we had. 

What’s the secret to 50 years together?

Bill: A lot of communication. On busy days we do a lot of pillow talk. And every once in a while pillow talk has a pillow gift, which is something we do every now and then. Communication is key in a relationship. 

Randi: We get asked this a lot because we’re one of the rare couples who got married early and are still married and are also outwardly blissfully happy. One thing I know is his happiness is so important to me, and I know that my happiness is important to him. So that’s kind of how we live our lives. If one of us comes home and maybe we’re feeling down, the other person is the one that’s there to be cheerful or say “Well, how do we fix that?” 

And plus, we were babies. We planned what we wanted for our lives very young. We have reached a level of success in life and business and finances and family, all of that, that we never even imagined. But it's because we care so much for each other and for each other's happiness. 

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Interviewed and transcribed by Nicolas Vega. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.