How we met: ‘My sister suggested I try going on the radio to find a date’

·4 min read

In 1986, Toni was working as a clinical laboratory director in St Louis, Missouri. “I was single at the time and keen to meet someone,” she says. One Friday night, she and a friend were listening to the area’s flagship radio station KMOX, which hosted a show called Dateline. “The idea was that single people called in, shared a bit about themselves, and listeners could contact the radio station for their details afterwards,” says Toni. She made a bet with her friend that she would call one of the men from the show. “At the time, it wasn’t the thing to do,” she laughs. “Internet dating didn’t exist back then and a lot of strange people would call into that show. But we thought it would be a funny story to tell if I gave it a go.”

She had vetoed lots of callers before Ron came on the show at the end of the night. He had recently moved from North Carolina to a nearby town to work for a medical technology company, and was keen to meet new people. “My sister suggested I try going on the radio to find a date,” he says. “Now I’m used to public speaking, but at the time I was very scared. [The station] gave you guidelines on how to introduce yourself and I was on air for about a minute.”

Toni says he was the only person who sparked her interest. “He said he wanted someone family-oriented, sporty and fun-loving, which described me,” she says. “Before he came on, I thought: ‘Whoever this is, I guess I need to call them, because I’d said I would.’ Luckily he sounded nice.”

Although she wasn’t expecting it to go anywhere, the pair immediately hit it off when she called. “I had about five calls after the show but Toni stood out,” says Ron. “We agreed to meet at a restaurant in St Louis.” Over the phone, he described himself as “average-looking”, so Toni was surprised to discover he was “very handsome”. During their dinner date, they found out they had lots in common. “We are both from large, Catholic families, worked in similar fields and shared a lot of the same values,” says Ron.

For their next date, Toni travelled to his town, just outside St Louis. “There were no cellphones, so I looked at the back of the phonebook for a map of the city area. I couldn’t find his town at first and it took me ages to figure it out.” She eventually made it and they went on a bike ride together. “I fell off and cracked my fingers,” she says. “Then Ron took me to his place and cooked dinner.”

From then on, they became a couple. “At first, I was worried it wouldn’t work because he was a few years younger than me,” says Toni. “I told a girl at work about him and she said I could introduce him to her instead if I wanted. That was when I knew I wanted to keep him for myself.” Both passionate about the outdoors, they spent their dates walking, talking and playing tennis.

Ron proposed to Toni at a Billy Joel concert in 1987, and they married and moved in together the following year in St Louis. Having a family was equally important to both of them, and their children joined the family in 1991 and 1994.

“We still have lots of shared interests and love going to national parks together,” says Toni. “He’s slow to anger and pretty calm, which was really important to me, as it means we never get into big fights. He’s also a very hard worker, which our family really appreciates.”

Ron loves his wife’s commitment to their family. “We’ve both been dedicated to raising our children,” he says. “Toni is a great mother, and we’re constantly supporting each other in everything we do. I really value the simple things that some people forget over time, like her honesty and loyalty.”

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