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‘Sound of Us’ tells stories Northeast Ohioans want to tell — in their own voices.

Their marriage began at a disco concert. My hope of finding love is stayin' alive

Graphic of a couple standing in the street with their backs turned outside of an old theater.
Lauren Green
Ideastream Public Media
Joseph and Marsha Thomas, of South Euclid, met in the lobby of the Palace Theater in 1978, which sparked the beginning of their 37-year marriage.

This story was created as part of Ideastream Public Media's “Sound of Us” audio storytelling workshop. We are featuring stories about marriage. With the proportion of never-married people 40 and older at an all-time high, our community storytellers explore why they got married or not — and, if they are married, how they're making their unions work. Tell your own story!

I'm a sucker for romance. I love finding out how couples first meet. In the movies, a "meet-cute" is a charming, amusing way two people who fall in love meet. I was there that Sunday night in October 1978 when Joseph saw Marsha from across the crowded lobby of the Palace Theater. It was at a concert by Taste of Honey, famous for their song "Boogie Oogie Oogie."

"Her and three other girls was on the other side of the room. So the guy I was with, I said, 'Well why we over here? We need to go over there!'" Joseph recalled.

"We went to a bar afterwards. It was a gay bar. It was nice," Marsha remembered. "And I gave him my number and he put it on a napkin. I said, 'Well, he won’t be calling me.' Because when you’re dancing and you have a napkin, what do you do? You wipe your forehead and the number’s going to be gone. So I really didn’t expect him to call me. But he called me."

It wasn’t easy for this romance. After they met, Marsha went away to college. But when Marsha came back home to Cleveland, their relationship began.

Opposites attract

Joseph loved to get in his car and drive. At one point, he owned a sports car named Tony. He’d drive Marsha from one end of the city to the other. He’d take her on dates to buy chocolate or to buy shoes, so it was no surprise that he took Marsha to one of the city’s most romantic restaurants when he popped the question.

"We went to dinner that night: Erieview, at the old Top of the Town, and I just asked her," Joseph said.

"I was clueless though," Marsha added. "I didn’t know he was asking to marry me. I had no idea. That was a nice restaurant. I still have my matchbook. I don’t even smoke, but I still have it."

When Joseph and Marsha first married in 1986, Joe got a job that required driving across the country, something that he loved to do. But it took him out of the home at a time when they had young kids. However, they survived those early days. It was important for them to stay together.

"Joe called often. He always brought gifts home. Every time he came home, it was like Christmas, and he always sent cards. And Joseph’s not a card person, but I am, so I knew that he was thinking about me, ‘cause he doesn’t do that," Marsha said.

Their differences make their 37-year marriage work. Joseph, who now works from their home in South Euclid, rides his motorcycle. Marsha, who is semi-retired, does arts and crafts and gardening.

"We’re total opposites, period," Joseph said.

"Total opposites," Marsha agreed. "I like to have fun. I’m gonna go sled riding. I’m gonna throw a snowball. And he ain’t never been sled riding."

"We definitely on different extremes," Joseph added.

"But our values are the same. We both believe in family and how important it is, especially for children," Marsha said.

Role models

Marsha and Joseph have three children: Lydia, the oldest; Cameron, the only son; and the youngest, Vivian.

"They were one of the role models that I had growing up, of a married couple," Lydia said. "I always knew I wanted to be a mom. I wanted a family such as my own. Two parents, some kids, suburban America. So I just kind of, I guess, copied the blueprint and went with it."

Cameron feels the same.

"One of the biggest reasons I did decide to get married was the example that my parents gave me. It seems the traditional thing to do, but also the right thing to do, and also a positive thing for you and your family," he said.

Marsha and Joseph have a marriage that I admire. I love how they met and how they fell in love with one another. Theirs is a marriage that has stood the test of time.

I hope to get married one day. I hope to find love across a crowded theater lobby and have it blossom into a long-term, beautiful relationship. Marsha and Joseph give me hope that it’s not too late.

Charlotte Morgan holds a master's degree in English (Creative Writing) from Cleveland State University, where she has taught classes in composition and fiction writing. A longtime journalist, she also teaches community journalism at Cuyahoga Community College.

Thanks to Literary Cleveland for its partnership on this series.