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Love, marriage & pizza delivery

Sat, Jun 15, 2013

Twenty Something

It should come as no surprise that the story of how the Domino’s Pizza founder met his wife involves pizza. But indulge me in the details.

It was a Monday night in early February, 1962, and the phones weren’t ringing at Tom Monaghan’s pizza store in Mount Pleasant, Mich., so the restless 24-year-old decided to change things up by taking a delivery himself, leaving a trainee to manage the store. The order had come from Sweeney Hall, an all-girls dorm at nearby Central Michigan University where men weren’t allowed, so Tom stopped at the switchboard operator.

The curly-haired brunette wore a white sweater and a red skirt – “cute as a bug’s ear,” he would later say. Their conversation was brief, but Tom drove away on Cloud Nine. Normally he was shy around girls – he hadn’t been on a date in months – but Tom was convinced he shouldn’t let this one pass him by.

Back at the store, he forced himself to dial the Sweeney switchboard. “I’m the guy who just delivered a pizza,” he said. “Would you go to a movie with me?”

“Who are you?” the young woman shot back.

Not the response he was hoping for.

And then, relief: “Oh, I just came on duty.”

The operator said she’d replaced Bonnie Hula and rang Bonnie’s room. Tom worked up his courage a second time. “I’m the guy who just delivered a pizza. Would you go to a movie with me?”

“Who are you?” the young woman stammered. “Oh, another girl took my place today, Margie Zybach.” Tom was transferred once more and finally his invitation was met with a yes. Margie was the one.

A senior majoring in library science, Tom liked the woman who emerged on their first date: “very pretty, wholesome, good, old-fashioned,” he told James Leonard, author of the book Living the Faith: A Life of Tom Monaghan.

Tom brought a $400 half-carat diamond ring to their third date – the most expensive he could charge with no money down – and a week later, he convinced Margie to accept. Tom and Margie have now been married 50 years.

I marvel over the two departures from the norm – Tom’s decision to deliver a pizza and Bonnie’s absence at the switchboard – that led the 20-something Catholic to his wife. Day after day, the Holy Spirit works in amazing ways, and one of my favorite examples is when we see it connect a man and a woman and carry them to the altar, where they whisper life-long promises before God.

Wedding season is now upon us, and you’re likely to soon witness these sacred vows firsthand.

The problem, as the kids-these-days gripe goes, is that not enough couples view marriage the way young Tom and Margie did. Increasingly, it’s treated as a hope-for-the-best pact rather than a death-do-us-part pledge, as Brad Pitt infamously expressed in a Vanity Fair interview while he was married to Jennifer Aniston. “Jen and I always made a pact we’ll see where this is going,” he said. “I’m not sure it really is our nature to be with someone for the rest of our lives.”

But rather than lament the state of marriage, I’m taking the long view and focusing on the positive, the way the Holy Spirit still operates and sacramental grace still seals a Catholic wedding, where the same words uttered by Tom and Margie half a century ago will be spoken this month at prairie churches and urban cathedrals.

Something beyond the human realm happens at the altar, and the church describes it well in its nuptial blessing: husband and wife enter into “so holy a mystery.” From honeymoon to 50th anniversary, the butterflies may flee, but the holiness and the mystery only deepen.

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