Carolyn Meyer and Ron Clesi ran in the same circle but they missed each other for two years before they finally met on a blind date.
"I didn't really like him," she says.
The first time I saw my future spouse:
He says: “I really didn’t like her. It was just a girl to go out with, you know?”
She says: “I’ll never end up with him, is what I thought.”
On our wedding day:
He says: “I drank too much sacramental wine before the wedding.”
She says: “I think everything went off without a hitch. I guess I was in a daze. I think the biggest thing that I liked was that I got to dance that first dance with my father. I’m tearing up just thinking about it.”
My advice for a long happy marriage:
He says: “Communicate. And don’t go to sleep mad.”
She says: “Always keep an open line of communication. And be friends.”
"I didn't like her either," Ron replies.
Carolyn, then 16, went to a Catholic school for girls in New Orleans. She had heard of Ron, who went to a Catholic school for boys, for at least a couple of years.
Her friend wanted to go on a date with one of Ron's friends, but her parents would only allow her to go on group or double-dates, so she asked Carolyn for help. If Carolyn would go out with Ron, her friend could go out with his friend.
"My girlfriend said, 'Oh, you know Ron.' I said, 'No, I don't,'" she says.
She had seen him at the school play his sister had a part in, her friend insisted. Ron was in the front taking pictures.
"I was watching the play," Carolyn says.
There was one night when Ron was supposed to have met up with his friends, who had met up with Carolyn's friends, but he didn't make it.
She and Ron had apparently been at a dance together, too, one of the regular weekly events hosted by various schools in the area that all the young people went to in groups.
"Everyone, all of our friends, said he was there," she says. "But I don't remember seeing him."
Ron doesn't remember seeing her either.
She had even dated a couple of his friends, both of whom had talked about him off and on.
"It wasn't anything serious," she says. "It was just somebody to go out with. I had just broken up with his second best friend and we were kind of all just dating each other, in our group. That's when my girlfriend said, 'I need you to come on a double-date with me.'"
Carolyn was ambivalent but agreed to go to a movie with Ron on Oct. 13, 1967 -- Friday the 13th.
"On that first date, he didn't pay attention to me," says Carolyn. "He ate his popcorn and watched the movie. He talked to his friend but he didn't pay any attention to me," she says. "I was put out because, well, 'If he doesn't like me, I don't like him.'"
She wasn't dating anyone else, though, so she gave in to her friend's repeated requests for a double-date.
Ron, too, was getting pressure from his friend, who wanted to date her friend.
"He could only see her if I went out with Carolyn," says Ron.
They tolerated each other for a couple of months before something mysterious happened.
"We started talking and once we started comparing things that we liked and didn't like, that's when things changed," she says. "Once we communicated with each other and we found out our likes and dislikes, that's when we started realizing that we were meant for each other. I guess we were a couple from then on, exclusive, really because neither of us looked at anyone else after that."
They became inseparable then, willingly going on double-dates with their friends as well as just spending time one-on-one. They saw movies, went bowling, had picnics, played volleyball and badminton, swam at Pontchartrain Beach, and on Sunday afternoons, they went for drives.
"He didn't really have any money but back then the gas was really cheap. He had enough to go for a ride in the car so we took rides and we talked," she says. "That's pretty much all we did."
In 1969, Carolyn graduated from high school and Ron joined the Navy.
"We went out for supper and we lived in New Orleans and he took me to Lake Pontchartrain and he asked me to marry him there and he gave me a ring and he wanted to know if I would marry him," she says. "He had planned it with his grandfather. His grandfather was the accountant at the jewelry store he bought the ring from and they picked out the ring together. He had the ring and I didn't know anything about it."
They exchanged their vows on Dec. 12, 1970, at St. Christopher Catholic Church in New Orleans.
Ron is retired from Bitco Insurance Company. Carolyn retired as a preschool teacher from Christ the King Catholic School.
They moved to Little Rock in 1990 when his job was transferred.
Ron and Carolyn have three children -- Melissa Ziegenhorn of Little Rock, Ronald Clesi of Maumelle and Ryan Clesi of North Little Rock. They also have five grandchildren.
The couple that brought Ron and Carolyn together for double-dates broke up, but they had already set romance in motion for their friends.
Carolyn and Ron still see movies together, despite their near-disastrous first date during which he spent all his time eating popcorn and focusing on the screen.
"To this day, we go to movies and that's all he does is sit down and watch the movie and eat his popcorn," she says. "I guess I just had to know this from the very beginning, so that's OK."
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Carolyn and Ron Clesi didn’t really like each other when they first met. They celebrated their 47th anniversary in December, though, and they’re still going strong.
High Profile on 07/01/2018
Print Headline: They didn't like each other, and then they talked