Pat and Tony Busalacchi’s love story didn’t begin as you might imagine. In fact, Tony says he had to propose three times before she said “yes.”
“I hadn’t been swept off my feet,” said Pat. “Maybe it was too many romantic movies, maybe I thought there should be bells ringing.”
When Tony first brought up the idea of marriage, Pat says he presented it very logically. They met for tea in downtown Dubuque, Iowa and Tony laid out all the reasons why he thought they would have a good marriage.
“He was so eager,” said Pat. “He was so interested in me right from the start, I was not used to that.”
They were attending college at the time. Tony at Loras College and Pat at Clarke University. She says Tony scared her with his eagerness and logic. But she eventually agreed and ended up on a train to Milwaukee to meet Tony’s parents.
“I started to think of him in more of a romantic way instead of just purely logical,” she said. “Then the rest has been 50 some years of wild passion.”
That passion perfectly captured in photos as they share stories from their 57 years together. They lovingly talk about their three daughters and how proud they are of the successful people their girls have become.
As I listen, it becomes clear just how much Tony loves his wife. If his determination early on wasn’t proof enough, he then shared a more difficult memory, with a touch of comedy only he could pull off.
“Years later after we had our children, Pat had a mastectomy,” said Tony. “There was discussion about reconstructive surgery and I said ‘I could care less. I don’t think you should go through that extra pain. I love you with or without the boob.'”
They both realized early on how much they had in common, something they say led to a successful marriage.
But they also feel like they evolved together through life, taking on new challenges and starting projects together as a team. They’ve found time to celebrate each other as well.
When I asked about their 50th wedding anniversary, they both immediately exclaimed.
Pat and Tony were married on December 19, 1959. At the time, they didn’t have a lot of money so they decided to enjoy a quick honeymoon in Chicago. A friend managed to get them a discounted rate at the Palmer House hotel. They paid $16.50 a night.
Fifty years later, their daughter mentioned that the Palmer House had a special promotion available. If you spent your honeymoon there and were celebrating your 50th wedding anniversary, they would offer you a stay at the hotel at the price you paid then.
The catch: you had to still have your original receipt. Well it turns out, Pat kept it.
“I’m terribly sentimental,” she said.
They booked a weekend stay and had no idea what to expect. The hotel sent a car to pick them up from the train station and when they arrived at the hotel, staff members were waiting to applaud their entry.
They were given the presidential suite and had champagne and chocolate-covered strawberries waiting for them.
The next night, they enjoyed a formal dinner with their family in the private dining room with a custom menu to celebrate the milestone.
They finished off the weekend with a “marvelous brunch” as Tony called it and a trip to the opera.
“The next day, we resumed our normal lives,” said Pat.
Oh, and remember when I mentioned how much Tony loves his wife? For her 80th birthday last year, Tony wanted to get her something special.
For months, he worked behind her back to buy her a bench near Lake Michigan in Milwaukee. He originally wanted the bench to be in Lake Park but was told the park already had too many benches.
Then he learned that the Historic Water Tower on Milwaukee’s east side was planning to put in four benches. So he asked if he could purchase one for his wife.
He ended up having to get the idea approved by the Milwaukee Common Council. Then it came time to choose a quote. While many benches in the area have long, flowery quotes by famous authors, Tony chose a more simple message.
“It’s not easy being green.”
If you’ve ever sat on that bench overlooking Lake Michigan and wondered what the story was behind such a unique quote, know that it’s in honor of a woman who loves Kermit the Frog, put there by a husband who truly loves her.