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So close and yet so far

Some people's paths just seem destined to continue crossing. Is it fate, or just coincidence?

In 1930, Ann Levin was a sophomore at the University of Chicago. She lived on the third floor of the girls dormitory _ Beecher Hall. She wanted to be a newspaper woman.

In 1930, Harriet "Dee" Hathaway was a sophomore at the University of Chicago. She lived on the second floor of the girls dormitory _ Beecher Hall. She wanted to be a newspaper woman.

Ann, born in Russia and raised in Ohio, enjoyed politics and writing for the University of Chicago's newspaper, the Maroon.

Dee, born and raised in Massachusetts, enjoyed high teas and writing for the University of Chicago's newspaper, the Maroon.

Like many college students who never quite connect, Ann and Dee shared similar lifestyles in the same time and place _ but little else. They were mere acquaintances who sometimes passed one another in the hallways.

Ann gave up her dreams of becoming a newspaper woman and pursued social work. Eventually, she married Joseph Caruso. They settled in California's San Fernando Valley, where they raised two sons.

Dee stayed with her dreams of becoming a newspaper woman and found a copy editing job at the Chicago Sunday Tribune. Eventually, she married Ross Fearon. They settled in Castleton, Vt., where they raised two sons.

More time passed. In 1989, Dee's husband died. She was alone.

In 1977, Ann was also alone, but by choice. She divorced her husband and began traveling, something she had always wanted to do.

"I decided that it doesn't matter what age you are," Ann said. "If you aren't happy, then you better change it. I wasn't happy with my husband, so I changed my situation."

More time passed. As the women approached 90, they found it more and more difficult to maintain their homes.

Dee moved to Hilltop Estates Retirement Residence in Redding, Calif., to be near her son, Bob. Ann moved to Hilltop Estates Retirement Residence in Redding to be near her son, Kent.

Three years ago, the women's lives and histories finally crossed paths in the retirement home's dining room.

"One day, Dee was sitting across from me as we ate lunch," said Ann, now 91. "She mentioned Chicago and it caught my attention. So I told her I'd lived in Chicago."

Dee, now 90, took up the story. "I told her I'd gone to the University of Chicago in 1930."

Ann piped in. "So I told her I'd also gone to the University of Chicago in 1930."

During the next hours, in a progressively more detailed verbal volley, Ann's exclamations of "So did I" were met by Dee's identical responses.

Finally, the proverbial moment of truth arrived. Dee and Ann realized they'd attended exactly the same university and lived in exactly the same dorm at exactly the same time _ nearly 70 years ago.

They offered more specifics: Beecher Hall, the Maroon, even a cad named Milt Mayer _ a young man so notoriously cheap that he dated different girls and gave them the same recycled bracelet over and over again.

"That was quite a moment," recalled Ann with a laugh. "It didn't take long for it to become an awfully monotonous conversation."

Dee grinned and wrinkled her nose.

"Maybe it's fate that we are here. Who knows?"

Now, both women live on the same floor of the same retirement residence. They leafed through Dee's yearbook and compared recollections.

Dee squinted and pointed at their class photo _ a group of women who were all in their 20s.

There was Ann, sitting in the first row. She wore a dark, rounded collar. And there was Dee, sitting directly behind her. She wore a white, V-neck collar.

"We were pretty cute. Don't you think, Ann?"

Ann shrugged. "Oh, I suppose."

They talked about their journalism classes and swapped stories about what they'd written.

"I never would work for a Randolph Hearst paper," Ann said, frowning.

"Me neither," Dee said, shaking her head. "Yellow journalism you know."

They looked at each other.

"I have a son who's a doctor," Dee said.

"So do I," Ann said, referring to her other son, who lives in Syracuse, N.Y.

"I miss my car and all my activities," Ann said.

"I used to belong to the League of Women Voters and AAUW."

Dee leaned forward and said, "That's the Association of University Women. I was in that, too _ and the League of Women Voters."

Ann sighed. "I wish I could still travel," she said.

"Not me. I'm willing to stay put now," Dee said.

"You know, we're not exactly proud of being so old," Ann said.

"Speak for yourself," Dee said. "I don't mind it."

Ann smiled.

"I think we're really of two, completely different worlds."

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