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Barry Schrader


I have been writing a column for the Chronicle most of the time since December 2007, with two breaks, one in 2016 and the other in 2017 when my wife Kay suffered a stroke. They are all archived here.


If you've missed any please follow the links on the dates to catch up.

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A surprise diamond that went viral

By Barry Schrader Senior Columnist....................................Feb 22, 2019

Don Johnson surprised his wife on their 67th wedding anniversary with a new diamond ring set to replace the wedding ring that was lost recently.

Family members were present for the combination Christmas-Anniversary occasion and filmed the surprise as Pat Johnson opened the little ring box, choked up, then kissed Don. It was a touching moment captured on video, then uploaded onto YouTube and Facebook by their daughter Diane Hawkins. Little did they realize it would go viral around the world with more than two million views.

Then the calls started coming in, Diane said, from all the major TV networks, the Today Show, Nightline, Fox News, even German, Japanese, and Hong Kong stations.

Don and Pat reside at Oak Crest—DeKalb Area Retirement Center in the nursing section. Don has Parkinson’s disease and is only able to whisper. He told his daughters to take him to Becky Beck’s Jewelry Store when Pat wasn’t with them and there he picked out the diamond set.

It all began in 1951 when she and her date saw Don drive up in his snazzy 1950 Buick. They took a ride with him, then two weeks later he called her for a date. The rest is history. They met in March and were married at the end of December. The reason they were married so soon, they told me, was because his National Guard unit was being activated during the Korean War, and he was soon to ship out to an Army camp in California. Well, Pat wasn’t about to let him go without her, so they drove

Pat Johnson rests her ring hand on Don’s at the Oak Crest health center. (Schrader photo for ShawMedia)

Closeup shows Pat’s new ring set and Don’s wedding band.

to the camp where he remained for a year on active duty, not having to go overseas.

They drove back to DeKalb and he returned to farming. Pat was a town girl, the daughter of a Sycamore dentist Dr. Ernest Miller, and had never spent time on a farm. She said she learned fast how to collect eggs from the henhouse, but wary of the clucking hens, she put on a thick coat, hat and gloves, gingerly reaching into each nest. But she never got pecked.

Next was a surprise for Don: Pat hardly knew how to boil water, much less cook. But she learned and Don persevered. Proof that her cooking got better is the fact they are both still alive and together after all these years. After raising seven children, three girls and four boys, Pat decided to work outside the home. She worked as a file clerk at a bank, then at Genoa Business Forms and at the Hintsche Grain Elevator.

After many years farming, Don also worked for the Illinois Department of Transportation, first part-time as a snow plow driver, then full-time for 17 years until retiring in 2002. They moved to Oak Crest two years ago. Now due to declining health, both reside in the health center.

Asked what they enjoyed as a pastime, Pat said going to dances during the “Big Band era” at places like the Blue Moon and Casa Mia. They also rented a cabin on Lake Ada near Brainard, Minnesota each summer for years, their kids often joining them. Don loved to fish, while Pat was content to stay on shore with a good book. Then there were a few cruises, the longest took them to Australia for their 50th wedding anniversary.

One couldn’t ask for a better life, working hard yet taking time for some relaxing activities. And then there are those seven kids, 14 grandchildren, and 19 great-grandkids to enjoy.

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Barry Schrader
PO Box 851
DeKalb, Ill 60115