Crossroads Patient's Love Story: Robert Shuman & Chelsie Jackson
(The patient’s care team identified this love story since visits with him are long because most of the time, he talks about his deceased wife, also cared for by Crossroads, and they are touched by how much he loved her.)
Defying the Odds
Some of the greatest love stories are those that defy the odds.
Robert Shuman and Chelsie Jackson were both born August 20, 1933 – 13 hours and 70 miles apart. In a nudge toward fate, the universe put them into the world on the same day. The chances of them being born on the same day and meeting and falling in love are next to impossible. But Robert and Chelsie spent their lives making the impossible possible.
When Chelsie’s father was transferred to Cambridge, Ohio, in 1949 – Robert’s hometown – it would seem that the stars were finally aligned. But they kept missing each other. Despite being born on the same day, Robert and Chelsie graduated a year apart due to some health issues for Chelsie. She was born hard of hearing, facing some vision issues, and was forced to start school a year late, thus graduating a year behind Robert. They’d both been to the roller-skating rink in New Philadelphia, but never at the same time. Chelsie, living across the street from Robert’s uncle, even began babysitting Robert’s cousins. And still, they didn’t meet until fate – and some friends – stepped in.
Robert’s father, uncle, and grandfather each passed away within three months of his high school graduation, leaving his mother with three boys to raise. Robert, being the oldest at 17, took on a job at the local factory to help provide for his family. While he was able to sign over his check each week to keep his family afloat, it didn’t leave much time for anything but work. But it turned out he was finally in the right place at the right time: Chelsie was working in the same factory.
Robert had been briefly acquainted with Chelsie when his foreman had them team up on some shipping duties, but it wasn’t until his fellow co-workers set up a blind date between the two that Robert had a chance to approach her.
“To this day, I don’t believe in blind dates. I believe you should talk to a girl face to face if you are interested in a date, so that’s what I did,” said Robert. “The very next day at work, I told her I owed her an apology. That I had nothing to do with the set-up, and that that’s not the way I do things.”
After chatting for a few minutes, Robert got up the courage to ask her properly on a date. The answer was a tentative “yes,” but Chelsie had some questions. She would not go out with a boy who drinks or smokes. He passed the test, and their first date was a go.
“Chelsie was 5’2” with eyes of blue, and she was smiling all the time. She was just ‘it’ - no other way to describe her,” said Robert. “And when she had to ask me questions before she said yes to our first date, I knew. I thought to myself, ‘you share the same values. You think the same way. Don’t let her get away.’”
And he didn’t. Robert and Chelsie dated for two years before marrying in a small ceremony surrounded by immediate family. The date was August 20, their joint birthday and the source of a long-running joke that Robert was a “cheapskate” for combining the two occasions.
“We didn’t want a big wedding – we figured, why should we blow a lot of money on a big party when a big party doesn’t always mean a happy marriage? But our family insisted on a reception, and then it was off to our honeymoon in Niagara Falls.”
Robert and Chelsie’s love story was just beginning and continuing to defy the odds. In a time when jobs and money were scarce, they had a new home to live in as newlyweds. Due to some family health history, Chelsie was told she might not be able to have children. They had eight.
“We loved to be together, and we loved to travel. No cruises or planes – you couldn’t even get Chelsie on a fast elevator. But thanks to God for a long life together, we saw a lot of country from the Atlantic Ocean to the Mississippi, and especially Florida,” said Robert.
They often vacationed with a few of their children, visiting some friends and family. Included in those vacations was a two-week trip to Washington state to see lifelong friends that were married the day after Robert and Chelsie.
According to Robert, Chelsie was healthy until a few months before her passing in January 2022 of cancer. She was also cared for by Crossroads.
“I got to keep her for 69 years, and I would do it all over again,” said Robert. “And I know she would, too.”
In one of their final conversations, Chelsie quoted the song “Because of You” to Robert. The tune, originally recorded in 1951, was “their song” and one that Chelsie would often sing to her beloved. Shortly after, Chelsie passed away peacefully.
“Chelsie always liked to joke. Sometimes she got them right, sometimes not,” laughed Robert. In honor of her sense of humor, there were even a few jokes told at her funeral.
Thirteen months have passed, and Robert now lives close to his daughter, Stephanie. But the home that Robert and Chelsie shared is still the same, everything still there as if Chelsie would come home tomorrow.
A month ago, Robert visited the home exactly one year after Chelsie’s passing. When he walked over to the piano, there was a book on the music stand, still open to the last song that Chelsie had played. The song? “Because of You.”
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