I am saddened by the recent passing of a woman who, although I only met once, made a lasting impression on me.
I interviewed Evelyn "Jean" Doziski (nee Bartoli) shortly before Thanksgiving at her Warren home for a story about her Giving Thanks submission to the Tribune Chronicle.
Her handwritten statement of what made her most thankful: "My husband, Bill. After 62 years, I'd still want to be marooned on a desert island with him. Adoring wife, Jean."
Evelyn and Bill Doziski of Warren are seen in November. Evelyn died Sunday. She was 80.
Tribune Chronicle file
The subsequent article, titled "Inseparable," ran Thanksgiving Day. The story, although I put my heart into it, doesn't do them justice.
If you spent five minutes with Jean and Bill, you wouldn't just see how much they loved each other - you would feel it. And the word "inseparable" says a lot - but it doesn't tell the complete tale.
Jean met her husband, William "Bill" Doziski, when she was a young girl. You hear stories about true love, but rarely do you have the opportunity to see it.
Jean said she was only 5 or 6 years old when she met Bill in a little town called Donora, Pa.
"I lived at the top of the hill and he lived at the bottom of the hill," she said with a smile.
The entire interview she was smiling, occasionally reaching over to pat Bill's hand. I remember how eager she was to show me a picture from when he was a teenager.
"Isn't he handsome?" she said as she held the photo out. "I just thought he was the most gorgeous guy in the whole world. He was the most handsome man in Donora. All the girls were in love with him," she said.
Who could blame them? He really was a looker. But then again, so was she - as Bill was quick to point out, she was in the Miss America contest in high school. She also won the title of Miss Mon Valley in 1950 (Mon is short for Monongahela).
Jean was very modest about her beauty, although she did admit she still loved wearing flowers in her hair.
She was also a talented singer and actress, having worked at the Trumbull New Theater in Niles for many years. But she didn't want to talk about herself. She wanted to talk about Bill and how much she loved him.
"I would walk by his house praying that I'd see him," she said. She would frequently find flowers outside the gates of the alley where all of the kids played, and she knew they were from him.
Bill was a patrol boy in the third grade when he paid a visit to Jean's class and brought her an apple.
"That was it. I chased him around for the next couple of years until I caught him!" she said.
Once she caught him, he proposed to her.
"He said, 'You're either going to be out there on the stage or you're going to marry me,'" she recalled.
One of the things that really stuck with me was when Jean and Bill told me about the letters they wrote to each other the eve before their wedding. They professed their love for one another, said they wanted to grow old together and made a promise to each other: "We had to cherish each other every day (and) we come before anybody in our lives," she said.
You have to really think about the weight of that promise, "before anybody else." Before friends, before family - but that isn't to say Jean and Bill didn't love their family. They just loved each other so much that they placed each other first. Not many people can do that. Not many people would do that.
They were forced apart shortly after their marriage when Bill was drafted into the Army in 1952, serving two years during the Korean War.
Jean said, "I cried every single day. I actually yearned for him. To this day, if he goes out on a golf outing, I'll cry."
She used to write Bill four or five letters every day until he returned home to her, his "Evalina."
And in their 62 years of devotion to one another, they never had a big fight.
"We never fight or go to bed mad. I am always the first one to say I'm sorry!" she said during the interview, and they shared a laugh or two as Bill protested, just a little.
"I'm always kissing him. I just need to touch him to know he's there," she said, patting his cheek.
Jean said the reason their marriage was still strong after 62 years was because they talked. "Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, we never run out of things to talk about," she said.
Bill called Jean his sweetheart and said even on a desert island, they'd find things to do, such as, "Pick coconuts," he laughed.
"But I can't climb trees," Jean said, looking up at him.
"You can stand on my shoulders," he replied.
Jean said their friends always call them peanut butter and jelly, and its easy to see why.
"I'd never leave him for anything - anything! Or anybody. I've never seen a marriage like ours. My granddaughter said that we set the bar too high," Jean said.
She's probably right.
True love is something that doesn't fade over the years. True love is something that can't be broken. And I know from the brief time I spent with Jean that her love for her husband, Bill - her best friend - is everlasting, and even with her passing, will be with him forever.
Evelyn "Jean" Doziski passed away unexpectedly on Sunday at the age of 80. She leaves her husband and best friend, Bill; two daughters; three grandchildren; two great-granddaughters; two sisters; and many nieces and nephews.
Her funeral service is 11 a.m. today at the Peter Rossi and Son Memorial Chapel in Warren, where calling hours will be held from 10:30 to 11 a.m. Burial will be in All Souls Cemetery, Bazetta.
Her family wrote in her obituary: "She was a remarkable woman and touched so many lives with her kindness, compassion, humor and love. She was beautiful inside and out, and although our lives will be changed forever, we can reflect on all the wonderful memories and how much she loved us and we loved her."
Her full obituary can be viewed at www.tribtoday.com.
Bonnie Hazen is the education reporter for the Tribune Chronicle. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.