Friday, June 3, 2016

How I Met My Husband

June 3, 1989, Halifax, Nova Scotia
Today Dan and I would have celebrated our 27th wedding anniversary.  It's nostalgic to look back at the 43 years since I met Dan.  Folks often ask how we met.  Well, we met on an airplane.  I first heard about Dan Livingstone when I was working on my M.A.T. at Duke University in the summer of 1963.  My professor, Dr. Bailey, told the class about one of his colleagues, Dan Livingstone, who had been attacked by a crocodile a few years earlier (1960 to be exact) and how he and his graduate student escaped.  I never saw/met Dr.Livingstone that summer nor in any of my four summers at Duke.

Later in the early 70s when I was working on my Ph.D. at N.C. State University here in Raleigh I was taking an ecology course and some of Dan's publications were assigned reading.  I thought, oh that's the fellow at Duke who escaped from the crocodile.

In the summer of 1973, I was attending the International Biological Congress in Boulder, Colorado, and was flying out of RDU heading to OHare in Chicago and later on to Boulder.  These were the days before assigned seats, and the plane wasn't very full.  I was sitting in a middle seat, with someone next to me in the window seat, when this gentleman sat down beside me in the aisle seat.  After we were airborne, I took out my program for the Boulder meeting to peruse, and this gentleman in the aisle seat looked over and said "Oh, you're going to the same meeting I am.  "I'm Dan Livingstone from Duke University."  My first comment to him was "Oh, you are the fellow who escaped from the crocodile!".  So it was ten years after I had first heard of this guy that I finally met him.

I had just finished my Ph.D. at N.C. State and had worked on a systematic study of grasses for my dissertation.  Dan told me about his work studying pollen in the sediments he had taken from African lakes and how there were grass cuticles (leaves) in the mud, and he wondered if they could be useful in reconstructing the past vegetation and thus the past climate of Africa.  It seemed like an intriguing possibility.

Later that fall Dan invited me over to Duke to take a look at the grass leaves in his lake sediments, and sure enough when you looked at these fossil leaves with a scanning electron microscope, you could see microscopic features on the leaves that made them identifiable.  By the next summer he and I had submitted a grant proposal to the National Science Foundation to get money to support me in the summers to do research in the lab there.  Sixteen years later after a long friendship and many years working together in the lab, we were married.  And the rest is history, and I might add what a wonderful history it was. 

Dan passed away in March of this year, and his death has left a huge hole in my heart, but I have wonderful memories that will comfort me  for the rest of my life.
June 3, 1989 in Halifax, Nova Scotia on our wedding day.

 Happy Anniversary my dearest Dan, I wish you were here.


  1. What a wonderful and interesting life you and he lived together! I love the story about the grasses in the microscope. You were both very blessed to have each other. I'm sure it's a mixed bag of emotions for you today as you remember your anniversary. -- Ava