UD Love Stories 2019: Richard and Marilyn Heinisch

Feb 21, 2019
Richard and Marilyn Heinisch
It was the 1986-87 academic year when Marilyn Demmer (C'88) decided to pursue her bachelor's degree at the University of Dubuque. She already had her RN, but she wanted to participate in the RN to BSN program offered at the University. While UD gave her the opportunity to advance her degree, it was her hairdresser who served an important role in this UD love story.
At the time, Marilyn was a college student raising her young son, Brett, from a previous marriage, and working as a nurse at Stonehill Health Center in Dubuque. She had a lot on her plate and was not interested in dating. One day during a routine hair appointment, Marilyn's hairdresser, Carol, brought up some guy who she thought Marilyn just had to meet and asked for permission to share her phone number. Flattered, Marilyn politely declined the offer, but Carol was persistent and kept asking if she could give this "perfect guy" her phone number. After months of asking, Marilyn finally gave Carol permission to share her phone number - but just to get Carol to leave her alone.
Carol did not waste any time. She called up her friend Richard Heinisch (C'68). Carol knew Rich was a UD alumnus, so they already had that in common. Rich had transferred from the University of Illinois and was so impressed by UD's culture and the fact that professors, not teacher assistants, were actually teaching the courses. While at UD, he studied business administration, joined Phi-O fraternity, belonged to Alpha Phi Omega, and participated in the D Club. From his first time in Dubuque, Rich knew that he would call this place home for the rest of his life. Being a good friend, Carol wanted to help Rich find his partner in crime. Rich appreciated her efforts and the connection, but he had just gotten through a divorce and was more focused on his three children and career at H&H Industries as a lighting consultant over finding a life partner. Once again, Carol remained persistent.
"She would call me every week between November and January, telling me that I must call Marilyn," Rich said.
In February 1987, Rich decided to give Marilyn a quick call to get Carol to leave him alone.
"Once we started talking, we realized how much we had in common. I just had to meet her, and figured I wouldsuggest, since she was a current UD student and I graduated from UD, that we meet for a UD basketball game with our kids. That seemed safe," Rich said.
On February 27, Rich and his children, Chris (15), Lisa (14), and Jenny (13), met Marilyn and Brett (5) at Bonanza for lunch before heading to UD for the basketball game.
"The kids connected immediately," Marilyn said.
During the game, the older kids, being frequent spectators, took Brett up to the bleachers of McCormick Gymnasium to give the opposing team a hard time during free throws and went down on the court during halftime. With the kids occupied, Rich and Marilyn had a chance to get to know each other and really hit it off. The kids also knew there was a spark between the pair, and as Rich went to say goodbye to Marilyn that evening, Brett asked, "Aren't you going to kiss her?"
Wanting to take Marilyn on a "real" date but knowing how busy she was, Rich had yet another good suggestion. Marilyn had to write a critique on a play, and it just so happened that Oliver was playing at the Grand Opera House in Dubuque. So Rich proposed that they go out for dinner, attend the show, and, to top it off, he would even write the critique for her! She agreed and the pair had their first formal date. He got an "A" for effort, but Marilyn changed the critique, which she then got an "A" on her version.
And just like that, their relationship blossomed and they quickly became one big family. They worked out their schedules to tend to all of the activities the kids had. Brett stayed with Rich on nights that his mother worked at Stonehill.
"We just operated like a normal family," Marilyn said. "We picked up each other's kids, we ate together, we even took trips together."
Marilyn finished her schooling in May 1988. With that milestone behind them, the couple were ready to get married.
"When did I propose?" Rich asked, chuckling. "Oh, I did about 20 times. I would ask her if she wanted to marry me, and she would just brush it off."
To Marilyn, it wasn't about the proposal or the engagement ring that made it official, and she didn't need a diamond for him to prove his love to her. So instead of an engagement ring, Rich made an appointment with the priest. On September 10, 1988, the two became Mr. and Mrs. Heinisch at Resurrection Church. Adding to the special moments of their wedding day, Rich's daughters gave him away and Marilyn's son gave her away. A reception followed at The Circle in East Dubuque, Illinois, which was the couple's favorite place to hang out. It was a laid back evening of celebration with friends and many UD friends, accompanied by a casual meal, music played from cassette tapes, and a champagne fountain.
Thirty years later and the pair are still very much in love. Rich retired after 28 years with Dubois Chemicals. In 2014, he started to work part-time for H&H Industries. Marilyn went on to work at Mercy Hospital for 26 years. In 2014, she returned to Stonehill, where she is still employed, but is looking to retire in the near future. Their children are grown and have moved away - Chris and Jenny are in Florida, Lisa is in North Carolina, and Brett is in Nebraska. Rich and Marilyn have 11 grandchildren that they love getting to see as often as they can. 
The pair enjoy traveling together and will frequently plan their travel around seeing the families. For their last anniversary, they went to Vegas and saw several shows. For their 30th wedding anniversary, the couple traveled around Upper Michigan and saw all the lighthouses and visited Mackinac Island. A few years ago they also visited Niagara Falls and Toronto. Additionally, they have plans to travel for a big family reunion in Denver this summer.
When not traveling, Rich keeps himself busy with golf and trout fishing at Swiss Valley in Dubuque. He considers himself the "Grill Master" and isn't afraid to admit that he enjoys doing the cooking and grocery shopping. Marilyn is happy to let Rich take over those tasks. She enjoys being involved with St. Vincent De Paul Society in Dubuque. She belongs to St. Vincent De Paul through Resurrection Church and volunteers for meals with the confirmation class at St. Pat's Church. She is also a member of Beta Sigma Pi, which is an international women's organization focusing on service and cultural projects. After retirement, she hopes to become more involved at St. Vincent's.
After all these years, the couple agrees, always have and always will, that humor was a common factor in their relationship.
"We just make each other laugh and are always trying to outdo the other," Rich said, adding with a laugh, "But now I think the student has become the teacher."