UD Love Stories 2021: Bobby and Donna Larson
Feb 10, 2021
|Bobby and Donna Larson|
Friendships Last a Lifetime
Donna Cozzie (C'10) began her journey at the University of Dubuque in fall 2006. She majored in elementary education with special education and reading endorsements. Outside of her busy academic schedule, Donna was also a dedicated member of the UD softball team and was involved with the Teacher Education Student Organization (TESO).
Meanwhile, Bobby Larson (C'07) was a senior majoring in health and wellness and a member of the UD wrestling team.
Fast forward to February 2007 when fate would put Bobby and Donna in each other's path on a cold, snowy, winter day when the softball season and post-wrestling season overlapped. It was during the busy and ever-changing practice schedules in the Chlapaty Recreation and Wellness Center that Bobby and Donna first caught a glimpse of one another. Although nothing happened that day, it wouldn't be long before the two would become inseparable.
A week later Donna was headed back to her Park Village apartment before classes because she needed to borrow a book from a classmate, a classmate who happened to be a wrestler. She lived with softball players and knew that wrestlers lived above them. Little did she know that her classmate and Bobby were roommates, so when Donna knocked on the wrestler's door, she was pleasantly surprised when Bobby opened it.
Donna soon learned that Bobby was a senior and was qualifying for nationals in just a few weeks. His match was the very first live wrestling match she had ever experienced - the first of many, many wrestling events to come.
Realizing that they had the same group of friends, interests, and hobbies, the two quickly became good friends. Over the spring semester, the pair began doing many things together - working out, studying, grabbing meals in Peters Commons, eating breakfast sandwiches at the Underground, catching movies with friends, and being outdoors. They enjoyed spending time together.
All too soon, classes and sports ended for the summer and the two went their separate ways. Then in fall 2007, Bobby finally asked Donna out for a formal date. The pair enjoyed a delicious meal at Vinny Vanucchi's in Galena, Illinois.
"He picked that restaurant because he knew I loved Italian food, " Donna said.
Bobby continued to treat Donna to some special dates including a horse and carriage ride around downtown Dubuque and an "Iowa Street Apartment B" homemade pasta dinner prepared by Chef Bobby himself. They knew they had something special and enjoyed making memories while fishing, hunting, watching sports, and cracking jokes with one another.
Once Donna finished her undergraduate degree in 2010, the couple decided to take their relationship to the next level and moved in with each other. It was the first of many milestones for the couple that year. Bobby, as assistant head wrestling coach, helped lead the UD wrestling program to a national ninth place finish with one NCAA National Qualifier and three All Americans. Christmas, though, was the backdrop to the biggest milestone in the Larson Love Story yet.
Bobby and Donna spent Christmas 2010 at her childhood home in Homer Glen, Illinois. On Christmas morning, Donna woke up to a phone call from Bobby telling her to look out her bedroom window, where she saw Bobby, all of her family, and a beautiful Christmas snowfall.
"I had planned to write 'will you marry me?' in the snow, but her dad shoveled where I was going to write the message. So I improvised," Bobby said. "I knelt down in the snow and asked her to marry me."
The couple had an 18-month engagement. In addition to wedding planning, Donna served as a special education teacher in Dubuque and DeKalb, Illinois, while studying for her master's in education administration. Bobby served as UD's assistant head wrestling coach until 2012.
Mr. and Mrs. Larson tied the knot on August 4, 2012, at the St. Raphael Cathedral in Dubuque. The wedding ceremony was a Catholic Mass officiated by Father John Haugen. Their entire wedding party was comprised of their UD friends including Nate Harm (C'10), Darrin Kaisand (C'09), Jonathan Sheridan, Evan Brown (C'10, MBA'12), Jared Creason, Sammy Cozzie (C'11), Josh Terrell (C'10, MBA'11), Tina (Schwager) Terrell (C'12), Ava Schider (C'10), Sam Schider (C'10), and Hannah (Haugestuen) Thalacker (C'12).
"It was a very hot August day," Donna said. "We were both from Illinois, but since our story began at the University of Dubuque, we wanted the memory of our wedding to take place in this memorable city."
Bobby added, "We had plans to take pictures at the Dubuque Arboretum and Botanical Gardens after our ceremony, but it was pouring rain outside and we had no idea where to take pictures on the inside while it was raining. So yet again we improvised and had our driver take us out to the Field of Dreams. Since we love baseball we figured why not just drive out that way before the reception."
After the newlywed's impromptu road trip, they returned to Dubuque and headed to the Hotel Julien Dubuque to take photos and enjoy their reception. The couple celebrated their marriage with over 400 family and friends, enjoying a night full of laughs, dancing, and singing - making it one of the most memorable nights of their lives. The newlyweds honeymooned in Porta Vallarta, Mexico.
Since their wedding, the Larson's have kept busy enjoying their lives together. Bobby works in the medical field as a territory manager for Illinois and Wisconsin at Optum Infusion Pharmacy. Donna serves as the assistant principal for Student Services and Operations at DeKalb High School in DeKalb, Illinois. She is currently in a doctoral program studying educational administration leadership in pursuit of obtaining her superintendent licensure. Donna's dissertation focuses on the implantation of social emotional learning and the impact of establishing positive relationships.
Bobby and Donna welcomed their first child, Maggie, into their family in 2018 and their second child, Maddie, joined the family in 2020. Maggie loves gymnastics, cracking jokes, and is full of energy. Maddie is on the go, crawling, smiling, and laughing with her big sister.
"They are the best thing that has ever happened to us and we are forever thankful to be their parents," Donna said.
When not working, Bobby and Donna love spending family time outdoors. They enjoy boating in northern Michigan and Wisconsin with family and friends and camping and fishing all summer long. The pair enjoy watching and attending many Chicago sporting events as well as baseball games and country concerts. Bobby spends most of his free time outdoors, hunting as many seasons as possible. Donna enjoys cooking with the girls. Every day Donna and the girls collect fresh eggs from their 35 chickens. They also have five ducks. Together the family enjoys family game nights, funny movies, going for walks in the woods, and spending evenings after work around the fireplace.
Late 2020 was another exciting milestone for the Larson family as they purchased their forever home in Compton, Illinois. Their home sits on 20 acres of timber to hunt, fish, and enjoy the land.
"We take the girls on nature adventures each day," Bobby said.
To celebrate their anniversary, Bobby and Donna make a special dinner and write a letter about the most memorable times that year held and challenges they faced together as a married couple. They also write down three goals they would like to achieve for the next year of marriage and one place they would like to travel. The letters are then placed in a black and blue box for safekeeping and for them to look back through over their years of marriage.
Another tradition that Bobby and Donna hold close to their hearts is coming back to UD each year for Homecoming with their close group of friends.
"We had something really special when we attended UD, which continues the legacy of our friendship group to this day. That is how our love story began - through an irreplaceable bond with our UD friends. The memories, the connections, and this group of friends we established will never ever be lost or unvalued. 'We're black, we're blue' will be our theme song to our love story from the first moment we met, to our wedding day, and remembered forever. Our friendships from UD will forever be considered family," Donna said.