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A prescription for love

Kansas couple’s romance blossomed outside a Topeka hospital

Created date

January 29th, 2014
couple sitting on couch

If you ask Florence Eggenberger about love at first sight, she’ll tell you it’s real.

“I know it is,” she says. “I fell in love with my husband Lewis the first time I saw him.

At their first meeting, Florence was entering her senior year of high school in Topeka, Kans. Lewis attended college at Kansas State University in Manhattan.

“I grew up on a wheat farm in Berryton, Kans.,” says Lewis. “I returned home in the summers to help my dad with preparing the fields. The summer between my freshman and sophomore years, I began having severe pains. I went to the hospital in Topeka and was diagnosed with kidney stones.”

Florence, a nurse’s aide at the hospital, remembers Lewis causing a stir among the nurses.

“He was young and good-looking—not a typical patient,” says Florence. “So many nurses were crowded into his room, I didn’t get a chance to meet him.”

But when Lewis was discharged, his parents couldn’t pick him up right away.

“I was in the middle of a split shift and had a few hours off,” says Florence. “I offered to keep him company while he waited. There was a park across from the hospital where we walked and talked.”

Four-year courtship

For Florence, those few hours settled the matter. She was taken with the handsome farm boy.

“I was completely infatuated with Lewis, but I didn’t know if I would see him again,” she says. “I lost my appetite. I was besotted.”

For his part, Lewis was equally charmed and visited Florence’s home in Topeka a few days later. 

“I wasn’t home at the time, but Lewis chatted with my mother,” says Florence. “We started dating soon after.”

Florence graduated from high school and entered nursing school in Topeka while Lewis continued his studies at Kansas State.

“I didn’t own a car while I was in college, but I made the 40-mile journey from Manhattan to Topeka as often as I could,” says Lewis. “Sometimes I caught a ride with friends; other times I hitchhiked. Once I rode a motor scooter the whole way.”

Though the couple was headed toward the altar, their journey had a few bumps.

“My nursing school had very strict rules about curfews,” says Florence. “Once Lewis took me to a movie that let out later than we thought. I missed the midnight curfew, and the housemother locked me out. The next day Lewis went to talk to the director of nurses on my behalf. He won her over.”

The lean years

Lewis proposed during Florence’s last year of nurse’s training.

“I graduated on September 1, 1953, and we married on September 3,” says Florence. “I studied for my state boards and planned a wedding at the same time.”

After six children in seven years, the couple experienced some lean years before settling in Lubbock, Tex.

“I graduated with my undergraduate degree in agricultural education,” says Lewis. “I taught high school vocational agriculture before deciding I wanted to teach at the university level. I completed my doctoral work at Iowa State University and was offered a position at Texas Tech University, where I was a professor for 33 years.”

So much life ahead

In June 2013, Lewis and Florence moved to Eagle’s Trace, the Erickson Living community in West Houston, to be closer to their children.

“I wanted a place that offered meals so I didn’t have to cook anymore,” says Florence. “That was number one on my list.”

The couple settled into their two-bedroom Hastings-style apartment just in time to celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary with their children and grandchildren in the community’s private dining room.

“Since we moved in, I’ve joined a water aerobics class, a Spanish class, and the Knowledge Seekers class,” says Florence. “Lewis and I have both joined the bird-watching club.”

Lewis, for his part, volunteers his tinkering services to fix small appliances in the Treasure Chest, the community’s on-site resale shop. 

“Everything we need is right here,” he says.