Thursday, July 31, 2003
By Monique Balas
Green Bay News-Chronicle
When Parkview Manor resident Kathy Johns first saw Craig Umberham, she knew she had finally found the man of her dreams.
"I just knew I loved him," she said, remembering the time when she first saw Umberham by the first floor elevator at Parkview Manor Health & Rehabilitation Center on St. Anthony Drive.
Now, she can hardly wait until their wedding date. The two met at Parkview, were engaged in December and have a wedding date set for Sept. 25.
When Umberham, 60, spotted the long-legged gal by Parkview's first-floor elevator, he was similarly enamored.
"I wanted to know who she was," Umberham said, remembering he was drawn by her long legs. "That's the first thing I asked her, is how tall she is." (Johns, 59, said she is 5 foot 8).
Then it was just a matter of figuring out how to strike up a conversation with her, so Umberham asked if she had a schedule for the upcoming Green Bay Packers season. From the moment Johns showed him her the schedule on her wall, the two became inseparable.
Umberham, who suffers injuries resulting from a bruised spinal cord, and Johns, who has multiple sclerosis, are long-term care residents at the facility. They spend hours holding hands and talking together, sitting in their wheelchairs and occasionally going shopping in the MediVan.
"She told me she cared for me from the moment she saw me," Umberham said. "We're kind of like soul mates here."
Umberham said spending time with Johns - which he does pretty much daily between the 7 a.m. and 11 p.m. - make him feel like a kid again.
"Right now, we're kind of like teenagers because we don't have kids to worry about," said Umberham, who has seven children and six grandchildren. "When I got here and I saw Kathy, I saw what love was all about."
For him, what's important is the fact that he knows Johns truly loves him. After all the hours they spend together, he feels they know each other inside and out and there are no superficial reasons involved in their partnership.
When he was married, he said, each of his former wives would take his credit cards and go shopping.
"I found that when you're here (at Parkview), all that stuff is cut away," Umberham said. "I've been with this girl 10 hours a day. It makes me feel good that she cares for me as much as she does."
For Johns, a former Wrightstown bus driver who was once in a bad marriage, the important thing is being able to count on Umberham.
"He's always there," she said, as the two continued to lace their fingers together over their wheelchair armrests.
"We have a lot of time to spend together and I can hardly wait until the next day to be with her," Umberham said.
Reaching his hand back over the wheelchair armrest where their hands had become temporarily unlinked, he grasped her hand again.
"Companionship is a big thing when you're in your 60s," Umberham said.
"Companionship keeps people alive."
Copyright © 2003, Green Bay News-Chronicle