On a January day in 1948, a phone rang in the hallway of a college dorm.
That call would connect an Oklahoma girl and a Nebraska boy — Cleo and Tom Bracket — in a marriage lasting more than four decades.
Tom grew up in Fremont, Neb., and, after serving in World War II, was finishing college at Oklahoma State University in Stillwater.
Cleo was from northwest Oklahoma and was a senior at OSU.
Her room was near the dorm phone, and she'd answer when she could and track down girls for parents and others.
This call was from a guy, and he was asking for his girlfriend, Mary Kate.
The guy was Tom who was dating Mary Kate at the time.
Cleo shouted down the hall for Mary Kate, but she wasn't around.
That turned out to be good for Cleo and Tom.
They started chatting. Cleo already knew a little bit about Tom but had never met him.
She knew he was from out of state and had his own car, which were both unusual on the OSU campus in those days.
By the time the conversation ended, Tom had asked Cleo out. Tom and Mary Kate weren't a serious couple, and he and Cleo really clicked on the phone.
They went roller-skating on their first date and soon became a couple, dancing at a local club, attending OSU basketball games and meeting family members.
Mary Kate wasn't thrilled when she found out Cleo was dating Tom. But what could they do? They were in love.
They married at a Catholic church in Stillwater on June 1, 1948.
They soon moved to Tom's hometown, where he helped his dad run the family businesses, Bracket Auto Supply.
Tom was a good salesman and took over the business. Tom eventually sold the businesses and started his own with another man making farm wagon boxes. Cleo helped him run the new business, just as she did with the family one.
Tom and Cleo had three children and now have five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
They shared a lot of interests. They were both ham radio operators and loved fishing and golfing together.
But Tom's health started to falter in the late 1980s. He was diagnosed with kidney disease and died in 1996 at age 72.
Cleo is 88 and still lives in Fremont. She wishes she could have had more years with Tom but feels blessed that she answered that dormitory phone so many years ago.
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