Georgetown Couples: Funny Valentines, Lifelong Loves

As someone who just got engaged last October, I was eager to take on a story about Georgetown couples who have been together for decades. It’s been a rough year for everyone, but these three couples have managed to see it through with grace, strength and a little humor.

The Dunnings in Turkey.

David and Margaret Dunning

David and Margaret Dunning met through what Margaret calls “a wonderful human being” named Garland Nicholas. Nicholas works at Celadon Spa & Salon on F Street. David’s former girlfriend was a client of his, as was Margaret.

“David’s former girlfriend had him go to Garland because she didn’t like his haircut from the Senate barbershop,” Margaret said. Garland didn’t like Margaret’s then-boyfriend and, lo and behold, ended up playing matchmaker.

“To make a long story short, we met through our hairdresser,” David said in the background during our phone call, chiming in at just the right moments. Margaret added that their first meeting was almost 30 years ago.

As far as their relationship during the pandemic, they agreed that what they learned about one other has been good. “We’ve had enduring support of each other,” Margaret said.

Of course, both laughed knowingly when Margaret echoed former Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s mother-in-law: “It helps to sometimes be a little deaf.”

There have been plenty of surprises during their year together in lockdown.

“I’m a cook and all of the sudden, poof, I found a sous chef,” David said, speaking of Margaret. “I know she is just being helpful, but I had to say: ‘Listen, you’re in my office now!’” David mentioned Ina Garten’s cookbook “Modern Comfort Food” as his latest inspiration. They have been making lots of soups, including Margaret’s favorite beef stew.

Being stuck inside together has allowed the couple to recall some of their best moments. One of their most romantic evenings was their honeymoon night in Kennebunkport, Maine. Margaret described a picturesque autumn evening with all the lobster you could eat and all the champagne you could drink.

One of the most challenging times was when they first started out together in the ’90s. They were a commuting couple — Margaret living in Manhattan and David in D.C. They made it work by focusing on what’s important and ignoring the small stuff.

“You just have to let go of the little irritants,” David said. “I just go play tennis. That’s my nirvana.”

While they don’t have children of their own, David proudly mentioned all the surrogate children he has in the neighborhood, as well as plenty of nieces, nephews and grandnieces and -nephews.

“We love everything about Georgetown — its sense of community, our wonderful newspaper, the beauty of our neighborhood, our bookstores, coffee shops and bodegas,” Margaret said. “We love parks, too. David is so involved with Rose Park.” David added that he loves D.C.’s, and particularly Georgetown’s, international flair.

As far as their first date post-COVID, David immediately proclaimed: “Miami!” Margaret laughed and clarified his answer, saying the two love to travel and they are hoping to pick a country or city they haven’t yet visited.

Grace and Worth Bateman

Forty-three years ago, Grace and Worth Bateman married after meeting as colleagues at work. Worth is an economist who worked on public policy issues in and out of government. Grace is a lawyer who practiced in a private firm. Both have been retired for a while now.

Their life together during the pandemic hasn’t changed much, except they have been unable to spend time with their children and grandchildren, whom they “greatly miss.”

Being retired, the couple are fairly used to spending time together. “We both try and have coffee in the morning and tea in the afternoon when we’re both at home,” Grace said. “Having an established routine made it easier for us to adapt when the pandemic took hold.”

They have been forced to rearrange some of their typical activities due to COVID. Grace is now grocery shopping, as she’s a bit younger and in better health than her husband. “Worth is a great cook and loves to grocery shop,” Grace said. “We’ve both learned that Worth enjoys doing the grocery shopping a whole lot more than I do!”

After over four decades together, both agree there’s not a whole lot of surprises, “even during a pandemic,” as Grace said. Although their home isn’t large, they appreciate three floors to separate on occasion.

Both Grace and Worth spoke fondly of one of the most romantic moments of their lives: their first kiss. The two found themselves alone in an elevator soon after they met. “Our lives might have been forever changed if the elevator had stopped to pick up another passenger, or if one of us opted to take the stairs,” Grace said.

With that fateful moment in mind, they say the best advice they were ever given is: “Take the elevator.” Funnily enough, Grace and Worth shared the same piece of advice as Margaret and David, credited to the late Justice Ginsburg’s mother-in-law: “It helps to be a little deaf.”

Having lived in Georgetown for more than 40 years, it was hard for Grace and Worth to pin down what they enjoy most about the neighborhood. “If we had to choose, it would be Georgetown’s human scale, the architecture, the streets, the parks, the gardens, everything,” Grace said. “It may sound trite, but it’s nice to live in a community where you know your neighbors and everything you need is just a short walk away.”

Bob and Elaine Schadler

Bob and Elaine Schadler were college sweethearts. They met at the University of Pennsylvania and have been married since 1975. Elaine worked in education research and Bob worked as an editor and taught political science at Rutgers. The couple came to D.C. when Bob got a job with the U.S. Information Agency. The two ended up founding an information service for the hospitality industry, as well as other ventures.

The Schadlers have made the most of the pandemic, since, as Bob noted, they’re already semiretired.

“We pretty much already knew we enjoyed each other’s company, even for long stretches of time,” he said. “Being under a kind of house arrest hasn’t been fun, but being with each other has been.”

Like the Batemans, Bob and Elaine said that, after over 45 years of marriage, big surprises are rare. The two have had their fair share of ups and downs, including working through a health scare when their first child was born, with daily visits to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

As far as advice to other couples, Robert cheekily said: “Either we’re having trouble remembering the good advicewe got or maybe the wise people we knew figured it would be wasted on us and didn’t give it.”


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